Animals / Reptiles / Snake Types / Puff Adder - Common, Dangerous, African Snake

Puff Adder - Common, Dangerous, African Snake

adder head


The puff adder is the common name for the Bitis Arietans, and it is one of the most common and widely spread snakes in Africa. It can be found in grasslands and savanna all over Africa, except for the rainforests and Sahara regions.

The puff adder is fairly large snake, growing to around 1m in length (3 feet) and with a girth of 40cm (16 in). Large specimens weigh about 6kg (13.2 lbs). The head is triangular, with a blunt snout. The coloring varies from region to region, but they are mostly dull brown, with some white markings on the body and a characteristic darker symmetrical pattern on the head. In the Western Cape in South Africa, the males have a black and yellow pattern.



puff and hiss


Dangerous and Aggressive

Puff adders are very dangerous to humans. Their venom is cytotoxic. Although they are slow-moving snakes, they are highly aggressive and make incredibly fast biting attacks. They can strike sideways, without having to move their head back first. They are good at catching rodents, such as mice and rats. They will often lie in wait on rat tracks and pathways to catch rodents. This is when people are most at risk of disturbing them by accident and getting bitten.


snake in the sand


Puff adder bites cause severe injuries, even though the venom is slow-acting. It causes massive muscle and tissue damage, along with swelling. If left untreated, the venom spreads, as does the accompanying necrosis and eventual gangrene.


ouch venom


Puff adders do give off audible warnings when they feel threatened. They hiss and puff, hence their name. The snakes are very territorial and they have been known to attack, kill and eat each other. They tend to attack from a defensive posture, by coiling up into an “S” shape. From there, they will lunge forwards or sideways. A frontal attack is incredibly fast and powerful and they bite very deeply. The trauma from the impact of the bite can very often kill prey, before the venom even takes effect.


They are mostly nocturnal and prefer to wait for prey to find them, rather than hunt or forage. They make good use of camouflage for hunting, and for defensive purposes. They are preyed on by warthogs, honey badgers and other snakes.

Puff adders can swim and are good at climbing trees and lurking in bushes. When they mate, females use pheromones to attract males. They lay up to 80 eggs at one time.




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