4 Venomous Snakes found in Afghanistan (2024)

Believe it or not, you can find 4 types of venomous snakes in Afghanistan.

But please don’t live in fear, thinking that you are going to be bitten. In general, snakes try to avoid any contact or interaction with people. If you leave them alone, you shouldn’t have any trouble!

Did you know that snakes are venomous, NOT poisonous? If you eat something that makes you sick, then it’s considered “poisonous.” If an animal, like a snake, delivers its toxins when it bites, it’s considered “venomous.”

*If you encounter any of these species, PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB! Venomous snakes are dangerous animals and should be left alone. The more you agitate them, the more likely you will get bitten. DO NOT RELY ON THIS ARTICLE to correctly identify a snake that has recently bitten you. If you have recently been bitten, GO DIRECTLY to the nearest hospital to get help and to determine if the snake is venomous.*

Venomous Snakes in Afghanistan:

#1. 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 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 venomous snakes in Afghanistan responsible for serious bite incidents. It is quite small, 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.

#2. 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.

venomous snakes in Afghanistan
Caspian cobra. (2023, August 30). In Wikipedia.
  • 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.

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 venomous snake in Afghanistan 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 repeatedly strike with astonishing speed. Stay back!

#3. Persian Horned Viper

  • Pseudocerastes persicus

Also known as the Persian Horned Desert Viper, False Horned Viper, and Eye-horned Viper.

venomous snakes in Afghanistan

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults can range between 45-116 cm (18-46 in) in length. They have stout bodies and short, slender tails.
  • There are scaly horn-like protrusions above their eyes, but not as prominent as their horned cousins. Hence, the common name “False Horned Viper”.
  • They have broad, flat heads distinct from their necks and short, rounded snouts.

Sandy, limestone deserts, and rocky hills are home to Persian Horned Vipers in Afghanistan. They’re shy creatures who prefer to stay far away from human habitations. You’ll find them hiding underneath boulders, inside rodent burrows, and amidst tall grasses.

Persian Horned Vipers have quite the appetite. Their favorite meals include lizards, mice, birds, small mammals, and arthropods. Plus, they’re not one to waste dead food if they come across one! These vipers are generally sluggish, but they can move sideways, straight forward, or in S-shaped curves to suit the terrain.

Although Persian Horned Vipers prefer to escape when confronted, they won’t hesitate to bite if they feel cornered. First, they will loudly hiss at you to announce a warning before coiling into a striking position. Their venom is still poorly studied, but it’s reported to cause intense pain, swelling, and internal bleeding. Thankfully, antivenom is available for this species.

#4. Halys Pit Viper

  • Gloydius halys

Also known as the Siberian Pit Viper, Halys Viper, Pallas’s Pit Viper, Asiatic Pit Viper, Asiatic Moccasin, and Mongolian Pit Viper.

venomous snakes in Afghanistan

  • 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 in Afghanistan.

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.

Check out these guides to other animals found in Afghanistan!

Which of these venomous snakes have you seen before in Afghanistan?

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