This is the Fastest Snake in the World (with Facts and Pictures)

You might wonder how fast a snake can actually move because they don’t have legs to run with like we do. Which one is the speediest of all? Guess what? I found out and I want to share it with you.

So what is the fastest snake in the world? The fastest snake happens to be the black mamba. The black mamba can travel up to 12 mph in short bursts, which is faster than humans. Not only is this snake speedy, but it is usually regarded as one of the deadliest snakes out there. They are huge in length and very venomous. The black mamba is not meant to be domesticated, but a rather great product of nature.

Though speeds of this snake have sometimes been exaggerated in myths and legends, the average person could not outrun this snake once it has locked you in its sight.

The Speed of a Black Mamba

Black mambas are considered to be fast runners, even though they do not have feet. They can slither in fast bursts on a level and firm ground.

The average speed has been set at about 8 miles per hour. In quick bursts, the snake can move at speeds of 12 miles per hour. To put this into perspective, the average person jogs at a pace of 8 miles an hour.

Over a long period, black mambas keep up the pace about 8 miles an hour. This means, if you were trying to outrun a black mamba, you’d better sprint. Otherwise, it could keep up with you.

For a long time, the speed of a black mamba was greatly exaggerated. There are still some rumors like that today. This is because black mambas were included in myths and in cautionary tales told to children so they would avoid coming into contact at all costs.

For example, have you ever heard that a black mamba could keep up with a galloping horse? Sadly, that’s not possible. They may be fast, but not that fast.

Along with the incredible speed, the agility of a black mamba is interesting as well. They can move while striking at 17 feet per second. It really can feel like they come out of nowhere while they are hunting. 

The Surprising Appearance of the Black Mamba

Some think that because of the name “black mamba” this snake breed is all black. This is not so. Most black mambas are grey, tan or brown. There is no real pattern found on these creatures but sometimes there is a little cross pattern near the tail on certain individuals.

The bellies of this snake tend to be white or a very light gray. They have “coffin-shaped” heads and big eyes – usually black.

Baby black mambas are usually a pale color, like gray or light brown. Their paleness will usually darken as they grow into adulthood

This snake is long and skinny. Black mambas have the common length of being somewhere between 6.5 feet – 9ft. There have been some mambas noted at being 14 feet in length but this is rare. This makes this snake the longest venomous snake in Africa. It is also the second longest venomous snake in the world.

This snake breaks lots of records, and not in the friendliest of fashions.

Despite being 9 ft in length on average, most black mambas only way 3 lbs. This explains there extremely thin bodies. Despite their narrow bodies, they can still eat fairly large creatures. It’s quite incredible.

Black mambas may not be black on their scales or tails, but they certainly have a smile that will send chills down your back if you are ever unfortunate enough to witness it.

These creatures are known for their black mouths. The inside of their mouths are a blue-black shade and black mambas bare it when threatened, along with their fangs.

When threatened, a feature that the black mamba has developed is its ability to raise about 1/3 of its body into the air. This means the head is about 4 feet high in there, usually at this point, baring its black mouth and deadly fangs.

Another scare tactic that the black mamba can induce is cobra-like hoods that flair out when the snake feels frightened. 

These black mambas can even “run” at their quick pace when their bodies are elevated. Imagine being chased by a deadly creature that is nearly as tall as you are and can outrun you if you attempt to run away. There is a reason that these snakes are one of the most feared in human history. 

Habitat of the Black Mamba

These snakes are originally found in Africa, primarily in the southeast regions. They are found below the Sahara regions. They like rocky terrain, wooded areas, and savannas.  

There are regions that these deadly snakes are not found, like in Nigeria, Chad, and Mali. Scientists are not really sure why black mambas never made their way to this region, however, it used to lead to mistakes in identifying snake bites. Thankfully, this has been for the most part corrected.

These creatures like to hang from trees, hide in stumps, or burrow into the ground. Black mambas typically like dry climates and don’t spend much time in the water.

Black mambas are not nocturnal like other breeds. They will sleep at night, then go hunt or bask in the sunlight during the day. They will often return to the same spot that had slept in before, whether that be a burrow, a spot in between rocks or in a tree.

There is no real risk posed to black mambas at this point in time- they are not endangered. The only risk that they face is the destruction of habitat as some of these areas develop.

Those who are looking to find information on how to prepare a terrarium for a black mamba will be disappointed. Black mambas are not allowed in most cities in the US unless it is for a zoo. 

Even in zoos, black mambas, do not do well. They are constantly on edge and are very dangerous and likely to bite their keepers. They require large living spaces and are more trouble than they are worth when it comes to keeping them as pets. 

This is not to say they are bad snakes, but they are known to be aggressive and constantly having them be stressed and scared does no good, to either party. 

The Diet of a Black Mamba

The black mamba primarily feeds on birds, and small mammals. The specific mammals that they will feed on include: rats, rock hyraxes, bats, bushbabies, and small monkeys. They can also eat small lizards, frogs, and even other snakes. 

When on the hunt, a black mamba will use its quick speed to bite its prey before it can even know what hit it. Instead of holding on to the prey, the snake will wander away for a few minutes to let the paralysis kick in, and then the black mamba will come back to swallow the prey in one bite.

The venom of a black mamba is so powerful that it can kill most of its prey in a matter of minutes. One bite can deliver as much as much as 120 mg of venom. This is one of the highest venom levels in the snake world. The venom is filled with neurotoxins, which cause the body to shut down as the victim of the bite loses its ability to move.

When it comes to humans, two doses or bites of this venom will lead to death. This death can come between the course of half of an hour or in 4 hours, especially if there is no treatment available.

Even if a black mamba attacks a human, it is not ambitious enough to try to eat it. Mambas, like most other snakes, consume their prey with one bite and these creatures are too skinny and usually too smart to even try. When kept in zoos, black mambas eat mice and rats to satisfy their hunger.

Even when these creatures are highly regarded in the animal kingdom as deadly, they can be the prey as well. Some larger snakes will eat young black mambas.

They are also eaten by birds of prey, large hawks or eagles. The mongoose, too, has been able to occasionally eat a black mamba, because of its agility and immunity to the venom.

Their Misunderstood Behavior

Bad reputations seem to follow black mambas. Yes, they are highly dangerous. Most of the time, however, these snakes will keep to themselves. They have even been described as shy. They spend most of their days out of the way of other people. So why is it there are so many reports of attacks?

There seem to be a lot of reports of attacks of black mambas because these snake attacks are more deadly on average. According to PBS, 20,000 people die every year because of snake attacks. Being the most venomous snake in the region, many people blame these black mambas.

However, there needs to be sort of consideration that there is really no access to antivenom widespread. Many people in the US are bitten by snakes a year but these snakes are usually not venomous and if it is, they can be taken to a hospital that will provide help.

Black mambas don’t usually attack unless they feel threatened with no way out. They actually usually use their great and incredible speed to flee from an attacker.

If a black mamba feels like it is in danger, it will usually rise, bare its black mouth and make noises to scare the danger off. If still stuck, this snake turns aggressive quickly.

Black mambas will launch a hyper-fast strike, like a flash, and sink a bite into the flesh of a predator. It does not stop there. It will repeatedly bite until the threat seems to be diminished and then slither off as fast as possible.

Without treatment, a human will die almost 100% of the time. This is a good reason to leave resting snakes where they lie. They will leave you alone if they are not provoked. 

It’s also a good reason to not have a black mamba as pet. If you get bitten and you don’t have the antivenom, you could be dead in less than an hour.

Battling For a Mate

Mating season for black mambas begin in Spring, typically April and bleeds into early summer. Springtime in Africa begins in September, so the actual months this takes place in depends upon the location of the snakes.

When the time has arrived, males will fight over female mambas in attempt to mate with her. This fighting is more like wrestling and the snakes use their bodies to try to impress the female into mating with him. This wrestling can go on for over an hour.

Sometimes this wrestling can be mistaken as mating. This is important to not get wrong since the female will watch on and could be out of sight, increasing the danger for humans. The female will pick the winner of the match and mate with him.

After the snakes copulate, these snakes no longer interact. The male will return to his home and the female will find a good warm place for her babies to be born.

Female black mambas lay eggs. At one time, the female will lay between 6 – 18 eggs. After these eggs are settled nicely, the female will leave and never return to her babies. 

Eggs are usually kept in a burrow, a rotting log, or in decomposing mulch. This is so that there is warm, wet air to help incubate the eggs since the mother is not there to help her young stay warm in safe. It is also a place that the eggs are hidden and will stay safe from predators.

The eggs hatch after 3 months. Babies are usually a greenish-gray and can be anywhere from a foot and half to two feet in length as hatchlings. Since they are on there own, they adapt quickly to hunting and hiding. They can start out eating mice and will grow quickly.

At only one year old, most black mambas reach 6 feet in length!

They will continue to grow at a slower rate for the rest of their lives.

It is sad to say that many of these hatchlings will not make to adulthood. Finding food and avoiding predators is easier said than done, especially if you were literally born yesterday. Perhaps this is a reason these snakes adapted to have such speed, to help the young to survive.

If they survive the early years of being hunted, they can live to be 11 years old. At the age of 3 or 4, they can reproduce offspring of their own.

Crazy Facts about the Black Mamba

There are many interesting things to learn about when it comes to the black mamba. It is the fastest snake, as well as being one of the deadliest snakes on the planet. Here are some things that weren’t included above:

  • They are sometimes friendly – the black mamba is known to live with other snakes, not necessarily just other mambas. They can live in pairs and in small groups. For a notoriously mean snake, this is surprising. Especially when considered that a lot of other snakes are cannibalistic.
  • Big mouthed – Mambas have the ability to stretch their jaw, actually unhinging it in order to swallow prey that can be 4 times bigger than the size of its head. 
  • Overheated – Black mambas, just like all other reptiles, are cold-blooded. They cannot regulate their own body temperature. So, on cold days, they will climb atop trees and bask in the sun or burrow to stay warm. When it’s too hot, these snakes might also hide their heads in the ground to cool off.
  • Their biggest predator is us – Knowing that these creatures have such deadly bites, one of the biggest threats to the black mamba is humans. Humans will kill these black mambas and also destroy eggs before they hatch. This is done to help reduce the risk of humans being bitten by reducing the population of these deadly reptiles.
  • They are not pets but people still try – There are many instances of black mamba snakes attacking their owners. Google “black mamba as a pet”, and you’ll see what I mean. Many people will try to tame this snake. Even if the snake is trying to harm the owner, baby snakes bite and adult snakes get scared. Their instinct is to bite to save themselves. Other breeds do this too but don’t have their lethal bites.  
  • Nicknames – The black mamba is also called blacked-mouth mamba or the Southern brown mamba. In Tanzania, it is called ndemalunyayo which means “grass-cutter” because it is rumored to cut grass. The scientific name is Dendroaspis polylepis.

Black mambas are seriously incredible and as I have learned I have grown to respect them. I won’t keep one in my home as a pet, but I have a high regard for the fastest snake in the world.

Other Fast Snakes

Although the black mamba is considered to be the fastest snake in the world, there are many snakes that have super speed. For a long time, vipers have been considered to be the fastest kind of snake, but recently, tests have proven that non-venomous snakes can be just as quick.

According to a study conducted by David Penning, a rat snake can be almost as quick as a viper. This test was not to measure how fast a snake can move over time but rather, it timed a snakes attack. 

These snakes mentioned below are considered to have great reflexes and a very fast attack, making them dangerous. Here are some stats and quick facts on these other speedy snakes.

Cottonmouth Vipers

The scientific name for these vipers is Agkistrodon piscivorus which translates to mean “hooked-tooth fish-eater”. Cottonmouth snakes are called a variety of names, from water moccasins to gaper but mostly, this snake is known as deadly.

This snake is highly dangerous because of its venom and its speed. A cottonmouth viper can strike at about 2.97 meters per second squared which is quicker than you can blink. 

This snake lives in the water. It is, in fact, the only venomous water snake in North America. It can also travel pretty quickly over a fair distance, but the snake usually uses this ability to flee from a fight.

Though these snakes are highly dangerous, they will not attack unless they feel provoked, much like black mambas. 

Another similarity to the black mambas, the cottonmouth viper got its name because of the color of the inside of its mouth. When threatened, the Agkistrodon piscivorus will bear its fangs and the white inside of its mouth. 

Diamondback Rattlesnake

Diamondback Rattlesnakes is another type of viper that has long been considered speedy. These diamondbacks are so quick that they can move up to 2.95 meters per second squared. This means a diamond back can launch a full strike before a human is half way through blinking just once.

Diamondback rattlesnakes are commonly found in the Southern United States and in Mexico. They are considered dangerous because of their quick speed and large venom glands which release a lot of venom in one bite.

Unlike a lot of venomous snakes, a diamondback will usually stay and fight instead of escaping. These snakes will use their tale to warn a predator and then strike if they still feel threatened. 

Texas Rat Snakes

These snakes are just as quick as their venomous friends. Rat snakes are constrictors which means they don’t release venom. However, all snakes need to catch prey. These snakes, when tested against the diamondback rattlesnake and the cottonmouth viper, were only a hair slower on their attack.

Texas rat snakes can strike at the incredible speed of 2.67 meters per second squared.

So just because you encounter a friendlier snake, does not mean that it won’t defend itself with a fast strike. 

For a while, non-venomous snakes were not taken into account for fast snakes, because they did not necessarily need to be fast like vipers. So, as scientists become more aware that constrictors are just as quick as venomous snakes, they might be able to find snakes that are even quicker than these. 

Penning, the head scientist in this study, reckons that there might even be a snake faster than the black mamba. 

Coastal Taipan

The coastal taipan, not included in Penning’s study, is very similar to the black mamba. This snake is highly venomous and considered to be one of the deadliest snakes on earth.

The coastal taipan is so quick in its attack, that it can strike several times before the victim is even aware there is a snake present. This is one thing that makes it so dangerous.

Not only is the attack of a Coastal taipan quick but the venom is fast acting, too. When one of these snakes attack, immediate medical attention is required. Almost every human who is untreated for coastal taipan venom dies from the attack, very similar to the black mamba. 

How to Avoid Snakebites from a Quick Snake

As you have been reading, you might have found yourself very concerned about getting bit by a snake, especially when there are so many that are lightening-fast. Don’t be too worried, most of these snakes probably don’t live near you and they definitely won’t attack just for the fun of it.

However, if you ever find yourself in a position where you have to outrun a snake, here is what you should do.

  1. Don’t approach – most snakes will try to warn you that they are present. They will make themselves bigger and/or make noises. This is a sign to warn you. They see you as a threat.
  2. Back away slowly – don’t taunt the snake. Keep hands and feet away, if possible from the snake. Don’t turn your back.
  3. When a fair bit of distance away, you can jog to put some more space between you and the snake.

Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get bitten but these are some steps to avoid an attack. In reality, we are a lot more dangerous to snakes than they are to us. 

Keep your distance, be respectful, and be alert. These three things will help you if you ever come in contact with a speedy snake.

Related Questions

What is the deadliest snake in the world? There is a bit of controversy about which snake is number one. Tiger snakes, Saw-scaled vipers, Inland Taipans, and the black mambas are up in the ranks for most dangerous. The Inland Taipan snake is often put as the deadliest.

Can you outrun a snake? Most snakes are easily outrun. The black mamba is extremely quick and shouldn’t be treated lightly. But with a hard enough sprint, most people should be able to put distance between themselves and a black mamba. If the snake starts to attack before you’re aware, you might not get the chance to flee.

Which is more venomous, a black mamba or king cobra? The venom in a black mamba is more potent than a king cobra. However, a king cobra is bigger, so its bites have more venom in them. Black mambas often strike more than one time in a row. The venom is stronger in the black mamba.