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The Top 10 Most Beautiful Snakes in the World

Larry Slawson received his Master's Degree from UNC Charlotte in 2018. He has a keen interest in biology.

From the blue Malaysian coral snake to the San Francisco garter snake, this article ranks the 10 most beautiful snakes on the planet.

From the blue Malaysian coral snake to the San Francisco garter snake, this article ranks the 10 most beautiful snakes on the planet.

What Is the World's Most Beautiful Snake?

Around the globe, snakes play a vital role in maintaining balance within each of the world’s ecosystems and environments. Coming in all shapes and sizes, there are currently over 3,000 different species of snake that have been discovered worldwide. Within this diverse group of serpents, a number of snakes are renowned for their stunning beauty, elegant features, and coloration.

This work ranks the 10 most beautiful snakes on the planet and provides a brief overview of each animal’s general traits, characteristics, and appearance. It is the author’s hope that a better (and more complete) understanding of these fascinating creatures will accompany readers following their completion of this work.

Selection Criteria

In order to select (and rank) the world’s most beautiful snakes, a number of basic criteria were necessary for the extents and purposes of this work. First and foremost, it is important to note that each of the following snakes was selected from various online polls, questionnaires, and surveys pertaining to public opinion on the subject at hand.

Once a considerable number were selected from this process, the author selected the final snakes according to their color, unique features, and aesthetic qualities. While this process certainly leaves room for many shortcomings and inherent biases, the author believes this criterion to be the best means for ranking the world’s most beautiful snakes.

The 10 Most Beautiful Snakes Ranked

10. Blue Malaysian Coral Snake
9. Ringneck Snake
8. Blue Racer
7.Iridescent Shieldtail
6. Formosa Odd-Scaled Snake
5. Brazilian Rainbow Boa
4. Red-Headed Krait
3. Regal Ringneck Snake
2. Hairy Bush Viper
1. San Francisco Garter Snake

Blue Malaysian Coral Snake.

Blue Malaysian Coral Snake.

10. Blue Malaysian Coral Snake

  • Average Size: 5 to 5.91 feet
  • Geographical Range: Southeast Asia
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The blue Malaysian coral snake (also known as the “blue coral snake” or “blue Malayan coral snake”) is a terrestrial species from the Elapidae family (which includes both cobras and the deadly black mamba). Endemic to Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, and Thailand), this medium-sized species is highly-venomous and capable of causing serious harm or death to humans when bites occur.

This is due, in part, to its venom’s potent cytotoxins that result in nearly instantaneous paralysis amongst its victims. Despite this, the snake is generally seen as harmless by locals due to its shy and reclusive nature, as it prefers solitude away from the gaze of humans. They are currently listed as a species of "least concern" by the IUCN, indicating that population numbers are stable for the time being (iucn.org).

Habitat and Prey

Most blue Malaysian coral snakes are found in Southeast Asia (hence their name) and tend to spend the majority of their time in habitats ranging from 300 to 3,600 feet in elevation. From within this region, the blue coral snake spends the majority of its time in tropical forests and lowland areas.

Regarding prey, the animal primarily feeds on other snakes (including venomous ones), with juvenile king cobras being a particular favorite of this species. They are also known to consume various lizards, small birds, and frogs when the occasion presents itself.

Appearance and Characteristics

Regarding the blue Malaysian coral snake’s appearance, few animals in the snake realm are capable of matching the splendid coloration of this species, which is best described as a mixture of dark blue and black (along its back). Its head, in contrast, is generally bright red, with matching red coloration along the tail and underbelly, respectively.

Likewise, blue (sometimes white) stripes are also common along the flanks of the blue Malaysian coral snake, giving it a beautiful (yet also unique) pattern that is hard to confuse with other species. Taken together, the blue Malaysian coral snake is a remarkably beautiful (and deadly) animal whose “number 10” spot on our list is well-deserved.

Ringneck Snake.

Ringneck Snake.

9. Ringneck Snake

  • Average Size: 10 to 18 inches
  • Geographical Range: United States, Central Mexico, and Southeastern Canada
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The ringneck snake (also known as the “ring-necked snake”) is a species of colorful snake from the Colubridae family. Endemic to the United States, Central Mexico, and parts of Southeastern Canada, this harmless (and non-venomous) species is characterized as a shy and nocturnal animal rarely seen during daylight hours.

Reaching only 10 to 18 inches at maturity, the animal is incredibly small and possesses only a handful of defensive abilities against predators in the wild. One of their most prominent defense mechanisms includes curling up their tails to display their bright reddish-orange posterior, making other animals think they are poisonous. They are currently listed as a species of “least concern” by the IUCN, indicating that their population numbers are currently stable at this time.

Habitat and Prey

The ringneck snake is found throughout much of North America, with specimens discovered in Mexico, the United States, and even Canada. From within their natural habitats, the ringneck snake is found predominantly in well-covered locations where debris and rocky outcroppings (for denning purposes) are both abundant and plentiful.

As such, they tend to enjoy open woodlands, rocky hillsides, as well as regions where the soil is both soft and moist (such as the banks of rivers and streams). In terms of prey, this species tends to feed primarily on salamanders, earthworms, and slugs in the wild; however, larger specimens have also been known to consume lizards, frogs, and smaller snakes.

Appearance and Characteristics

In regard to their coloration and appearance, the ringneck snake is renowned for its colorful bodies, which vary between olive, brown, bluish-grey, or greyish-black along the dorsal region. This is highlighted by the snake’s distinct yellow, red, or yellowish-orange “neck band,” which resembles a ring-like shape in its appearance (hence the animal’s name). Heads, in contrast, tend to be slightly darker than the rest of their body, whereas the underbelly maintains a yellowish-red hue that is dotted by black spots.

Taken together, it is not difficult to see why the ringneck snake is one of the most beautiful species of snake in the world, as their unique coloration and scalation are a true sight to behold.

Blue Racer.

Blue Racer.

8. Blue Racer

  • Average Size: 3 to 5 feet
  • Geographical Range: Northern United States and Canada
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The blue racer (also known as Coluber constrictor foxii) is a species of nonvenomous snake from the Colubridae family. Endemic to the United States and parts of Canada, the blue racer is regularly cited as one of the region’s largest snakes, reaching 3 to 5 feet at maturity. Preferring solace in the wild, the animal is classified as extremely “shy” and spends much of its time in areas devoid of human activity. For this reason, they are often not seen in the wild, as they tend to flee at first sight of a human.

This tendency to flee from threats is what gives this species their name, as they are incredibly fast and can travel upwards of 4 miles per hour (making them extremely difficult to catch). As of May 2022, they are currently listed as a species of “least concern” by the IUCN, indicating that their population numbers are both plentiful and steady at this time.

Habitat and Prey

Within their natural habitats in the wild, the blue racer is commonly found in open or semi-open territories that include savannas, shorelines, and “edge habitats” (such as the outskirts of forests). As active foragers, these habitats provide the snake with a large number of prey, including crickets, insects, mice, smaller rats, songbirds, and the occasional snake (in times of hunger). However, this open terrain also makes them vulnerable to predation, as raccoons, great-horned owls, northern harriers, coyotes, red-tailed hawks, and dogs and cats routinely attack (and kill) blue racers.

When combined with the rapid development and encroachment of humans in their territories, researchers believe mass predation and human intrusion may lead to a significant decline in the blue racer’s population in the years to come.

Appearance and Characteristics

Regarding its appearance and characteristics, the blue racer is an incredibly beautiful snake renowned for its long body and unique coloration. As the name implies, most blue racers take on a bright blue coloration that tapers to a dullish grey the closer you get to its underbelly. Underbellies, in contrast, are generally a creamy white but sometimes take on a pale brown or dark grey hue.

In regard to their heads, the snake is also well-known for its unique “black mask” that surrounds its large eyes, as well as the brownish-orange rostral scales that adorn its snouts. Taken together, the blue racer is an incredibly beautiful animal that is certainly worthy of inclusion in our current list.

Iridescent Shieldtail.

Iridescent Shieldtail.

7. Iridescent Shieldtail

  • Average Size: 20 to 35 inches
  • Geographical Range: Pakistan and Southern India
  • Conservation Status: “Vulnerable” (Population at Risk)

The iridescent shieldtail (also known as the “two-lined black shieldtail”) is a species of non-venomous snake from the Uropeltidae family. Endemic to Pakistan and Southern India, the species was first discovered (and described) by Richard Henry Beddome near the summit of Periya Peak in the early 1940s.

Classified as a burrowing snake, the iridescent shieldtail spends much of its time underground, digging tunnels with its disked tails and pointed heads to evade predation in the wild. For these reasons, sightings of this species are relatively rare, making them a highly-misunderstood snake in the realm of animals. They are currently listed by the IUCN as a “vulnerable” species, indicating that their population numbers are susceptible to decline in the years ahead.

Habitat and Prey

The iridescent shieldtail is commonly found in the higher elevations of India and Pakistan and spends much of its time in loose soil, decaying vegetation, agricultural beds, and the bottom of plant roots (underground). From here, the snake feeds primarily on earthworms that reside in the soil; however, the animal is also known to consume a variety of arthropods when the occasion arises. Due to their small size, the snake faces many predators in the wild, including large birds, various mammals, and other snakes.

Appearance and Characteristics

In regard to its outward appearance, the iridescent shieldtail is an incredibly beautiful snake renowned for its slender body and bright coloration. Reaching an average length of 20 to 35 inches at maturity, the iridescent shieldtail possesses both a pointed head and disk-like tail that aids underground tunneling abilities. This is complemented by a pair of tiny eyes and smooth scales that provide it with extra mobility underground.

Regarding coloration, the snake is well-known for its iridescent bodies (hence their name) that take on a bluish-black hue. This is further highlighted by a yellow stripe and a series of black dots that line the back. Thus, when examining each of these traits together, it is easy to see why the iridescent shieldtail is regularly cited as one of the most beautiful snakes in the world.

Formosa Odd-Scaled Snake.

Formosa Odd-Scaled Snake.

6. Formosa Odd-Scaled Snake

  • Average Size: 2 to 3 feet
  • Geographical Range: Taiwan and Ryukyu Islands
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The Formosa odd-scaled snake (also known as the “Taiwan burrowing snake”) is a non-venomous snake from the Xenodermidae family. Endemic to Taiwan and the southern portions of the Ryukyu Islands, the Formosa odd-scaled snake is a burrowing species that spends much of its life underground to avoid predation. Characterized as a nocturnal species, the snake is not considered aggressive and tends to avoid human contact whenever possible.

For these reasons, very little is currently understood about this animal, as sightings are relatively rare in the wild. As of 2022, they are currently listed as a species of “least concern” by the IUCN, indicating that their population numbers are stable.

Habitat and Prey

The Formosa odd-scaled snake is typically found in central and southern Taiwan at elevations of approximately 3,300 to 6,600 feet. Within its natural habitat, the odd-scaled snake is commonly found in humid forests where rotten wood, leaf litter, and softer soil are prevalent (allowing them to easily burrow underground for safety).

From here, the snake preys predominantly on earthworms, slugs, and small frogs when the occasion arises. Regarding predation, the odd-scaled snake faces no significant threats in Taiwan; however, several large birds, smaller mammals, and larger snakes have been to prey upon this particular species from time to time.

Appearance and Characteristics

As with all of the snakes on our list, the Formosa odd-scaled snake is an exceptionally beautiful snake renowned for its oval-shaped head, slender body, bead-like eyes, and unique scalation (hence its name). Possessing an iridescent hue to its coloration, the odd-scaled snake is also remarkably colorful and possesses an olive-grey complexion that is highlighted by spots of tan (sometimes black), along with subtle hints of blue and green along its back.

When examined together, the Formosa odd-scaled snake’s “number six” spot on our current list is well-deserved, as they are truly one of the most beautiful snake species in the world.

Rainbow Boa.

Rainbow Boa.

5. Brazilian Rainbow Boa

  • Average Size: 4 to 6 feet
  • Geographical Range: Central America, Argentina, Brazil, and East Andes
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The Brazilian rainbow boa (sometimes referred to as the “rainbow boa” or “slender boa”) is a species of non-venomous snake from the Boidae family. Endemic to Central America and South America, the Brazilian rainbow boa is often characterized as a semi-arboreal species that spends equal amounts of time on the ground and in trees. They are also highly-capable swimmers and spend large quantities of their time near bodies of water (where prey is abundant).

To date, very little is currently known (or understood) about the rainbow boa, as they are a nocturnal animal that tends to avoid human contact whenever possible. This natural “shyness” has proven to be beneficial to the snake’s survival, however, as their reclusive nature has allowed them to thrive in the wild. As of 2022, they are currently listed by the IUCN as a species of “least concern,” indicating that their population numbers appear steady at this time.

Habitat and Prey

Within Central America and South America, the Brazilian rainbow boa is commonly found in both humid woodlands and rainforests, where natural concealment is provided from the Sun by both trees and vegetation. From here, the snake is afforded a great variety of prey, including small mammals (such as mice), lizards, birds, fish, and other snakes.

To date, no specific predators have been identified for this species as both their size and strength protect them from most animals in the wild (with the exception of alligators and humans).

Appearance and Characteristics

The Brazilian rainbow boa is an exceptionally beautiful animal renowned for its soft skin, wide head, and narrow body. Possessing many tiny ridges along its scales, the snake gets its name from the rainbow-colored effect displayed on these scales due to their prism-like effect on light.

This iridescent effect is mesmerizing to behold and contrasts nicely with the snake’s brownish-red (sometimes orange) coloration, black stripes, and dark rings. For these reasons, the rainbow boa is truly one of the most beautiful snakes on the planet and an easy choice for our “number five” spot.

Red-Headed Krait.

Red-Headed Krait.

4. Red-Headed Krait

  • Average Size: 6 to 7 feet
  • Geographical Range: Southeast Asia
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The red-headed krait is a species of highly-venomous snake from the Elapidae family (including cobras and the black mamba). Endemic to Southeast Asia, the red-headed krait is a relatively shy and reclusive species rarely spotted in the wild. Possessing an extremely potent venom, the animal is capable of inflicting painful bites that are life-threatening in nearly all cases (without appropriate treatment). Fortunately, bites are relatively rare for this species, as they rarely inhabit areas close to human habitations (making contact with humans nearly non-existent).

Although very little is currently known or understood about the red-headed krait at this time (other than the fact that they are semiaquatic and feed predominantly at night), the IUCN has deemed them a species of “least concern,” indicating that their population numbers are currently both strong and steady (as of 2022).

Habitat and Prey

The red-headed krait is commonly found in Southern Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and parts of the Indonesian islands (including Bangka, Sumatra, Java, and Belitung). From here, the animal typically spends the majority of its time in the region’s numerous rainforests, mountains, and higher elevations away from human dwellings.

Within its natural habitat, the red-headed krait typically preys on skinks, lizards, frogs, caecilians, rats, and various snake eggs. To date, information pertaining to predation in the wild is largely unknown for this species; however, humans, large birds, and other snakes appear to be the largest threat to the red-headed krait at this time.

Appearance and Characteristics

Concerning its physical appearance, the red-headed krait is an absolutely beautiful species of snake and is renowned for its striking (and distinct coloration), smooth scales, and slender frame. Reaching upwards of 7 feet in the wild, the red-headed krait is also relatively large (an unusual trait for snakes that tend to burrow underground).

Regarding their outward appearance, the snake maintains an extremely unique coloration that is characterized by a bluish-black body, lateral stripes (bluish-white), and bright red heads (hence their name). When examined alongside their glossy appearance (that provides them with an extra layer of “shine”), it is easy to see why the red-headed krait is one of the most beautiful species of snake in the world.

Regal Ringneck Snake.

Regal Ringneck Snake.

3. Regal Ringneck Snake

  • Average Size: 1 to 2.5 feet
  • Geographical Range: Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico
  • Conservation Status: Unknown (Insufficient Data)

The regal ringneck is a subspecies of ringneck snake from the Colubridae family. Endemic to the Southwestern United States and parts of Northern Mexico, the regal ringneck snake is characterized as a mildly venomous species capable of producing weak doses of venom that is relatively harmless to humans. Classified as a shy and timid animal, the snake is rarely seen in the wild as they are highly secretive and spend most of their time under rocks and surface debris.

As of 2022, it remains unclear how many regal ringneck snakes are left in the wild, as the IUCN has not conducted a review of their overall population figures. Nevertheless, it is currently believed that their population numbers are both strong and stable.

Habitat and Prey

Found predominantly in the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico, the regal ringneck snake tends to inhabit meadows, rocky hillsides, grasslands, woodlands, and higher elevations. From here, the snake is commonly found under rocks, leaves, bark, and other surface debris that can be utilized for protection against predators and the elements.

These habitats also provide the snake with ample food, including worms, slugs, insects, lizards, and a wide array of smaller snakes (as the regal ringneck is classified as an ophiophagous species, meaning that it primarily consumes other snakes for food). Regarding predation in the wild, very little is currently known about the animal’s natural enemies; however, humans, large birds, and large mammals are believed to be their greatest threat at this time.

Appearance and Characteristics

In terms of its overall appearance, the regal ringneck snake is an exceptionally beautiful animal renowned for its small size, smooth scales, and unique coloration. Reaching upwards of 34.3 inches at maturity, the snake is also characterized as one of the largest ringneck species in existence, as the vast majority of these animals are extremely small (when compared to other common snakes).

The regal ringneck snake’s outward appearance tends to possess a light grey, olive-grey, or olive-green complexion contrasted sharply by a light orange (sometimes yellow) underbelly. In addition to these colors, the snake possesses numerous black speckles across its dorsal and ventral regions, along with an orange band that takes on a ring-like shape near the neck (hence its name).

When examined alongside its reddish-colored tails and glossy scalation, it is not difficult to see why the regal ringneck snake is regularly cited as one of the most beautiful snakes on the planet.

Hairy Bush Viper.

Hairy Bush Viper.

2. Hairy Bush Viper

  • Average Size: 1.5 to 2.5 feet
  • Geographical Range: Central Africa
  • Conservation Status: Unknown (Insufficient Data)

The hairy bush viper (sometimes referred to as the “rough-scaled bush viper” or “spiny bush viper”) is a species of venomous snake from the Viperidae family. Endemic to Central Africa (which includes the countries of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda), the hairy bush viper is a relatively small and dangerous species renowned for its nocturnal behavior and potent venom. Although the animal is not known for its aggressive behavior in the wild, the snake can kill a human with a single bite due to the presence of cytotoxins and neurotoxins in its venom.

For these reasons, the hairy bush viper is a species that should be avoided at all costs, as they are an incredibly beautiful (but deadly) species in the animal kingdom. As of 2022, it remains unclear how many hairy bush vipers remain in the wild, as the IUCN has not conducted an extensive investigation into their population numbers. Nevertheless, researchers believe that the snake’s current population is likely stable for the time being.

Habitat and Prey

The hairy bush viper is found predominantly in Central Africa and spends the majority of its time in the region’s vast forests, swamps, and woodlands. Within its natural habitat, the hairy bush viper primarily feeds on small mammals (such as mice and rats), lizards, small toads, frogs, as well as small birds when the occasion arises. Regarding predation in the wild, the snake faces a number of potential enemies, including humans, large fish, birds, and other snakes.

Appearance and Characteristics

Regarding its overall appearance, the hairy bush viper is a remarkably beautiful snake renowned for its small size, unique scalation, and remarkable coloration. Reaching upwards of 29 to 30 inches at maturity, the hairy bush viper is quite slender in its overall build and is renowned for its “hairy” appearance that resembles spikes (Owlcation.com). This is due largely to the snake’s elongated dorsal scales that stick outward (rather than lying flat).

When examined alongside their greenish-brown (sometimes yellowish-green) coloration, large eyes, and dragon-like appearance, the hairy bush viper’s “number two” spot on our current list is well-deserved, as they are truly one of the most beautiful snakes in the animal kingdom.

San Francisco Garter Snake.

San Francisco Garter Snake.

1. San Francisco Garter Snake

  • Average Size: 2 to 4 feet
  • Geographical Range: Central California
  • Conservation Status: “Endangered” (Nearly Extinct)

Topping our list of the most beautiful snakes is the gorgeous San Francisco garter snake. Classified as a member of the Colubridae family, the San Francisco garter snake is endemic to both San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties in Central California (and is rarely seen outside of these territories). Characterized as a subspecies of the common garter snake, the animal possesses a mildly toxic venom that is fatal to smaller animals (but relatively harmless for humans, causing only mild irritation to the skin).

Regarding their behavioral traits and patterns, very little is currently known about this species, as they are incredibly timid and reclusive, making them extremely difficult to observe in the wild. Adding to these observation difficulties is the fact that the San Francisco garter snake is currently listed as “endangered” by the IUCN. With less than 2,000 snakes left in the wild, the animal is facing imminent extinction in the wild (due to human encroachment within its natural habitat).

Habitat and Prey

As discussed above, the San Francisco garter snake is found primarily in Central California, where it resides in densely vegetated ponds, open hillsides, burrows, streams, and near freshwater sources. From within its natural habitat, the San Francisco garter snake tends to feed (primarily) on red-legged frogs, juvenile bullfrogs, treefrogs, and California newts whenever possible. Ironically, the snake’s biggest predator in the wild (other than humans) is the adult bullfrog, which tends to prey on juvenile garter snakes when the occasion arises.

Appearance and Characteristics

The San Francisco garter snake is a remarkably beautiful animal renowned for its small to medium size, keeled dorsal scales, and striking coloration. Reaching an average length of 2 to 4 feet at maturity, the snake is well-known for its large eyes, narrow neck, and wide head that provides the animal with extra mobility in the wild. Regarding coloration, the San Francisco garter snake possesses a bluish-green body that is highlighted by black, red, orange, and bluish-green stripes that adorn the length of its back.

When combined with its glossy appearance, small frame, and overall “uniqueness” amongst snakes, it is easy to see why the San Francisco garter snake is regularly cited as the most beautiful snake in the realm of reptiles; a feat that will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

Works Cited

Articles/Books:

Images/Photographs:

  • Unsplash Commons.
  • Wikimedia Commons.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Larry Slawson