While snakes may not have the best reputation, very few animals captivate people like venomous snakes do. The potential danger and deadliness of venomous snakes intrigue and hold the interests of many, and venomous snakes come in all different sizes. Some of the worlds venomous snakes can reach incredible lengths or grow to be very heavy. So in this article we’re going to show you 10 of the world’s largest venomous snakes.
But, before diving into any more about venomous snakes, it’s important that we understand the difference between poisonous and venomous. Poisonous relates to the “victim” ingesting a poison, while venomous requires toxins to be injected into their victim through the use of fangs (or similarly stingers and barbs in other animals). So, in almost all cases, snakes are not poisonous but are venomous. However, there is a type of snake, Keelbacks (found in SE Asia) that are both poisonous and venomous due to what they eat.
Now that we’ve explained a couple of things about these potentially deadly serpents, let’s dive right into this list of the world’s largest venomous snakes!
10 of the world’s largest venomous snakes
1. Gaboon viper
Scientific name: Bitis gabonica
Distribution: Sub-saharan Africa
Length: 32 – 51.5 in.
The Gaboon Viper is the largest venomous snake in the world (by weight) and has been known to get up to 25 pounds. With some of the longest fangs of any snakes, getting as long as two inches, they are certainly not a snake you would want to be bitten by!
They tend to have a calm demeanor but are able to strike incredibly quick. They hunt for their prey with the use of thermal pits, which act as heat sensing organs and help to detect warm-blooded prey items. Gaboon Vipers can be found waiting to ambush unsuspecting prey items under fallen leaves and within thickets.
2. King Cobra
Scientific name: Ophiophagus hannah
Distribution: From India throughout much of Southeast Asia to Southern China
Length: 10.4 – 13.1 feet
The King Cobra, or the king of snakes, is the longest venomous snake in the world. The longest ever recorded was just over 19 feet long. The latin name for King Cobra literally means “snake eater” as they are known to feed mainly on snakes but have also been known to eat monitor lizards.
The venom of King Cobras is not nearly as toxic as some of the other snakes found within their range. However, they are able to inject large amounts of venom at once, making a bite from a king cobra very deadly. During mating season, male king cobras will fight with other males to win the chance to mate with nearby females.
3. Coastal Taipan
Scientific name: Oxyuranus scutellatus
Distribution: Northern Australia and Southern New Guinea
Length: 4 – 11 feet
The Coastal Taipan is the longest venomous snake in Australia and has venom that is incredibly lethal, however their venom is slightly less toxic than their relative, the Inland Taipan.
Coastal Taipans are active hunters, meaning they will seek out their prey and hunt them down. When they encounter their prey, they will quickly deliver a lethal series of bite and release and allow for their prey to wander off while the venom begins to work.
4. Black Mamba
Scientific name: Dendroaspis polyepis
Distribution: Sub-Saharan Africa
Length: 7 – 10 feet
The Black Mamba are one of the longest venomous snakes in Africa. In their range, Black Mambas are feared for being incredibly quick and deadly. They are some of the fastest snakes on land and can slither along at speeds of up to 12 miles per hour- not bad for having no legs! Despite their deadly venom and quick speeds, Black Mambas seldom hurt anybody. They are incredibly weary of humans and will flee immediately if approached.
Black Mambas are terrestrial and arboreal, meaning that they can be found on the ground and up in the trees. They eat small invertebrates (birds, rodents, bats, etc.) and will take down their prey by delivering a swift bite, letting go, and waiting for their venom to do its job before consuming it.
Scientific name: Lachesis muta
Distribution: Central and South America
Length: 6 – 10 feet
Bushmasters are the longest venomous snakes in the western hemisphere. Despite their large size, they are rarely encountered and can be difficult to find. Their reticulated pattern of shades of browns and black allows for them to remain hidden under leaf litter without ever being noticed by a passerby.
However, if you do get too close to one, Bushmasters are known to beat their spiked tail against the ground creating a sound similar to the rattlesnake. This has given them the nickname of the “mute rattlesnake”.
6. Forest Cobra
Scientific name: Naja melanoleuca
Distribution: Sub-Saharan Africa
Length: 4.6 – 10 feet
The Forest Cobra is another one of Africa’s longest venomous snakes. Like their relatives, Forest cobras have that iconic hood that they will rear up and display when threatened. Forest Cobras are the largest of the true cobras. All true cobras are within the genus Naja and there are just under 40 species that are considered to be true cobras and fall within the Naja genus.
Forest Cobras live in the forest (as you could probably guess by their name) and have been known to be amazing climbers. They can climb to heights of 30 feet or more with no trouble. They are also amazing swimmers and will feed on fish found in forest streams.
7. Yellow Sea Snake
Scientific name: Hydrophis spiralis
Distribution: Indo-Pacific seas
Length: 6 – 9.8 feet
The Yellow Sea Snake is the longest venomous sea snake in the world. Not much is known about the Yellow Sea Snake, including information about their venom toxicity. However, Yellow Sea Snakes are in the family elapidae which also includes cobras, King Cobras, kraits, coral snakes, several species found in Australia, and sea snakes. Snakes in the family elapidae, or elapids, are known to be equipped with incredibly potent venom that mainly affects the nervous system.
As the name suggests, Yellow Sea Snakes spend much of their time in the ocean where they can dive to depths of over 150 feet. They mainly feed on eels and can be found swimming in warm waters with sandy or muddy bottoms. Due to the depth and location of their habitats, there aren’t many good pictures of them available.
Scientific name: Bothrops asper
Distribution: Southern Mexico, central America and the Northern tip of South America
Length: 3.9 – 8.2 feet
While they are not as large as Bushmasters, the Fer-de-lance is responsible for the most snakebites in their region of South America. These snakes can often be found living amongst human settlements, which likely contributes to their reputation for having run-ins with people. Luckily, scientists have developed an anti-venom treatment that is very effective and victims that are treated very often survive.
Fer-de-lances display sexual dimorphism where female Fer-de-lances will grow much quicker and grow to be much larger than males. Female Fer-de-lances actually birth live young instead of laying eggs and may give birth to litters of anywhere between 5-80 offspring.
9. Eastern Brown Snake
Scientific name: Pseudonaja textillis
Distribution: Eastern and Central Australia
Length: 4.9 – 7.9 feet
The Eastern Brown Snake can grow to be large and very deadly. Australia is home to some of the most venomous snakes in the world, the Eastern brown snake being one of them. While the Eastern Brown Snake does not have the most toxic venom of snakes found in Australia, it is responsible for over 60% of fatal snake bites in Australia.
Its preferred diet of rodents draws the Eastern Brown Snake to areas where rodents are abundant- farmland and urban areas, which has likely contributed to a fair-number of run-ins between people and these snakes. While they prefer to flee from people, Eastern Brown Snakes have also been known to stand their ground and will raise itself off of the ground into an S shape to ward off predators.
10. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
Scientific name: Crotalus adamanteus
Distribution: Southeastern United States
Length: 3.5 – 7.8 feet
Eastern Diamondbacks are the longest species of rattlesnakes and the longest species of venomous snake in North America. They have also been known to be very heavy and can get up to be over 11 pounds – however this is not common.
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Rattlesnakes are known for the impressive sounds they can make with their tail which is equipped with a rattle-like structure. When threatened, rattle snakes will vibrate this structure to produce a warning sound. This has also led to them being lovingly referred to as buzztails.
Venomous snake FAQ’s
Where in the world is home to the most venomous snakes?
Venomous snakes can be found in most places that have a climate that allow for snakes to survive, however there are definitely some places in the world that have more venomous snake species than others. Parts of Asia, Africa, South America and Australia are home to many different venomous snake species. Australia is home to many of the snakes that are considered to have the most toxic venom.
How many species of venomous snakes are there?
Out of over 3,000 species of snakes, there are around 600 species of snakes that are venomous. However, only 200 or so of these species are considered to be deadly to humans. Some snakes have venom that is great for taking down their prey (small animals like geckos and frogs) but is not strong enough to harm humans.
How do you know if a snake is venomous?
There is unfortunately no hard and fast rule to say whether or not a snake is venomous. Some people claim the shape of the snakes’ pupils or head can be used to define whether or not a snake is venomous – but there are exceptions to every rule! These rules really depend on where you are and what type of snakes are found there, and even then are not surefire.
The only way to know whether or not a snake is venomous is to be familiar with the snakes in your area. Messing with a venomous snake that you thought was nonvenomous is definitely not a mistake you want to make!
Are baby snakes more venomous than adults?
No, that is a myth. However that doesn’t mean that you should get complacent around baby venomous snakes. Adult venomous snakes are larger and therefore will have larger venom yields than the babies. Additionally, adults are bound to be more experienced and more precise in their strike.