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Bitis arietans

Geographical Locale

  • Probably the most common and widespread snake in Africa and found throughout the continent except for deserts and thickly forested areas.


  • Two enlarged venom fangs fixed in the front of the upper jaw.
  • Solid teeth in both jaws.
  • Average size about 3' long but very wide; widths of over 15 1/2" have been seen.
  • Head blunt & rounded and much wider than neck and body; almost triangular in shape.
  • Often two fangs on the jaw and both can be functional.
  • Colours vary according to geography but head usually has two dark bands; one on the crown and one between the eyes.
  • Colours range from dull yellow to light brown and even orange or reddish brown. Males can have striking yellow and gold colour patterns.
  • V-shaped markings are present all the way down their back but getting lighter towards the tail.
  • Iris’ range from gold to silver grey.
  • Stomach is yellow or white with some darker spots.


  • Extremely poisonous and one of the most toxic. Cytotoxic – cell killing – and Neurotoxic – attacking the victim’s central nervous system.

The Bite

  • Wound shows two teeth marks and is painful.
  • Swelling develops within 10 to 30 minutes.


  • Females produce a pheromone to attract males.
  • Give birth to high numbers of young; 50 or 60 being the average.
  • Hatchlings are between 4 1/2" and 7" long.
  • Newborns have golden head markings.


  • Generally rocky grasslands as they are a sluggish species that rely on camouflage for protection.
  • Mainly terrestrial but good swimmers that can also climb.
  • Often found basking by footpaths and tend to remain still in the presence of an intruder.
  • Extremely willing to bite and able to strike at very high speed and from a distance of about one third of their body length.
  • Mostly nocturnal.
  • Reluctant to forage and hunt; more likely to ambush prey ‘as it passes’.
  • Diet consists of mammals, birds, lizards and amphibians.

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