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The Top 10 Strangest Snakes in the World

Larry Slawson received his Master's Degree from UNC Charlotte. He has a keen interest in reptiles, insects, and arachnids.

From the flying snake to the hairy bush viper, this article ranks the 10 strangest (and most unusual) snakes on the planet.

From the flying snake to the hairy bush viper, this article ranks the 10 strangest (and most unusual) snakes on the planet.

Throughout the globe, snakes play a vital role within our vast ecosystems as they help to control pest populations, and serve as potential food sources for larger predators. Of the nearly 3,000 species of snake known to currently exist worldwide, there also exists a number of species that are incredibly strange and unique to the casual observer. From the rhinoceros viper to the Barbados threadsnake, this work examines the 10 most unusual (and strangest) snakes in the world. It provides a brief analysis of each animal’s habitat, prey, and venom toxicity (if relevant) in relation to humans, while simultaneously describing each snake’s physical appearance or abilities that make them unique to the realm of reptiles. It is the author’s hope that a better understanding (and appreciation) of these fascinating animals will accompany readers following their completion of this work.

Selection Criteria

In order to rank the world’s strangest (and most unusual) snake species, a number of basic criteria was necessary for the extents and purposes of this work. First and foremost, each of the following animals were ranked according to their unusual appearance (with the most unique appearing further down the list than others). In cases where appearance is not an option, the snake’s unusual traits or abilities are then taken into consideration. This criteria was necessary, as some snakes (such as the flying snake) appear completely normal upon first glance but possess traits that make them extremely unique in the reptile realm. While these two factors leave room for potential gaps and shortcomings in the selection process, the author believes that these criteria offer the best means for ranking the world’s strangest snakes.

The 10 Weirdest Snakes in the World

  • Tentacled Snake
  • Asian Vine Snake
  • Rhinoceros Viper
  • Elephant Trunk Snake
  • Horned Viper
  • Barbados Threadsnake
  • Spider-Tailed Horned Viper
  • Flying Snake
  • Malagasy Leaf-Nosed Snake
  • Hairy Bush Viper
The extremely unusual tentacled snake.

The extremely unusual tentacled snake.

10. Tentacled Snake

  • Average Size: 1.8 to 3-feet
  • Geographical Range: Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The tentacled snake is an aquatic species from the Homalopsidae family. Endemic to Southeast Asia (including Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam), the tentacled snake is a relatively small animal with an average length of approximately 1.8 to 3.0 feet at maturity. Although this particular species possesses a series of venomous fangs, the snake is not considered dangerous to humans, as the fangs are extremely small and produces a venom that is specific to the type of fish that it consumes daily. They are currently listed by the IUCN as a species of “least concern,” indicating that their population numbers are stable at this time.

Achieving the #10 spot on our list, the tentacled snake is an incredibly strange animal due to its unique appearance in the realm of reptiles. As its name implies, the snake possesses a pair of twin “tentacles” on the front of its head which serve as a mechanosensory device for hunting fish. As an aquatic animal that spends nearly all of their life on (or under) the water, such a mechanism is crucial for its survival, as the twin tentacles give it a substantial advantage in subduing prey. Once spotted, these appendages allow the snake to anticipate the movement of its victims, prompting the tentacled snake to rapidly strike once a fish is in range.

To date, the tentacled snake is the only species of snake to possess these rare tentacles, making it one of the strangest and most unusual animals on the planet.

The remarkable Asian vine snake.

The remarkable Asian vine snake.

9. Asian Vine Snake

  • Average Size: 2 to 6-feet
  • Geographical Range: Southern Asia
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The Asian vine snake (also known as the Boie’s whip snake, Gunter’s whip snake, or Oriental whip snake), is an unusual species from the Colubridae family. Due to its strange characteristics, the snake can be easily identified by onlookers due to its extremely long and slender body, as well as its projecting snout that resembles a vine or twig. Most Asian vine snakes are also light brown or yellowish-green in their coloration; a trait that helps the animal remain hidden in trees and various foliage. On average, this species is capable of reaching an astonishing 2 to 6-feet in length, despite their thin size. They are currently listed by the IUCN as a species of “least concern” due to stable population numbers in the wild.

The Asian vine snake is found throughout most of Asia, occurring in Bangladesh, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand to name only a few countries. These areas provide an abundance of jungle cover and foliage from which the vine snake can hide from potential predators (or stalk unsuspecting prey). Dietary options are also abundant within this region, with lizards, small reptiles, and tree frogs being among the snake’s primary meals.

With its unusual traits and characteristics, the Asian vine snake is easily one of the strangest snakes currently in existence.

The incredible rhinoceros viper.

The incredible rhinoceros viper.

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8. Rhinoceros Viper

  • Average Size: 3 to 3.6-feet
  • Geographical Range: Central and Western Africa
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The rhinoceros viper (also known as the “butterfly viper,” or “river jack”) is a species of venomous pit viper from the Viperidae family of snakes. Endemic to the forest regions of Central and Western Africa, the rhinoceros viper is considered an extremely dangerous animal in this part of the world, with the potential to seriously harm (and kill) humans. As with most snakes on this list, the animal can be easily identified due to the presence of nasal “horns” that protrude from its snout. They are also quite large (reaching upwards of 42 inches at maturity), and are renowned for their triangular heads, small eyes, and medium-sized fangs. Adding to the rhinoceros snake’s strange features is its unique coloration which is commonly described as bluish green, with irregular markings of yellow, black, and crimson. Underbellies, in contrast, are generally dull green or “dirty white” with blotches of black (or grey).

The rhinoceros viper is predominantly found in Africa’s forested areas, where foliage cover is ever-present, and potential prey is abundant. Little is known about the behavioral patterns of this particular snake; however, most experts agree that the animal appears to be nocturnal, spending the day hiding in holes, leaves, or fallen trees, whereas the evening hours are spent hunting (via ambush). Common prey for this particular species includes mice, toads, frogs, and the occasional fish when close to aquatic environments. Adding to the snake’s uniqueness is the fact that the snake rarely moves away from its ambush locations (except in times of relocation or retreat from danger). In fact, some rhinoceros vipers have even been observed in a single position for three days at a time, remaining perfectly still for an opportunity to feed on an unsuspecting rodent. For these reasons, they are an incredibly strange and unique animal, and certainly worthy of inclusion within our current list.

The elephant trunk snake.

The elephant trunk snake.

7. Elephant Trunk Snake

  • Average Size: 5 to 6-feet
  • Geographical Range: Southeast Asia
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The elephant trunk snake (also known as the “Javan file snake”) is a species of non-venomous snake from the Acrochordidae family. Endemic to Southeast Asia (near Cambodia, Vietnam, and parts of Malaysia), the elephant trunk snake is an incredibly unique animal renowned for its distinct (and strange) appearance. They can be easily identified by their loose and “baggy” skin that is similar to that of an elephant, hence their name.

Classified as an aquatic snake, the animal is fully adapted to living underwater, and rarely ventures outside the water (except in extreme and highly-unusual circumstances). As such, they are commonly found in rivers, lagoons, and estuaries, with a preference for freshwater sources (or slightly brackish conditions). From here, the snake primarily feeds on various fish and amphibians which it catches (and kills) via constriction. Aiding in this procedure is the elephant trunk snake’s loose and baggy skin which helps to limit any “escape attempt” by a potential meal.

Possessing a wide and flat head, with nostrils that are situated on top of the snout area, the elephant trunk snake maintains a close resemblance to boa constrictors in many ways. Females are also quite bigger than the males, and are known to reach upwards of 7 to 8-feet at maturity. In regard to coloration, this species is generally brown along its dorsal region, and pale yellow alongside its ventral section. Given their unique appearance and coloration, the elephant trunk snake is easily one of the most unusual species of snake in the world.

The infamous horned viper.

The infamous horned viper.

6. Horned Viper

  • Average Size: 2 to 3-feet
  • Geographical Range: Northern Africa and the Middle East
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The horned viper (also known as the “Saharan horned viper,” or “horned desert viper”) is a species of venomous snake from the Viperidae family. Endemic to Northern Africa (as well as parts of the Arabian Peninsula), the horned viper possesses a moderately toxic venom that is capable of killing a healthy adult at doses of 40 to 50 milligrams. The snake can be easily identified by its short length (reaching upwards of 33-inches at maturity), as well as yellowish-grey, pinkish, or pale brown coloration (depending on the snake’s habitat and location). Their most distinguishing trait, however, lies with the horned viper’s pair of supraorbital horns that are visible above each eye. Taken together, each of these unique traits make the horned viper one of the strangest and most unusual species of snake on the planet.

Adding to its ferocious appearance, the horned viper possesses a highly toxic venom that is similar to the saw-scaled viper. Envenomation usually results in an overall venom yield of 27 to 100 milligrams, with a lethal dose (for humans) at 40 to 50 milligrams. Following a bite, symptoms usually progress rapidly, and involve severe swelling of the bite site, vomiting, necrosis, as well as haematuria. Without treatment, bites from this species can certainly be lethal. As such, the horned viper’s ferocious appearance corresponds nicely with its lethalness as a predator.

The tiny Barbados threadsnake.

The tiny Barbados threadsnake.

5. Barbados Threadsnake

  • Average Size: 3 to 3.93-inches
  • Geographical Range: Barbados
  • Conservation Status: “Critically Endangered” (Population in Decline)

The Barbados threadsnake is a recently discovered species from the Leptotyphlopidae family of snake. First discovered in 2008, the Barbados threadsnake is endemic to the island of Barbados (as its name implies) and is currently classified as “critically endangered” by the IUCN as the species is believed to be on the brink of total extinction. To date, the Barbados threadsnake is considered the smallest known species of snake in the world, reaching a maximum length of only 3.94 to 4.09 inches at maturity. In regard to width, most scientists compare the Barbados threadsnake’s body to that of a spaghetti noodle. Aside from its remarkably small size, however, very little is currently known (or understood) about this fascinating species. Nevertheless, they can be easily identified by their thread-like bodies, brown coloration, and worm-like appearance.

From within its natural habitat, the Barbados threadsnake is greatly limited in its overall prey (given its incredibly small size). It is currently believed that their primary food source is derived from both ants and small termites. As one can well-imagine, survival is incredibly difficult for the threadsnake, as they make for an extremely easy meal for birds, various lizards, and other reptiles (such as other snakes). As such, their survival into the modern era is a true testament to their hardiness and adaptability in the wild. Without a doubt, they are easily one of the strangest and most unusual snakes in the world.

The spider-tailed horned viper in its natural habitat.  Notice its remarkable camouflage, as well as the snake's spider-like tail that it uses for catching prey.

The spider-tailed horned viper in its natural habitat. Notice its remarkable camouflage, as well as the snake's spider-like tail that it uses for catching prey.

4. Spider-Tailed Horned Viper

  • Average Size: 2 to 3-feet
  • Geographical Range: Western Iran
  • Conservation Status: Unknown (Insufficient Data)

The spider-tailed horned viper (sometimes referred to as the “spider-tailed viper”) is a species of venomous pit viper from the Viperidae family of snake. Endemic to the western regions of Iran, the snake was “officially” discovered in 2006 after decades of being classified as another species of similar appearance. Considered one of the world’s strangest and most unique species of snake, the spider-tailed horned viper possesses a spider-like tail (hence its name) that adorns its lower body. This ingenious adaptation is used as a “lure” by the snake, as the animal periodically wiggles and waves the tip of its tail to entice birds into striking range. They also possess a series of horns that adorn the snake’s head (just above they eye), adding to its menacing appearance. Common colors for this species include a mixture of light and dark brown that is overlaid by a series of dark spots (to blend into its surroundings).

From within its natural habitat, the spider-tailed horned viper is afforded a wide array of potential food, including small mice, rats, and birds (their primary source of food). As a relatively new find within the scientific community, however, almost nothing is currently known about this species as only a handful of studies have been performed on their behavior, venom toxicity, and predation in the wild. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating creature with a number of unique traits, making it an easy choice for our list.

The amazing flying snake.

The amazing flying snake.

3. Flying Snake

  • Average Size: 2 to 4-feet
  • Geographical Range: Southeast Asia and the Philippines
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The flying snake (not to be confused with the “flying serpent”) is a species of mildly venomous snake from the Colubridae family. Endemic to Southeast Asia (including Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and the Philippines), the flying snake is perhaps one of the most unique snakes (and animals) in the world due to its natural ability to glide (“fly”) throughout the air from tree to tree. There are currently five different species recognized under this pseudonym. These include the golden tree snake, paradise tree snake, twin-barred tree snake, as well as the Moluccan flying snake, and Sri Lankan flying snake. Of these, the paradise tree snake is the most gifted in flight, and is easily identified by its black body that is covered in green, red, orange, and yellow scales.

Flying snakes are mildly venomous, with only a few reported cases of severe envenomation reported amongst humans. As a diurnal species, they are most active during the daylight hours, and predominantly hunt lizards, various mice, frogs, birds, and the occasional bat. When moving from tree to tree, the flying snake lunges through the air, flattening its abdomen into a wing-like shape that gives it the ability to glide. To date, researchers have been particularly amazed at its “flight” abilities, and have even deduced that the flying snake is better suited at gliding than flying squirrels (despite their lack of limbs). For these reasons, the snake is an incredible animal to behold in the wild, and is easily one of the strangest and most unique specimens of the snake in the world.

The Malagasy leaf-nosed snake in its natural habitat.

The Malagasy leaf-nosed snake in its natural habitat.

2. Malagasy Leaf-Nosed Snake

  • Average Size: 3 to 4-feet
  • Geographical Range: Madagascar
  • Conservation Status: “Least Concern” (Population Stable)

The Malagasy leaf-nosed snake (sometimes referred to as the “Madagascar leaf-nosed snake,” or simply the “leaf-nosed snake”) is a species of arboreal snake from the Lamprophiidae family. Endemic to the deciduous forests of Madagascar, the Malagasy leaf-nosed snake is considered a sexually dimorphic species, with males appearing brown and yellow (with long snouts), whereas females are grey, with flattened bodies and a leaf-shaped snout. To date, it is currently estimated that this species is capable of reaching 3 to 4-feet in length at maturity, with some snakes growing several inches beyond this in the wild. They are currently listed by the IUCN as a species of “least concern,” indicating that population numbers are stable at this time (2021).

The “leaf-like” snout of this species is an incredibly unique feature of the snake. Nevertheless, very little is currently known about its overall function and use. Scientists currently speculate that the long snout serves as a form of camouflage, which seems to be the best explanation posited thus far. This makes sense, as the leaf-nosed snake spends most of its time hanging in trees, where it hunts various birds and insects that crosses its path.

The snake is also capable of “hooding” and swaying its body when immobile in trees, and has even been known to hang straight down from branches. This curious behavior greatly resembles a vine that is swinging/swaying in the wind, keeping it largely hidden from plain sight. They are truly one of the strangest species of snake in the world, for these reasons.

The hairy bush viper (world's most unusual snake).

The hairy bush viper (world's most unusual snake).

1. Hairy Bush Viper

  • Average Size: 1.5 to 2.6-feet
  • Geographical Range: Central Africa
  • Conservation Status: Unknown (Insufficient Data)

The hairy bush viper (also known as the “rough-scaled bush viper,” or the “spiny bush viper”) is a species of highly-venomous snake from the Viperidae family. Endemic to Central Africa (including Congo, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania), the hairy bush viper is a nocturnal species that spends much of its time climbing reeds and stalks, or basking atop flowers and large leaves. The snake is relatively small, with males reaching only 29 inches in length at maturity, whereas females are known to grow upwards of 23 to 25 inches. As its name implies, the hairy bush viper is renowned for its hairy (or “shaggy”) appearance resembling spikes. These are actually elongated dorsal scales which stick outward, rather than lying flat like other snake species on the planet. Very little is currently known about their scale’s purpose, other than the hypothesis that they allow for greater concealment amongst vegetation.

From within its natural habitat, the hairy bush viper is provided a number of potential prey, including small mammals, lizards, toads, frogs, and the occasional bird. Using its potent venom to subdue prey, a single bite from this species is able to quickly incapacitate animals (and humans) due to its various neurotoxins, cytotoxins, and fasciculins that are present. Toxicity, however, largely depends on weather conditions and altitude, as their venom’s potency appears to be greatly affected by atmospheric conditions (a trait that is seemingly unique to this particular species of snake).

For these reasons, the hairy bush viper is truly a one-of-a-kind animal, and a snake species that is unmatched in its unusual appearance and characteristics. Without a doubt, they are the strangest species of snake currently known to exist on the planet for the time being.

Works Cited

Articles/Books:

  • “Flying Snake.” The Reptile Database. Accessed 10 November 2021.
  • “Hairy Bush Viper.” The Reptile Database. Accessed 13 November 2021.
  • Slawson, Larry. “The Top 10 Deadliest Snakes in the World.” OwlCation. 2019.
  • Slawson, Larry. “The 25 Deadliest Snakes Ranked.” OwlCation. 2020.
  • University of Adelaide. “Toxinology Resources.” Accessed: 11 October 2021.

Images/Photographs:

  • Pixabay 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

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