Desert horned viper

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Desert horned viper
Desert horned viper (Cerastes cerastes)

Desert horned viper ( Cerastes cerastes )

Subordination : Snakes (serpentes)
Superfamily : Adder-like and viper-like (Colubroidea)
Family : Vipers (Viperidae)
Subfamily : Real vipers (Viperinae)
Genre : African horn vipers ( Cerastes )
Type : Desert horned viper
Scientific name
Cerastes cerastes
( Linnaeus , 1758)

The desert horned viper ( Cerastes cerastes ) is a species of snake living in North Africa and on the Arabian Peninsula from the family of vipers , more precisely from the genus of African horned vipers . Characteristic and eponymous are the croissants, each consisting of a scale, above the eyes.


The desert horned viper is a medium-sized viper with a stocky body and a short, pointed tail. The scales on the back are keeled and arranged in 27 to 35 rows. The ventral scales are less keeled. The paired tail shields are not provided with a keel throughout. Their skin is sandy yellow to rust brown with 30 to 36 brown spots or transverse bands and smaller side spots opposite to the back spots. A dark line runs from the eyes, whose pupils narrow to vertical slits when exposed to strong light, to the corners of the mouth. The tip of the tail is also dark in color, while the underside of the body is very light. The body length is usually 50 to 60 cm, rarely more than 70 cm. On the broad, triangular head, which is clearly set off from the body, there are pointed scaly thorns above the eyes, but these may be missing in some individuals.

Way of life

The desert horned viper is primarily crepuscular and nocturnal. In the midday heat, it buries itself in the sand, hides in mouse holes or under stones. The desert horned viper can be found in quite different habitats from the stony hamada to the pure sand desert, but prefers to stay in the vicinity of plant collections. It moves crosswinding fairly quickly. In doing so, she alternately lifts a piece of the body behind the head and in front of the tail off the ground and sets it down again offset. The snake leaves the characteristic traces of the sidewalks in the sand. With their angular scales, the desert horned viper can make a rattling noise by rubbing against each other. Preferred prey include small vertebrates such as birds, lizards and rodents, but also insects. Reproduction takes place in spring from late April to mid-June. After 45 to 60 days, the female lays around 20 eggs in an egg packet, from which the young hatch after around 60 days. Desert Horned Vipers can live up to 14 years in captivity. The distribution area covers the entire Sahara . From November to the beginning of March, the desert horned viper retreats into abandoned earthworks and shelters for mice ( gerbils ) or reptiles ( thorntail agamas ).

Snake venom

The venom of the desert horned viper is highly haemotoxic , treatment with an adequate antivenin may be necessary, for example if a relevant bleeding disorder occurs.

Web links

Commons : Desert horned viper ( Cerastes cerastes )  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  • Ulrich Gruber: The snakes of Europe. Franckh'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Stuttgart 1989, ISBN 3-440-05753-4 , pp. 173-175.