There are currently six Onthophagus species that can still be found in the UK (extant species) and two that are now thought to be extinct. In many species, males have a noticeably pointed horn on the posterior margin of the head. The beetles can also be sexed by looking at the abdomen – in females the pygidium is uniform in width and, in males it is narrower in the middle (see image below).



A Team DUMP downloadable Identification Guide is available, please click here. This guide was produced with funding from a British Ecological Society Outreach grant awarded to DUMP team member Ceri Watkins in 2016.

Extant Species

Onthophagus coenobita

This species tends to be found in locations with a slightly heavier soil type i.e. some clay content. The brood burrows are vertically constructed with no side chambers and the brood balls are stacked one on top of the other.

Size: 6-9mm.

Distribution: South to Central England and Wales, absent from North England and Scotland.


Onthophagus fracticornis

This beetle was formerly found in good numbers in Hampshire but has declined massively in this area. It is now most frequently found in the Mendip Hills in Somerset but, even here it remains rare.

Size: 7-10mm.

Distribution: Glamorgan and Somerset.


Onthophagus joannae

This species prefers chalky or sandy soils.

Size: 4-6mm.

Distribution: South England, less common Central England and Wales. Absent from Scotland.


Onthophagus medius (formerly vacca)

This species prefers alluvial soils and it is therefore most often found on riverside pastures and flood plains.

Size: 7-11mm.

Distribution: South of a line drawn from London to Bristol.


Onthophagus nuchicornis

This species was widespread but is now rare. It is a sandy soils specialist – most often found on sand dunes.

Size: 6-9mm.

Distribution: Recent records from Devon, Suffolk, Glamorgan and Gwynedd.


Onthophagus similis

The most widespread Onthophagus species although it prefers lighter soil types.

Size: 4-7mm.

Distribution: South to Central England and Wales, scarce further north.


Extinct Species

Onthophagus taurus


A large and very distinctive looking beetle. The males have two long curved horns which are lacking in the female.

Size: 8-10mm.

Distribution: The last mainland record for this species was in the 1800’s. It is still present in the Channel Islands.


Onthophagus verticicornis (formerly nutans)

It is thought that this species prefers low lying pastures on alluvial soils.

Size: 6-11mm.

Distribution: This beetle was last recorded from Dorset in 1926.