Do you want to learn about the snakes that live in the Middle East?
If so, you’ve come to the right place. In the article below, I have listed the most common snakes you can expect to see. Then, for each species, you will find out how to identify that snake correctly, along with pictures, interesting facts, and RANGE MAPS!
You’ll see that the snakes that live in the Middle East are very different from each other. They range from venomous species to snakes that use constriction to immobilize their prey. In addition, certain snakes are common to find living around people.
25 COMMON snakes that live in the Middle East:
#1. Jan’s Cliff Racer
- Platyceps rhodorachis
Also known as Braid Snake, Common Cliff Racer, Desert Racer, and Wadi Racer.
- Adults are 100-110 cm (39-43 in) long.
- They are slim-bodied with long, tapered tails.
- Their coloring is gray or brown; some specimens have a single red line running along their backs from head to tail.
This small but speedy snake is native to the Middle East. It makes its home in dry areas with sparse vegetation, such as semi-deserts and canyons. Lock your doors, or a Jan’s Cliff Racer might wander into your household searching for prey or a place to rest!
These reptiles are highly alert and have good vision. Adults chase down small lizards and rodents in the daytime and are even known to raid bird nests. Juvenile racers need smaller prey, such as crickets and other insects.
Jan’s Cliff Racers are timid, non-venomous creatures and harmless to humans. If you come across one, it will likely retreat into a crack or crevice. A cornered cliff racer, however, will hiss and strike at potential threats. Watch your toes!
#2. Diadem Snake
- Spalerosophis diadema
Also known as Royal Snake, Diademed Snake.
- Adults are fairly slender and can grow to 180 cm (71 in) in length.
- They are commonly pale and sandy in color with darker spots and blotches and a dark, reddish head.
- The scales on the head have an iridescent shine, resembling a crown or diadem. This is how the snake got its name!
Diadem Snakes in the Middle East are most at home in sandy deserts and rocky lowlands.
You can find them tucked beneath rocks, roots, or abandoned animal burrows for protection. In deserts, they stay close to oases for easy access to food and water. They are primarily land-dwellers, but they have no trouble climbing trees.
Though mostly active in daylight, Diadem Snakes prefer hunting at dusk in the hotter seasons. Their venom is strong enough to kill prey but too weak to harm humans. They have an appetite for lizards, birds, small mammals, and even other snakes!
This quick-moving reptile will attempt to flee or thrash around to intimidate predators when danger is afoot. A cornered Diadem Snake can be unpredictably aggressive. Their bites can be painful, so keep your distance.
#3. Central Asian Cobra
- Naja oxiana
Also known as Caspian Cobra, Ladle Snake, Black Cobra, Brown Cobra, Russian Cobra, Oxus Cobra, Trans-Caspian Cobra, and Acellate Cobra.
- These heavy-bodied snakes reach 100-140 cm (39-55 in) long.
- Their snouts are blunt and short with large nostrils.
- They are shades of brown or yellow with dark bands across their throats.
- Juveniles are paler in color.
The Central Asian Cobra is INCREDIBLY VENOMOUS. One bite is potent enough to kill 40 adult humans! Fortunately, it avoids humans and prefers to escape if approached.
Look for this snake in the Middle East in rocky foothills, shrublands, and forests far from civilization. Central Asian Cobras are fantastic climbers and capable swimmers. They feed on rodents, amphibians, fish, and birds, then hide in tree hollows to rest.
Central Asian Cobras are terrifyingly aggressive if cornered, especially juveniles. First, they will spread their hoods and sway from side to side while hissing a warning. Then, as a last resort, they will repeatedly strike with astonishing speed. Stay back!
#4. Saw-scaled Viper
- Echis carinatus
Also known as Indian Saw-scaled Viper, Phoorsa, Little Indian Viper, or Sindh Saw-scaled Viper.
- Adults average 38-80 cm (15-31 in) long.
- They have flat, broad heads and very short snouts, with a cross-shaped marking on the top of their heads and remarkably large eyes.
- Their coloring is gray, olive, and red to match their ground habitat. A series of spots, stripes, and dark borders decorate the body.
The Saw-scaled Viper is one of the snakes in the Middle East known as the ‘Big Four’– which are the snakes responsible for the majority of serious bite incidents. It’s the smallest member, but make no mistake! One bite from this viper can cause internal bleeding and death within a few hours.
You’ll find Saw-scaled Vipers in shrublands and deserts. They like to rest inside burrows and fallen logs during the day. They feed on rodents, lizards, scorpions, and centipedes at night. When it rains, adults scramble up to higher trees, shrubs, and cacti.
Look out for strange S-shaped indents in the sand or listen for loud rasping noises. These are the tell-tale signs that there’s a Saw-scaled Viper nearby. They are highly aggressive and capable of lunging to deliver a bite.
#5. Arabian Horned Viper
- Cerastes gasperettii
Also known as Gasperetti’s Horned Sand Viper, Horned Viper.
- These small, stout-bodied snakes can grow 30-60 cm (12-24 in) long.
- Like most vipers, they have flat triangular heads. In addition, most specimens have horn-like scales above their eyes.
- Their coloring is tan or gray, perfect for blending into the sand. They have white bellies and a series of dark bars along their backs.
Scorching deserts are home to this devilish-looking snake in the Middle East.
The Arabian Horned Viper is a patient predator, lying in wait beneath the sand with only its eyes protruding. As unwary rodents, beetles, or lizards pass by, this viper strikes with deadly accuracy.
Arabian Horned Vipers are most active at night, escaping the heat like other desert creatures. When the sun is high, they seek shelter in abandoned animal burrows. Early in the day, however, you might find one basking in the morning sun.
Listen carefully! These venomous vipers will tell you if you’re straying too close to their territory by hissing loudly. Bite symptoms are serious and include excessive bleeding and convulsions, potentially leading to death. Seek medical assistance at once if you’ve been bitten.
#6. Large Whip Snake
- Dolichophis jugularis
Also known as Fire Snake, Black Whipsnake, Persian Large Whip Snake, Green Whip Snake, and European Whip Snake.
- Adults are 160-200 cm (63-79 in) long on average.
- They have small heads and large black eyes with rounded pupils.
- Their coloring is shiny black with white bellies, and their lips and throats have a reddish tint.
The Large Whip Snake frequents open grasslands and meadows in the Middle East. It enjoys basking in the sun when it’s not looking for food.
Despite their size, Large Whip Snakes are agile enough to climb bushes. Their speed proves useful when catching birds, frogs, and other reptiles. Curiously, they will even eat snakes of the same species!
These highly alert snakes will flee upon sensing danger. However, a Large Whip Snake can become aggressive and quickly strike if cornered. Its painful bite is laden with mildly toxic saliva, causing numbness and swelling. Thankfully, it doesn’t do more damage than that.
#7. Arabian Cobra
- Naja arabica
- Adults grow up to 240 cm (94 in) long.
- Their heads are broad and flattened with round snouts.
- The coloring is brown, copper, or dark gold, with pale throats and bellies.
It’s rare to see this snake in the Middle East.
That’s because Arabian Cobras live in remote areas in the hottest deserts of the world! They stay close to the sparse vegetation and bodies of water in oases. During the day, they hunt frogs, small mammals, birds, and other snakes.
Guard your eyes! The Arabian Cobra can spray venom from 8 feet (2.4 m) away. As with other cobras, it will raise its forebody off the ground and spread its neck hood when confronting threats. This snake can be wildly unpredictable, so stay away.
Arabian Cobra venom is neurotoxic, attacking the nervous system and causing paralysis. Within hours, the lungs can shut down, resulting in death. There might not be pain or swelling in the bite area, but don’t let that fool you. Seek medical attention immediately!
#8. Red Whip Snake
- Platyceps collaris
Also known as Collared Dwarf Racer.
- Adults are 70-100 cm (28-39 in) long.
- They have slim tapered tails, small flat heads, and large eyes.
- Their coloring is gray or brown, with a reddish hue on the bottom half of their bodies.
Red Whip Snakes are often found in the Middle East in backyard gardens.
They also frequent oak forests, rocky hills, and coastal plains. They’re common near people, so you might get a surprise visit from this colorful creature! Thankfully, they’re non-venomous.
With its incredible agility, this snake prefers to chase rather than ambush prey. But, funnily enough, it may sometimes go after lizards too big for it to swallow. When this happens, the lizard breaks off its tail, and the Red Whip Snake ends up eating that instead.
Red Whip Snakes are harmless to humans. However, they’re alert animals that will flee to safety if you try to approach them. They enjoy resting in the shade, especially during hot summers.
#9. Palestine Viper
- Daboia palaestinae
Also known as Palestinian Viper.
- Adults grow 70-90 cm (28-35 in) long.
- They are stout-bodied snakes with short, tapered tails, flat heads, and blunt snouts.
- You can find dark V-shaped markings on the top and on both sides of the head.
- Their coloring is brown, gray, and olive, with dark bands and zigzags.
This highly venomous viper makes its home in forests, hills, marshlands, and coastal plains. Palestine Vipers are nocturnal predators, ambushing rodents, small mammals, birds, and lizards that sleep at night.
The Palestine Viper prefers places where rat populations and water sources are abundant. Unfortunately, these tend also to be places where humans live and farm, and this species is responsible for most of the snake bites in its native range.
To steer clear of this snake in the Middle East, listen carefully for loud hissing noises! Palestine Vipers often loiter on tree branches high above the ground. Thankfully, they aren’t immediately aggressive and prefer to escape if disturbed.
#10. Egyptian Sand Snake
- Psammophis aegyptius
Also known as Sahara Sand Snake.
- Adults reach a maximum length of 150 cm (59 in).
- Their tails are long and tapered, and they have elongated heads and snouts.
- Body color is typically light brown or olive with a cream-colored underside.
Egyptian Sand Snakes in the Middle East like staying close to a water source, despite their desert habitat. You’ll likely find them near oases, on the prowl for small rodents, lizards, and migrant birds. They have a mild venom that’s only effective on their prey, so they aren’t dangerous to humans.
These reptiles are most active in daylight. Though they’re primarily land-dwelling creatures, Egyptian Sand Snakes are adept at climbing small trees and shrubbery.
The Egyptian Sand Snake is timid. If you try approaching one, it will either flee or puff up its throat as a scare tactic. A cornered snake, however, will not hesitate to strike in self-defense. So observe only from a distance!
#11. Spotted Desert Racer
- Platyceps karelini
- Adults grow 65-75 cm (26-30 in) long, but they can reach 90 cm (35 in).
- Females are larger than males.
- These are slender-bodied snakes with large eyes and short snouts.
- Their coloring is grayish-brown with paler undersides and a series of black spots or bars across the body. Some specimens have reddish tails.
Spotted Desert Racers are one of the fastest-moving snakes in the Middle East.
It’s not hard to tell how they got their name! Look for this species in arid deserts, steppes, and plains. They’re shy snakes, preferring to slither away quickly if they feel threatened.
This species is smaller and vulnerable to predators, so it often takes shelter in empty animal burrows. Their diets consists mostly of small lizards and mice, but it also includes insects, birds, and bird eggs.
These snakes are non-venomous, and their saliva is only toxic to small prey. Spotted Desert Racers pose no danger to humans, but don’t try to catch one! While usually calm, they can bite if agitated. Bites may cause an itching sensation that can last for hours.
#12. Levantine Viper
- Macrovipera lebetinus
Also known as West-Asian Blunt-nosed Viper, Levantine Adder, Lebanese Viper, Mountain Viper, Coffin Snake.
- Adults grow up to 150 cm (59 in) long.
- They have flat, broad, triangular heads with blunt snouts.
- Their coloring is gray, beige, or khaki, with brown or bluish blotches and stripes along the body.
Levantine Vipers are nocturnal residents of rocky hills, shrublands, and mountain valleys. When the sun is out, you might spot one resting in the shade of trees. In winter, they hibernate in groups to conserve heat, but they hunt alone for the rest of the year.
These vipers are ambush predators that lurk near water sources. Though they move sluggishly, they are deceptively fast when striking. Adults feed on lizards, birds, and rats. Young ones, on the other hand, prefer insects.
Bite incidents from Levantine Vipers are relatively common because they frequent urban areas with dense human populations. Symptoms include abdominal pain and blistering around the bite area. In severe cases, victims can die from internal bleeding. Seek immediate medical assistance if you get bitten.
#13. Glossy-bellied Racer
- Platyceps ventromaculatus
Also known as Spotted Bellied Snake, Spotted Whip Snake, Hardwicke’s Rat Snake, and Gray’s Rat Snake.
- Adults are about 90-120 cm (35-47 in) long.
- They have slender bodies and very long tails that taper off towards the tip, with notably large eyes.
- Their coloring is olive, brown, tan, and yellow. Body markings include dark, jagged bands on the back and spots at the sides.
As you might have guessed from its name, the Glossy-bellied Racer is an amazingly speedy reptile with a shiny yellow belly. This snake uses its speed to hunt lizards, birds, and mice among rocky foothills, open grasslands, and deserts in the Middle East.
Although it’s most active during the day, the Glossy-bellied Racer adjusts to a nocturnal life when the weather gets too hot. This snake is as agile in tall bushes as it is on land. Its saliva is toxic and effective against small prey, but thankfully, it’s too mild to harm humans.
The Glossy-bellied Racer often forages for food near agricultural lands and urban settlements. If you find one, there’s no need to feel alarmed. This timid snake will quickly flee and hide.
#14. Moila Snake
- Malpolon moilensis
Also known as False Cobra, Hooded Malpolon, Talheh Snake.
- Adults are 80-140 cm (31-55 in) on average, but longer specimens reach 190 cm (75 in) long.
- Their eyes are big and round.
- You might see a dark blotch crossing their cheeks and jaws.
- They are light tan or straw in color. There’s a checkered pattern of brown spots across their bodies. Their bellies are paler in contrast.
Look for the Moila Snake in the Middle East near stony deserts and dry shrublands.
It feeds on lizards, gerbils, beetles, and small birds during the day. However, it may adapt to hotter weather by hunting at night.
Curiously, the Moila Snake is sought after in the exotic pet trade despite being venomous. However, think twice before you decide to keep this snake as a pet. Some individuals are calm, while others are short-tempered, and Moila Snakes are notoriously volatile. Therefore, only experienced keepers can safely handle them.
If threatened, this species will flatten and spread its neck into a hood as a means of intimidation. This behavior is how it earned its other common name, the “False Cobra.” The venom isn’t strong enough to kill a human, but it can cause excruciating pain and swelling.
#15. Desert Sand Boa
- Eryx miliaris
Also known as Dwarf Sand Boa, Tartar Sand Boa.
- Adults are usually 35-55 cm (14-22 in) long.
- They are thick-bodied snakes with short, stocky tails.
- You’ll see a dark streak running from each eye down to the angle of the mouth.
- Their coloring is sandy yellow or brown with overlapping spots and blotches.
Desert Sand Boas inhabit deserts and semi-desert steppes in the Middle East. They like to make homes out of animal burrows. These snakes hunt for lizards, rodents, and insects when the sun goes down.
If you’re looking for this species, look closely at the sand! Equipped with eyes that are slightly tilted upwards, Desert Sand Boas can observe their surroundings even while burrowed, with just their eyes peeking out. Interestingly, they lunge sideways instead of forward when grabbing prey.
Desert Sand Boas don’t have venom, but their saliva is toxic. They’re famous among exotic pet keepers for their docile nature. However, they can be aggressive while feeding. Due to their saliva, their bites can cause pain, swelling, and secondary infection. Don’t attempt to handle this snake unless you have plenty of experience!
#16. Grass Snake
- Natrix natrix
Also known as Ringed Snake or Water Snake.
- Adults can grow up to 150 cm (59 inches) long.
- Coloration is usually olive-green, brown, or gray with rows of black spots on the back and a row of black bars or spots on the sides.
- They have a characteristic black-bordered yellow collar behind the head.
This species is one of the most common snakes in the Middle East!
Since they are strong swimmers, look for them near wet areas, such as ponds, lakes, streams, ditches, and marshes. However, you’re also likely to find a Grass Snake in drier habitats, such as backyard gardens, open woodlands, and grasslands.
They are NOT venomous and rarely bite when captured or threatened. Instead, you can expect them to hiss and spray a smelly substance called musk from their anal glands. If this doesn’t work, they may pretend to be dead, flipping over and letting their tongue hang out of their mouth. Interestingly, Grass Snakes sometimes act like cobras, where they raise the front of their body and flatten their heads to resemble a hood! They use this mimicry as a way to intimidate predators.
Grass Snakes mostly eat amphibians, such as frogs and toads. They are not ambush predators and actively search for their prey using their keen eyesight and sense of smell. In addition, they eat their prey alive instead of killing it first by constriction.
#17. Javelin Sand Boa
- Eryx jaculus
Also known as Sand Boa.
- Adults can grow up to 80 cm (31.5 in) long.
- The head has no distinction from the body. A dark stripe runs from the eyes to the neck.
- Their coloring is cream, beige, and yellow to bright orange with irregular dark blotches on the back and small spots on the sides.
Despite their name, these snakes in the Middle East are not typically found in sandy areas. Instead, the best places for them are savanna-like habitats with loam soil or rocky slopes (if there is enough loose soil).
Sand Boas are hard to find because they are nocturnal and spend most of their life underground. They don’t come out to bask in the sun but instead get warm by basking just under fallen leaves, stones, or the surface of loose soil. They rarely bite when handled and typically act sluggish.
These snakes have an interesting role in history. To cause confusion and fear during naval battles, they were shot by the ancient Greeks at their enemies! Consequently, as the Greeks conquered new territories, they spread this species, and the range of Sand Boas also increased. 🙂
#18. Forskal Sand Snake
- Psammophis schokari
Also known as Schokari Sand Racer and Afro-Asian Sand Snake.
- It is a slender snake about 70-150 cm (28-59 in) long with a tapering tail.
- The head is flat and elongated, the snout is long, and the eyes are large with rounded pupils.
- Coloration greatly varies depending on habitat:
- Morph #1: Light brown with dark stripes, appropriate for densely vegetated areas
- Morph #2: Light-colored with little to no stripes, a good camouflage for sandy terrain
The Forskal Sand Snake is something you might encounter in sandy deserts, shrublands, or oases. It’s an excellent tree climber. However, it also makes its home under rocks and abandoned burrows.
Its other common name, the Schokari Sand Racer, hints at its outstanding speed! Its agility and venom allow it to immobilize lizards, frogs, rodents, and birds quickly. Although most active during the day, it prefers to hunt at night during the hotter months.
If you try to approach this mild-mannered snake, it will likely retreat into a nearby hole or bush. Forskal Sand Snakes are harmless to humans. In fact, these little helpers keep the population of vermin like mice and rats in check!
#19. Desert Horned Viper
- Cerastes cerastes
Also known as Saharan Horned Viper, North African Horned Viper, and Greater Cerastes.
- Adults are 30-85 cm (12-33 in) long.
- Their coloring ranges from yellow, gray, pink, and red to brown.
- This species owes its common name to the pair of horn-like protrusions above its eyes. Also notable are the rectangular blotches along its body.
- They have heavily keeled or ridged scales that they rub together to make a rasping sound when they feel threatened.
While looking for snakes in the Arabian Peninsula, you might find a pattern of strange S-shaped markings in the sand.
If you find this pattern, tread carefully! A Desert Horned Viper might be nearby.
This nocturnal viper is an ambush predator. It lies buried in sand, waiting for an opportunity for lunch in the form of lizards and rodents. It bites down, then holds its prey in its jaws until the venom does its work.
While there are no known human fatalities from a Desert Horned Viper, its bite can still cause intense swelling and hemorrhage. Seek immediate treatment if you get bitten. This viper is not known for its easy-going nature, so back down and move away slowly if you find yourself in a face-off against one.
#20. Tesselated Water Snake
- Natrix tessellata
Also known as Dice Snake.
- Their typical size is 100 – 130 cm (39–51 in) long.
- Their color varies from grayish green to brownish or almost black, with dark spots on their backs.
To find this snake in the Middle East, it’s best to look in the water!
In fact, the Tessellated Water Snake is a great swimmer and spends much of its time in aquatic habitats. Its primary food is fish, although amphibians are sometimes consumed too.
If you ever see underneath a Tesselated Water Snake, the belly is sometimes colored vividly in yellow or orange, with black spots. The pattern is very similar to dice, which is how they got their other common name, the Dice Snake!
#21. Brahminy Blindsnake
- Indotyphlops braminus
- Adults are 5.1-10.2 cm (2-4 in) long.
- Their coloring varies; charcoal gray, light yellow-beige, silver-gray, purplish, and white are common.
- The body shape is worm-like, and they are easily mistaken for earthworms.
This tiny species is the smallest snake in the Middle East.
As its name suggests, the Brahminy Blindsnake is almost completely blind. It has small, translucent eyes that can detect light but not form images. Although native to Africa and Asia, this species is naturalized in the Middle East. It’s also been transported to other parts of the world in the soil of potted plants, so the species earned the nickname “Flowerpot Snake.”
They spend almost all their time underground in ant and termite nests but also live under logs, moist leaves, and stones. Look for them in suburban and even urban gardens, as well as moist forests.
When distressed or attacked, the Brahminy Blindsnake will try to escape underground. If touched, it might press its tail on the attacker and release a smelly musk. Despite its rather creepy appearance, this snake is completely harmless to humans.
#22. Steppe Ratsnake
- Elaphe dione
Also known as Dione’s Ratsnake.
- Adults are 90-110 cm (35-43 in) long.
- Their coloring is black, brown, beige, or red. In addition, some individuals might have stripes or blotches on their bodies.
The Steppe Ratsnake is a terrestrial snake with the ability to live in a wide variety of habitats. You can find this snake in forests, plains, rocky areas, wetlands, and deserts. It is active both during the day and at night. This is one species that isn’t picky about its surroundings!
Like other ratsnakes in the Middle East, the Steppe Ratsnake is non-venomous.
#23. Halys Pit Viper
- Gloydius halys
Also known as Siberian Pit Viper, Halys Viper, Pallas’s Pit Viper, Asiatic Pit Viper, Asiatic Moccasin, and Mongolian Pit Viper.
- The Halys pit viper can grow to a maximum length of 59 cm (23 in).
- Their coloring is gray, red, pale brown, or yellow, with large dark spots, crossbars, and a white belly speckled with gray or brown.
The Halys Pit Viper is a venomous snake found across the Middle East.
Its habitat includes montane slopes and plains or rocky high mountain plateaus. It is a terrestrial snake, mostly found on the ground. Look for this species during the day, which is its preferred time to hunt. Its diet includes lizards, rodents, snakes, birds, and frogs.
Keep a respectful distance if you see the Halys Pit Viper! This is an incredibly dangerous snake. Its venom contains neurotoxins, which affect the brain and nerves, and necrotoxins, which cause bleeding and infection.
Bite symptoms range from mild to severe, depending on the amount of venom exposure. Victims have reported excruciating pain, severe swelling, bruising, blistering, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, respiratory distress, dizziness, collapse, or convulsions. The best way to avoid being bitten is to be cautious in this snake’s range and back away slowly if you discover one.
#24. Steppe Ribbon Racer
- Psammophis lineolatus
Also known as Arrow Snake.
- Adults reach 91 cm (35 in) long.
- The back is olive-gray, sandy brown, or brownish-gray. The edges of the scales are slightly lighter than the middle, which gives them a raised appearance.
- The underparts are white with gray, brown, or olive-gray spots.
As its name suggests, this species is a quick snake and will often flee if confronted. The nocturnal habits and skittish nature of the Steppe Ribbon Racer make it difficult to observe in the wild. Little is known about its global population because of how hard these snakes are to find. However, it’s considered relatively common throughout its range.
The Steppe Ribbon Racer is only mildly venomous and isn’t harmful to humans. They are nocturnal snakes that prefer to move and hunt during the night. They primarily eat lizards and spend much of their time in sandy areas.
#25. Asian Racer
- Hemorrhois nummifer
Also known as Coin-marked Snake and Leaden-colored Racer.
- Adults reach 100 cm (39 in) long.
- Their coloring is brown, gray, or olive above and grayish-white on the belly.
The Asian Racer is most often found in open, dry woodland in the Middle East. However, this snake is highly adaptable and makes itself at home in rural and urban areas.
Records show that the Asian Racer can appear in heavily human-populated areas and even invades residences! But don’t be too concerned if you find one of these snakes in your house; their mild venom is harmless to humans.
Because of its relatively mild venom, this species has had to evolve in other ways to protect itself. For example, it’s very fast on the ground and will flee at the drop of a hat. It also mimics vipers in appearance and behavior, which can intimidate and confuse predators.
Do you want to learn about other animals in the Middle East?
If so, check out these guides!
Which of these snakes have you seen before in the Middle East?
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