Why are capybaras now known as masbro in Indonesia? | Meme Explainer

A collection of masbro memes from social media
A collection of masbro memes from social media

The capybara is a mammal that is perhaps most famous for being the world’s largest rodent. But far away from its native habitat of South America, the capybara has become internet famous in Indonesia under a different name: masbro.


For you non-Indonesians out there, masbro is a combination of “mas”, the Indonesian term used to address younger adult men, and the English word “bro” (as in short for brother, bro). Indonesians use masbro as a very casual, friendly way to refer to guys, similar to how bro would be used in English-speaking countries.

So how did giant South American rodents come to be known as masbro in Indonesia? While the origins of such memes are often hard to source, the website Know Your Meme has a detailed entry on the Masbro phenomenon written by a user who goes by JustOrdinaryMan (who has submitted a number of fascinating, well-researched articles on Indonesian memes). 

According to his masbro entry, it all began with this post made to an Indonesian meme Facebook group on 19 January featuring a screenshot from “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” showing the game’s protagonist next to a capybara model that was modded into the game. The popular screenshot had been used for memes previously but this was the first time masbro was added to it.

The combination of capybara and masbro would prove to be potent meme material. It quickly spread around the Indonesian meme-o-sphere, with users adding masbro and other Indonesian phrases to more photos of capybaras and posting them to various meme groups, such as this one from Jan 31.

Soon the meme was appearing everywhere, from Youtube to TikTok to Reddit.

@tuyulbaik_ masbro with locoste #locoste#masbro#fyp#capybara ♬ suara asli –

According to Google trends, the number of searches for “masbro” has spiked recently, no doubt due to interest in (and confusion over) the meme.

It’s gotten so big that many major Indonesian news outlets such as Kompas and Tempo have written about the phenomenon. Major brands like Netflix have also gotten in on the masbro-down.

Of course, you may still be wondering WHY capybaras, of all things, have been so enthusiastically embraced by Indonesian memesters as masbro? 

In part, it’s because the rodents of unusual size are so often captured acting completely chill, in a way that perfectly matches the masbro vibe. 

As Twitter user @Paman_ri explains in answer to somebody asking why capybaras have earned the masbro moniker: “Because they’re so chill. The capybara is a fairly friendly animal to almost all species. Imagine trying this if you were less chill hahahaha”  

Capybaras riding alligators is the essence of masbro-ness.

It’s also probably just because capybaras are amusing and cute and weird, all strong ingredients for memorable meme material. 

Beyond that, who cares? Just chill and have fun, masbro.

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