Rhinoceros Viper

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Is the Rhinoceros Viper right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Rhinoceros Horned Viper; Rhino Viper; Horned Puff Adder; River Jack

Scientific name: Bitis nasicornis

The Basics:
Beautifully-patterned, impressively-massive, and highly-venomous, the Rhinoceros Viper has long been a popular zoo animal. It is also much admired by hobbyists, but should never be considered for private collections.

The Rhinoceros Viper is native to Central Africa, where it may be found from Sudan to western Kenya and Uganda, and west through Angola and to Guinea.

This semi-aquatic snake rarely strays from deep cover and is restricted to moist habitats such as rainforests, swamps, river floodplains, and the shores of streams and lakes.

Appearance / health:
The ground color is black or blue-black speckled with olive, and garishly marked with a variety of pale blue, yellow, white, and black geometric shapes. There is a distinct arrow-shaped marking between the eyes, and the rostral scales (above the nostrils) are shaped into “horns” that are yellow in color. The Rhinoceros Viper is very stoutly built and averages 3 ½ feet in length, with rare specimens reaching 5 ½ feet.

Zoo longevity approaches 10 years. It often proves a difficult captive and is not routinely bred.

Behavior / temperament:
Rhinoceros Vipers are inactive and appear “sluggish”, yet strike with amazing speed; their fangs and venom stores are among the snake-world’s largest. Their bulk renders handling with snake hooks especially difficult and dangerous.

Venomous snake species are not suitable as pets in private collections. It is impossible for a private snake owner to adequately prepare for or treat a venomous snakebite, or, prior to a bite, to arrange for treatment in a hospital.

Rhinoceros Vipers feed upon maned rats and other mammals, frogs, toads, and fish. Zoo specimens thrive on rats and mice.

The young, 20-45 in number, are born alive and average 8 inches in length. Little is known of the details of its reproductive biology.

Written by Frank Indiviglio


professionals, beautiful snake


nerve damage, highly venomous snake


ambush predators, loud hissing sound

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