‘Fast’ is generally not an attribute we consider attributing snakes with. More likely, we use it to describe animals with legs or wings, and snakes don’t qualify as either.
However, snakes can be quite fast, so fast that they take some people by surprise. This is unfortunate when it comes to more aggressive species that prefer to bite first, just to be sure the danger is dealt with.
So, today we will discuss snake and their ability to move impressively fast in their respective environment for hunting and defensive purposes. Here are 7 of the best examples:
1. Sidewinder – Maximum Speed: 18 mph
If sidewinder doesn’t ring a bell (heh), then maybe the name of horned rattlesnake does. This snake is impressively small, only growing up to 20 inches, although some specimens could reach 30, albeit rare.
The snake is fairly easy to recognize, especially if you already know what rattlesnakes look like. This reptile enjoys arid and desertic ecosystems, so they’re likely to be more widespread in deserts, sand dunes, and rocky hillsides.
Sidewinders are typically light brown or yellow with a thick body, a triangle-shaped head, and the 2 distinct horns for eyebrows. The snake’s name comes from the 2 dark-brown patches visible on each side of the face, covering the eyes.
This species feeds on rodents primarily but can consume a variety of other animals like reptiles and birds. They can move fast, which is most likely the result of living on sand, but this isn’t the only reason.
Due to thriving on dunes, the snakes have learned to use gravitation to their advantage. So, it’s not uncommon to spot a sidewinder gliding down a hill dune at high speeds, painting the sand with their distinct movement-related marks.
Be wary, sidewinders are also excellent burrowers since they rely on ambush to catch their prey. Watch where you’re stepping!
2. Black Mamba – Maximum Speed: 12.5 mph
Black mambas need basically no introduction. Aside from being some of the most venomous snakes in the world, they also rank as the longest venomous snakes in Africa. These reptiles can reach 14 feet in length, which is nearly unheard of among venomous snakes in general.
Black mambas are quite common in Sub-Saharan Africa in ecosystems like savannas, woodlands, and rocky habitats.
They rely on their ecosystem to provide cover and food, and they’re also likely to reach human settlements for easier access to prey like rodents. The snake is fortunately quite easy to recognize since there aren’t many snakes like it. The standard black mamba is ash-grey, although some are black or brown. There are no visible body patterns,
An interesting fact about the black mamba, among other things, is that it lacks the trademark features of a venomous snake.
The head is oval-shaped instead of triangle-shaped, and the eye pupils are round instead of elliptical. This leads many people to mistake the black mamba for a non-venomous species, which can get costly fast.
The snake’s more compelling feature is the black interior of the mouth, which is where the name comes from.
Black mambas prefer to chase their prey actively and are capable of short bursts of speed if they need to secure their bite.
If you ever meet a snake that resembles a black mamba in the wild, watch its behavior. Black mambas always open their mouths in a threatening matter, showcasing the black interior. If you see black, run.
3. Eastern Brown Snake – Maximum Speed: 12 mph
Despite its innocuous look, the Eastern brown snake ranks as the second most venomous snake in the world.
Even more interestingly, it resembles the black mamba almost to perfection, except for the brown coloring and the lighter interior of the mouth. The snake is also quite large, capable of reaching 8 feet as an adult.
The body is plain brown with no visible markings and visible scale separations, especially on the underbelly. The head is similar to that of a black mamba, oval-shaped, and relatively small. The pupils are also round instead of elliptical, which is an unusual feature for a venomous snake.
This is one of the most dangerous snakes you can encounter in the Australian wilderness. They are very fast, very aggressive and territorial, and very versatile.
Eastern brown snakes can move fast on land, can swim even faster, and are excellent climbers, which explains their excellent survivability. When threatened, they will posture up, similar to a cobra, opening their mouths and making their intentions known.
If you see that, back away slowly and head to safety. These guys can deliver a deadly cocktail of neurotoxic and hemotoxic proteins that can lead to respiratory failure and cardiovascular collapse shortly. In many cases, medical assistance doesn’t even reach the victim in time.
4. King Cobra – Maximum Speed: 12 mph
King cobras can reach 12 feet in size, and they’re among the scariest, most majestic, and most recognizable snakes in the world. The snake’s preferred geographical location is Southeast Asia, throughout areas like India, Bangladesh, and Malaysia.
They can be found in areas like dense forests, grasslands, and even agricultural areas. King cobras reproduce quite easily and rank as opportunistic feeders, always looking for the path of least resistance.
This explains why they prefer agricultural areas and human settlements, which are often rich in rodents.
The snake’s appearance is iconic at this point. This long and powerful snake comes with a long and agile body with colors like brown, black, and tints of yellow. Each king cobra showcases the distinct spectacles on their napes, making the species easily recognizable.
King cobras are somewhat peculiar in the snake kingdom due to them sometimes exhibiting social behavior. It’s quite common to encounter several cobras in one place, which increases the biting risk by a factor equal to the number of snakes.
Fortunately, cobras prefer not to bite, so they will mostly resort to posting menacingly, hoping to discourage you from approaching them. If the snake postures up and flares its hood, you’ve already gone too far; turn back.
5. Coastal Taipan – Maximum Size: 12 mph
The coastal taipan is another impressively large venomous snake, capable of growing up to 11 feet. The snake is slim and long with one dominant color and no patterns. The color can differ between specimens, varying between brown, dark orange, and grey.
Overall, the snake’s appearance reminds me of the black mamba. The same oval-shaped head with small mouths, large eyes, and round, black pupils.
Don’t get it mistaken, though, this is a deadly reptile. Coastal taipans are some of the deadliest snakes in the world due to their extremely potent venom, the quantity of venom injected, and overall aggression.
The venom itself does everything you could hope it doesn’t. This includes uncontrollable hemorrhage, tissue destruction, kidney damage, internal bleeding, paralysis, and respiratory failure.
It also doesn’t help that the onset of the symptoms is generally rapid, with little reaction time. So, you need to take all the precautions in the world when traversing the snake’s habitat.
Finally, to avoid confusion, make sure you understand the snake’s behavior. Unlike other snakes that coil their bodies in rings before attacking, taipans raise their bodies and freeze them in a zig-zag pattern in the air.
That’s the sign that the reptile is ready to strike.
6. Black Rat Snake – Maximum Speed: 10 mph
We’re finally moving away from deadly snakes to discuss a more innocuous species: the black rat snake. This one is fairly sizeable as well, capable of growing up to 6 feet, sometimes more.
The snake looks pretty much exactly as it sounds: completely black, maybe with some white across the underbelly. The snake looks scarier than it is because this one is non-venomous and isn’t known to be aggressive.
You can find the black rat snake throughout North America, in areas like forests, farmlands, rocky ecosystems, and agricultural zones. The reptile is always on the lookout for rodent meals, but they can eat anything, including other small mammals, birds, amphibians, and other reptiles.
They can move quite fast on land, exhibit excellent swimming skills, and can climb in pursuit of prey or safety. They can also hunt in water, which is a characteristic specific to semi-aquatic snakes.
These snakes are not venomous, so humans pose more threat to the snake’s lifestyle than vice-versa. The animal prefers to run when threatened, but don’t rely on that. They can also bite if cornered or held by force, and they possess quite a powerful bite.
7. Green Mamba – Maximum speed: 7 mph
Green mambas are some of the most deceiving snakes you can find in captivity. That’s because most people associate the green mamba with non-venomous species, many of which are green. However, this one is a deadly reptile, capable of killing a human within hours or even minutes.
The problem with this species is that it lacks any feature that would typically qualify it as venomous.
The head is oval-shaped, the eye pupils are perfectly round, the body is long and slim (up to 7 feet), and the interior of the mouth is normal-brown. Furthermore, you often can’t even see the fangs when the snake opens its mouth.
It’s no wonder, then, that the green mamba is considered to be so mischievous and dangerous. Fortunately, encounters between humans and green mambas are rare due to the snake’s environmental preferences.
This species prefers to live in rainforests, savannas, and woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa, far from human settlements. This species is also arboreal, so you’ll most likely find the mambas climbing from branches, watching you from afar.
Keep it that way, and don’t decide to investigate the situation closely. Between the snake’s highly potent venom and aggression and its secluded natural habitat, you’re simply asking for trouble.
Snakes aren’t known for their outstanding speeds on land, so I hope today’s article has managed to dispel this unfortunate and troubling myth.
I say troubling because people who are uneducated on snakes and their movement capabilities tend to underestimate their agility.
To have a clearer perspective:
- Most snakes on today’s list can move at speeds equal to or above 12 mph; the sidewinder can even reach 18 mph
- The average recreational speed in humans is 8 mph for males and 6 mph for females
- A human male running for his life can reach 12 mph
- The top speed of professional runners revolves around the 14-17 mph
So, not even professional athletes cannot outrun a sidewinder. Hope this adds some perspective to the matter.