Snakes are pretty common in most parts of the world. The only places without snakes are north of the Arctic Circle, such as New Zealand and Ireland. But there are certain countries where particular species are less common than others. From a new breed born from three different snakes to an albino snake that’s not long for this world, here are 15 of the rarest snakes in the world.
15. Red-Headed Krait
The color red means danger and nature wasn’t lying when it decided to give the red-headed krait its dramatic red head. It really does mean danger. Not only is this snake one of the rarest in the world, but it’s also exceptionally venomous. Fortunately, bites are rare, so not all too many people have had to succumb to the paralysis and eventually death by asphyxiation that its venom can cause.
The red-headed krait grows up to seven feet long and lives in lowland rainforests in southeast Asia. It has a black body, vibrant red head, and a blue and white stripe. As far as snakes go, it’s the Picasso of many species.
It’s nocturnal, partially aquatic, and eats small mammals and reptiles like frogs, skinks, and lizards. This snake is also not one that you will find in too many human-populated areas, for it tends to stay away from people. That might be a good thing, for not only can its numbers improve without human interference, but it can have less of a chance or opportunity to inflict its deadly bite!
14. Rainbow Snake
Rainbow snakes may not be rare on the population scale, but sightings of this beautiful reptile certainly are. Its secretive habits mean that very few people will have the pleasure to spot this serpent in real life.
Rainbow snakes grow up to around six feet long and are found in the coastal plains of the US – from Virginia to Louisiana. Being given the name of rainbow snake is also entirely accurate because they really do look like they’ve just been snatched from the sky at the end of a pot of gold.
They have a glossy black back, red stripes, a red or pink belly, yellow patches on their sides and heads, and black spots. Basically, they look like someone has thrown them into a painting easel.
Rainbow snakes mainly live in swamps, rivers, streams, and creeks, and they spend most of their life hidden in debris and aquatic vegetation. As a result, stumbling across one is not very common. They used to also live in southern Florida, but none have been found there for decades. However, their numbers are relatively stable throughout other parts of the country, and they remain protected in Georgia.
13. Green Tree Snake
The green tree snake is pretty confusing. It’s called the green tree snake, but you’re just as likely to see a blue, yellow, or black one as you would a green one. Thanks for confusing us, scientists, we appreciate it.
The green tree snake is not all that rare and is a pretty common species, but it’s rare to stumble across in your garden. It’s only found in subcoastal and coastal parts of northern and eastern Australia and tends to prefer forests, rainforests, farmland, and the odd back yard.
The green tree snake grows to around six feet long and is active during the day. Many snakes prefer to find something to eat at night, but not this guy! This snake will slither around in daylight, devouring any frog, fish, or reptile that gets in its way. Fortunately, humans are off the menu, and a bite may be painful but not venomous.
During the breeding season, the green tree snake also lays a surprising number of eggs. Between three and 16 hatchlings are born, all of which begin life at around 9.5 inches long.
12. Ball Python
The ball python is a beautiful snake that many people also call the royal python. While its population is listed on the IUCN Red List of ‘least concern,’ that doesn’t mean this snake isn’t rare. Thanks to the pet trade and meat demand, it’s continually under threat.
The ball python is native to Central and West Africa and prefers to live in shrublands and grasslands. It grows to around six feet long and is dark brown or black with blotches on its back and sides. Given its size and coloring, it’s not hard to identify what the ball python is when you see it in person. It’s also one of the smallest African pythons and is non-venomous (phew).
If you’re wondering how it got its name of a ball python, the answer might surprise you. No, it’s not some fandangled science-y name. It refers to how when it’s under stress or feels fearful; it will curl up in a ball. It will tuck its head and neck into itself and can literally roll away. This defense strategy is pretty crazy when you see it for yourself.
So, what’s on the menu for this slithery serpent? Ball pythons enjoy dining on mice, birds, gerbils, and small birds. Females prefer mammals, while males are more partial to a feathery feast.
11. White Cobra
If you stumble across a white cobra, then you’ve just found one of the rarest snakes in the world. You may not even realize that what you’ve discovered is even a snake! A white cobra isn’t so much a species of a serpent, but a regular cobra with a health condition. A white cobra, or any white snake, has leucism or albinism.
If it’s leucistic, then it loses its pigmentation but can retain a few areas of its standard color. If it has a patch of leucism over its eye, then the eye of the snake (not the tiger), tends to be blue. On the other hand, if the snake is albino, then it’s entirely white with red or pink eyes that show the blood vessels underneath the skin.
White snakes are rare for two reasons: there aren’t many of them born, and barely any make it to adulthood. They can’t protect themselves with camouflage from their predators, and the sun causes them to burn. White snakes also can’t easily regulate their body temperature.
If you stumble across one, wish it luck for its future because it’s going to need it.
10. Double-Headed Snake
A snake with one head can be terrifying enough for someone who squirms at the sight of reptiles. But imagine if you came across one with two? In 2011, a zoo in Southern Ukraine put a two-headed Albino California Kingsnake on display for thousands of visitors to see and gawk at.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that one of the heads is just a growth and has no “mind” of its own, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Zookeepers have found that the two heads try to operate as two different snakes.
One head is more passive than the other, but they think, eat, and react separately. They even compete for food, which means that the workers at the zoo have to put a barrier between them while they eat.
The snake was kept on display from July until September in 2011, and it was a popular attraction for those three months. We’re not surprised, either, for two-headed snakes only appear once every fifty years. That might be a good thing, though, as it’s not something you’d want to find lurking in your backyard while you dabble in a little afternoon gardening.
9. Dream Snake
If you’re a snake lover, then you’re going to love the dream snake. It could even be your idea of a dream snake. Professional reptile breeder Justin Kobylka has been working on ball python morphs and combinations for over 15 years. He takes the best features of one python, joins it with another, then creates a Picasso of the snake world. The orange dream yellow belly dreamsicle is one such Picasso.
Justin took an orange dream ball python, a regular dreamsicle ball python, and a yellow belly dreamsicle to create a snake that was the epitome of beauty. It had all the pixilation of the yellow belly, the orange of the orange dream python, and the vibrancy of the orange from the dreamsicle ball python.
The creation of the ‘dream’ snake is not Justin’s first rodeo. He has a dedicated facility for ball python combinations and also travels around the world lecturing on them and helping hobbyists.
What was also impressive about the dream snake is how docile they are. Taking three generally calm snake types and morphing them into one has resulted in a beautiful pet for the avid snake lover.
8. Saharan Horned Viper
Are you looking for an animal to invade your dreams, cause nightmares, and offer sleepless nights? The Saharan Horned Viper can be the answer. This satanic-looking serpent is as fear-evoking as they come. It’s a snake with an anvil-shaped head, eyes like a cat, and horns like the devil himself. If that’s not enough to send you running in fear, then nothing will.
The Saharan Horned Viper lives in the deserts in the north of Africa through to the Middle East. Legend has it that it was the same species that caused Cleopatra’s death, or at least provided the means for her to end her own life in 31 BC.
The Desert Horned Viper also appears throughout Egyptian history in hieroglyphs, not to mention as mummies in the ancient city of Thebes and along the River Nile. Even after all this time, though, the snake continues to exist and cause chaos.
Its venomous bite can cause pain, bleeding, sweating, kidney failure, abdominal pain, and sometimes death. It also grows to around two feet long and has hinged, hollow fangs that quickly snap into a biting position before you’ve had a chance to run or hide.
The population of the Saharan Horned Viper is not threatened, but fortunately, they are rare to come across on your daily errands in the desert.
7. Malagasy Leaf-Nosed Snake
On the rarity scale, the Malagasy leaf-nosed snake is of the least concern, but its unique shape and secretive habits mean it’s not a snake you’ll often come across on your regular outings around town. It’s also pretty different when you compare it to other snakes!
The Malagasy leaf-nosed snake is around three feet long and has a flat, leaf-shaped snout. The male’s one tends to taper a little more than that of the female.
The male leaf-nosed snake is brown and yellow, while the female is more likely to be a mottled gray color. As per usual, the male is the more attractive of the species.
Unlike other snakes, this one operates on a “sit and wait” basis when it comes to food. It will hang down from branches and rest in plain sight, but waits for lizards and other delicious critters to get close before it acts. It’s also quite a calm snake, so it is unlikely to attack humans if you do happen to come across one. The bite of a Malagasy leaf-nosed snake will hurt, but it won’t kill you.
6. Green Vine Snake
The green vine snake is an intriguing little critter from South and Central America. It lives in tropical rainforests and dense branches and grows up to around 79 inches long. It’s bright green on the top, yellowy-green on the bottom, and with gold eyes and a long, green tongue.
If that’s not a rare or unique sight on its own, then the shape of its head – which is pointed with a large mouth that will likely clinch the deal. Everything about this snake is just that little bit quirky.
The green vine snake is also active during the day but spends much of its life in trees. If it does trouble itself to get down and cause chaos with humans, then its bite can hurt. It’s also a little bit venomous, and people may feel tingling and numbness. Fortunately, the bite of a green vine snake is not fatal – even if the angry little guy wishes it was.
Most snakes have eyes that work separately, which is quite disturbing to see, but this species is more ‘normal’. Its eyes work together and focus on one thing at a time, which is more in line with humans than other reptiles.
When this slithering serpent isn’t lounging around in the trees, it’s chowing down on frogs, lizards, and birds. It even enjoys the odd snack of hummingbird.
5. Tentacled Snake
If the sight of a standard snake doesn’t gross you out or give you the heeby-jeebies, then the sight of the tentacled snake will. This aquatic snake with two short appendages at the front of its head is found in south-eastern parts of Asia, as well as Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia.
Rather than live in trees and on the ground, the tentacled snake prefers to lounge in ponds, canals, lakes, and other stagnant bodies of water. When it’s dry, it’s also more than happy to take cover in mud or try its luck in saltwater instead.
Numbers of this snake are stable, but that’s not to say they will always be that way. Because their meat is quite desirable for hunters, they are threatened. It’s best they work on their camouflage before they’re wiped out for good.
In the meantime, they continue to go about their daily life, living the snakey dream. They wait in underwater roots and weeds to attack prey, and they tend to survive on fish. They can even hunt in complete darkness without seeing a thing.
4. Elephant Trunk Snake
If you’ve been tossing up between getting a goldfish or a snake, then why not get the best of both worlds – a snake that lives in water like a goldfish? The elephant trunk snake is a non-venomous aquatic snake found in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. It grows to nearly eight feet long and tends to live in estuaries, rivers, canals, and streams.
This unusual snake is not only targeted by hunters for its delicate meat to satisfy the Asian food market, but for its skin, too. Its leathery skin is more like an elephant’s than you might think! Even though its numbers are stable, the hunting and habit loss will inevitably take its toll in the future.
If you are going to be on the lookout for an elephant trunk snake, then it helps if you know what they look like. They have loose skin with rough scales, brown coloring, and a light yellow belly. They are also a meat-eater that hunts for amphibians and fish under the cover of darkness.
While they spend a lot of time underwater, they still need air to survive. They will cruise around under the water for about 40 minutes but will expose their nostrils to get some much-needed fresh air for around 20 seconds.
3. Nose-Horned Viper
The nose-horned viper may not be on the rare list yet, but the overcollection of its venom and persecution by people means it’s only a matter of time before that happens.
The nose-horned viper is a venomous snake from southern Europe and the Middle East. It grows to around three feet long and has a single horn on its head that sets it apart from other snakes. Comparing a male and female nose-horned viper is also like comparing two different snakes.
The male has a dark brown and dark gray head with black markings and stripes from its eye to its jaw. It also has a colored block on the back of its head and shades of pink, gray, and yellow. The coloring of the female is less jarring and contrasting, with browns, bronzes, and grays blending into one.
The nose-horned viper is thought to be one of the most dangerous snakes in Europe because of its toxic venom. Even though they don’t bite without provocation, their bite can be quite nasty.
Those who have been bitten can find themselves with pain, blistering, bleeding, swollen lymph nodes, sweating, tissue death, low blood pressure, unconsciousness, and many other life-threatening symptoms. Even though you might want to see this rare snake in person, it’s best that you keep your distance.
2. Tiger Keelback Snake
A venomous snake is not rare, but to find one that’s both venomous and poisonous? Well, that is. The tiger keelback snake is the only snake species in the world that ticks both those boxes, which means it doesn’t make many friends outside its own species.
Because they eat poisonous toads, they ooze the toads’ toxins from their glands and onto their necks. Therefore, if you’re going to get bitten by a tiger keelback snack, then you are also going to get poisoned. And you won’t be having a great day.
These snakes, which are found in Japan, Russia, China, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam, can become your worst nightmare. Fortunately, though, unlike other snakes that lunge to bite, the tiger keelback snake will produce a few cues to let you know it’s not happy. At that point, you can retreat to a safe distance.
To know you’ve stumbled across a tiger keelback, you just need to pay attention to its appearance. It grows up to 39 inches long and is olive green with orange and black crossbars. Its white belly is also a dead giveaway of what it is.
Think you’ve found one? Run, no one has time for a tiger keelback snake to ruin their day.
1. Dragon Snake
What do you get when you cross a snake with a crocodile? This joke has no punch line. You get a Dragon Snake, which is both confusing to look at and intriguing to learn more about. The dragon snake is a snake with three rows of giant scales on its back. It has an elongated tail, a large head, and it grows up to around 30 inches long. It’s also gray in color, which is a unique shade for a snake.
The dragon snake lives around forests, rice fields, streams, and other bodies of water in Southeast Asia, and there have been very limited sightings of them. As they tend to live underground for a lot of time and hunt at night, there have only been a handful of mentions of them since the 1960s.
They live on frogs and fish and don’t tend to bother with humans all that much. Humans don’t tend to bother with them all that much either, for its population is managing to sustain itself thanks to limited or no hunting for meat and skin.
These rare snakes have some pretty unusual quirks, and some may be closer to your home than you might think. Are you scared of snakes? Have you seen any of these in person?