The Cryptid Zoo: Horned Snakes

Horned snakes have been sighted from countless places worldwide. The horned snakes of different locales often have unique characteristics, including bizarre physical abnormalies and supernatural powers. Perhaps the most common of these abnormalities is gigantism. The cerastes or hornworm of European lore was a giant snake with four horns on its head. These horns looked like they came from the head of a male sheep. The horned serpents typical of Native American legends were powerful supernatural beings of enormous size who guarded rivers. They had two horns on their heads. They sometimes mated with humans.

The horned snakes of North America are generally water monsters, closely related to the varied lake monster traditions. The horned snakes of South America are often anacondas, the world's largest snake. However, most of these horned snakes are bigger than anacondas are supposed to get. Some researchers have suggested that markings along the sides of anaconda heads may look like horns from some angles. Lore from Brazil says that these huge snakes are not literally horned. Instead, this snake has massive lower canine teeth that jut through holes in the roof of its mouth and thus seem to grow from the top of the head, like horns, even though they are really teeth. Reports of these horned (or strangely toothed) snakes are almost hopelessly mixed up with the mythical cobra grande, a supernatural beast whose eyes glow like searchlights, and who can sometimes be a shapeshifter, periodically shedding his snake skin to attend parties in human form.

Asian traditions also linked the horned snake to beliefs about shapeshifters. Here, the horned snake is simply an intermediate stage in evolution as the shapeshifting snake gradually becomes a dragon on its path to spiritual enlightenment.

As you can see, reports of horned snakes are deeply enmeshed in traditional beliefs, folklore and the supernatural, but this does not mean that horned snakes cannot be real. They might be out there somewhere. The idea that the apparent horns are just elongated teeth is especially attractive, because it would result in a creature that is more biologically plausible.

You can find out more about Horned Snakes from the following sources:

Botkin, B. A. A Treasury of American Folklore: Stories, Ballads and Traditions of the People. New York: Crown Publishers, 1944. Pages 583-584

Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. Cryptozoology A-Z. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Pages 110-111
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Coleman, Loren. Mysterious America: The Revised Edition. New York: Paraview Press, 2001. Page 85

Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Pages 59, 275, 352-353, 453, 469, 471, 492

Rose, Carol. Giants, Monsters and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend and Myth. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2000. Pages 176-177

Shuker, Karl. The Beasts That Hide From Man: Seeking the World's Last Undiscovered Animals. New York: Paraview Press, 2003. Pages 275-276

Smith, Nigel. The Enchanted Amazon Rain Forest. Miami: University Press of Florida, 1996. Page 68

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The text on this page is copyright 2006 by Jamie Hall. Please use proper citation if you are using this website for research.