Other Free Encyclopedias » Animal Life Resource » Dinosaurs, Snakes, and Other Reptiles » Colubrids: Colubridae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Colubrids And People, Conservation Status - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Colubrids: Colubridae - Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (heterodon Platirhinos): Species Accounts

adder hissing people attacker

Physical characteristics: The eastern hog-nosed snake has a thick body and a wide head with an upward-curving snout, or nose area. Its scales form ridges, or raised areas, and the snake's back usually is covered with brown spots scattered over a yellowish, orangey, gray, or olive green background. The spots, however, may be faded or missing entirely. Occasionally, a snake may be completely black. Adults are typically about 30 inches (76 centimeters) long, but they can grow to more than 45 inches (114 centimeters).


Geographic range: The eastern hog-nosed snake is found in Canada and the United States. It lives throughout most of the eastern half of the United States and into southern Ontario, Canada.

Some people call this snake a hissing adder, puff adder, or spread adder, because it spreads out its neck as a cobra does and makes loud hissing noises when threatened. (Illustration by Barbara Duperron. Reproduced by permission.)

Habitat: This snake likes drier areas, including fields and forests.


Diet: Eastern hog-nosed snakes eat mainly toads, but they will also sometimes eat frogs, salamanders, and small mammals. Toads will often puff up their bodies with air to protect themselves from attackers, but hog-nosed snakes have long rear fangs that puncture and help deflate the toads in much the same way that a pin lets the air out of a balloon.


Behavior and reproduction: Some people call this snake a hissing adder, puff adder, or spread adder, because it spreads out its neck as a cobra does and makes loud hissing noises when threatened. If these defense moves fail, the snake may strike at the attacker, but almost always with its mouth closed. It does not actually bite. If necessary, the snake may follow up by vomiting, smearing its own waste over its body, or going into a squirming fit. As a last resort, it will roll onto its back, open its mouth with its tongue dragging, and play dead. If the attacker turns the snake onto its belly, it will promptly roll onto its back again as if it can play dead only when it is upside down. Once the attacker leaves, the snake turns over and scoots away.

This is an egg-laying snake. Females usually lay about twenty eggs at a time, although some lay up to sixty.


Eastern hog-nosed snakes and people: People frequently mistake this harmless snake for a venomous snake and kill it.


Conservation status: The eastern hog-nosed snake is not endangered or threatened. ∎

Colubrids: Colubridae - Indigo Snake (drymarchon Corais): Species Accounts [next] [back] Colubrids: Colubridae - Milksnake (lampropeltis Triangulum): Species Account

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or

Vote down Vote up

almost 7 years ago

I live in Union Co Ms which is in northeastern Mississippi. As a young boy I was playing in the edge of the woods while my Dad worked in the fields. It was there that I experienced perhaps the most frightening event in my life. I heard a hissing sound behind me. I turned and saw abt 6 to 8 feet away a black snake with some whitish coloring with his head 8 to 10 inches off the ground. His neck was spread out. I lated learned that it was called a "spread adder." I never saw another one like it. Reading the story below about the snake with the expehdable tale reminded me that I once killed a snake that when I hit it with a stick it broke apart where I hit it. I grew up calling it a jointed snake. Never saw another one of them either.

Vote down Vote up

over 8 years ago

I was in my backyard this evening here in Wisconsin and almost stepped on a hog-nosed that was curled up in the grass. When I looked closer it lying over a hole in the ground and appeared to have been trying to go down the hole into the ground. I went into the house to get my camera and the snake wasn't there when I came back. It waited thinking it was down the hole and while I watched a small bee came out of the hole. I eventually found the snake about 20 yards away and watched it move through the grass, it appeared to be hunting. It followed a circular path and moved back to the same spot where I had first seen it and went into the hole. The snake was about 21/2 feet long and only the front half could get into the hole. It remained that way for over an hour with the front half squirming in the hole. After a while the bee I had seen earlier came back and was trying to find its way into the hole but couldn't because of the snake. The bee eventually was able to go into the hole along side the snake and disappeared into the ground. About five minutes later it reappeared through the dirt next to the snake. It kept trying to dig its way into the hole but was unable. Eventually the snake worked its way back out of the hole and began moving away. It appears that the hole started out as a ground hive or nest of some sort and the snake made the hole bigger to be able to go in and apparently make a meal out of whatever it found, eggs or larvae from the bee. It was quite something to watch that bee trying to protect its nest from the snake.

Vote down Vote up

about 9 years ago

I live in Eastern KY and have a hog-nosed snake that lives across my pond. I can tell you that the most amazing behavior of this snake is not puffing up or playing dead. The snake will also swim backwards with its tail in the air!
I wouldn't have believed this if I hadn't both seen it for myself and confirmed it through a USDA extension source.
My dogs were barking at something and I went to investigate and I found a 'dead' snake . I went sadly back to the house, but then I saw movement in the grass. I watched the snake enter the pond, but it looked so strange that I got out my binoculars. Sure enough the tail was held above the water like a periscope and the snake was swimming backwards. Amazing! I even went back to check - my 'dead' snake was gone.

Like many other species, it apparently uses this ploy to direct attacks to its tail which is expendable and will likely regrow.

Vote down Vote up

about 9 years ago

I live in North West Mississippi and i was on my way to the barn to feed my chickens July 22 08 and all of a sudden i heard a hissing noise i looked over and i could not do nothing but stand there and take a picture of it because i thought it was a cobra. So i took a picture of it and took it and showed it to my dad and he said it was a spread-adder. But boy was i scared. It was a solid grey color but thanks for all the info yall have given me.

Vote down Vote up

about 9 years ago

I live in West Tennessee. Robert

Vote down Vote up

about 9 years ago

I found a small hog nose on my carport on 9 OCT. I did not know what he was so I caught him and took him to the farm where my dad told me that it was a spread adder. I then look it up on the net and found your site. Thanks for all the info on this snake.

Vote down Vote up

over 9 years ago

Thanks for the info!



The other day I actually took a picture of a snake in front of my house in South-Western Ontario and sent it to carolinian.org (includes the Long Point and Point Pelee conservation). Apparently it is an Eastern Hog-Nosed Snake, and according to them, is in fact considered 'threatened' both nationally and provincially (in Ontario) in Canada. There are ongoing education programs for the public and campers about how this snake is harmless so they stop killing them. Just thought you could use this conservation status for the last part of your site!



Hope this helps! Thanks alot!