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The name horned viper comes from the small scale-covered horns just above the eyes of this particular snake.
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Persian One-Horned Viper or False Horned Viper, Persian Two-Horned Viper
Pseudocerastes persicus, Pseudocerastes bicornis

FACT FILE:
Local Name: Seengh wala afi (Urdu)
Family: VIPERIDAE
Genus: Pseudocerastes
Status: Rare and restricted
Warning: This snake is deadly poisonous. The venom is moderately to highly hemorrhagic

 

Persian Horned Viper (Pseudocerastes persicus)
Photo Credit:
L. Trutnau

 

 

Species and sub species:

Genus Pseudocerastes is represented in Pakistan by one species and one subspecies:

  • Persian One-Horned Viper or False Horned Viper (Pseudocerastes persicus)
    Subspecies:

  • Persian Two-Horned Viper (Pseudocerastes bicornis)

Description and Biology:
The average adult length of this snake is 0.5 to 0.7 meters; maximum length 0.9 meters. Males are larger than females. Snake wide relative to its length. Head short, wide, quite distinct from neck. Snout blunt, with small scale-covered horns just above eyes. A dark brown band marks side of head just around eye. Eyes are small to moderate size, pupils are elliptical vertically. Nostrils located dorsolaterally present. Dorsal coloration pale gray or bluish gray to khaki with gray or brownish gray blotches or crossbands, usually much narrower than the interspace between them. Throat and body sides have alternating faint spots. Ventral side white, tail black, narrow in relation to body. 

 

General characteristics
Pseudocerastes persicus: A supraorbital horn on each side of head formed by several scales; body moderately stout, dorsoventrally flattened; 1618 circumocular scales; 12-14 supralabials, separated from eye by three rows of scales; 14-17 infralabials; single pair of genials; dorsal scales thin, weakly keeled, 23-25 rows at midbody, laterals with nodular prominences at posterior end; ventrals 146-151, subcaudals 4246. Dorsum pale gray or bluish gray to khaki. A median series of 28 to 33 rectangular gray or brownish blotches or cross-bands, much narrower than interspaces. An alternating series of faint spots on sides. A dark band from nostril to the angle of jaw, lower edges of labials white. Belly white, tip of tail dark, mesially pinkish. Snout-vent length 670-688 mm, tail 79-85 mm.

 

Pseudocerastes bicornis: All what we have now as type specimen of this viper, preserved in British Museum of Natural History London, under registry number 1946.1.20.82, a viperid head with 2-3 head lengths of anterior part of body, up to 31 ventral, rest of the body apparently is lost. The two elongated, free, supraocular scales of P. bicornis, were erected in life as a pair of supraocular horns on each side. 

 

 


A dark form of P. persicus, showing the distinct horns above the eyes 
Photo Credit: D. Modry

 

Biology:

This snake is nocturnal in habits, retreating during day in crevices among rocks or burrows in comparatively hard soil near roots of bushes. It is sluggish, placid, less likely to bite during day, dangerously active and aggressive at night. When disturbed, will hiss loudly but is not particularly vicious. Snake's locomotion characteristically sidewinding. Frequently will hide in rodents tunnels and underneath rocks.

 

Diet consists of deserticolous lizards and arthropods. Breeding from March July.

 

Habitat, Distribution and Status:
This snake inhabits sandy and rocky terrain up to elevations of approximately 2,000 meters. Has been found at 1,500 meters elevations in Iran and Baluchistan. Found in flat, sandy regions with desert vegetation, in rocky areas in burrows and crevices. Its customary habitat is desert bushes.

 

Pseudocerastes persicus is found in southern Afghanistan; in Pakistan, west of the Kirthar and Sulaiman ranges as far north as 32 degrees N; Iran, in the extreme northeast, in the Zagros Mountains in the southwest, in the eastern, central, and southern parts of the country except in the high mountains and the desert regions of Dashte Lut; in the far north.

 

Pseudocerastes bicornis has only been recorded from Khajuri Kach, above Gwaleri Kolal, Gomal Pass, Waziristan, Pakistan.

 

Pseudocerates persicus ()
Pseudocerates bicornis ()

Map Credit: Dr. Muhammad Sharif Khan

 

 

Credits:

  • A Guide to The Snakes of Pakistan, Muhammad Sharif Khan, Edition Chimaira Frankfurt am Main 2002

  • Venomous Snakes of the Middle East (Identification Guide), Defence Intelligence Document, U.S Defence Intelligence Agency 

  • Dr. Muhammad Sharif Khan, Herpetological Lab Rabwah, Pakistan

  • Nausherwan Ahmed

 


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