The Persian horned viper (serpent)

In the previous post we wrote about the serpents in the wilderness. Our photo today shows a Persian horned viper that we saw at the Hai Bar Reserve north of Eilat.

The Persian horned viper at Hai Bar Reserve. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Persian horned viper at the Hai Bar Reserve. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Persian Horned Viper (Pseudocerastes persicus)

This venomous snake of the viper family has a thick and clumsy body that can reach a maximum length of 90 cm. A ground-dweller, it prefers sandy areas, especially in desert wadies in a rocky landscape. The Persian horned viper is mainly nocturnal. Above each eye is a small protrusion in the form of a horn, made of scales.

This snake feeds on rodents, birds, and even animal carcasses. The young feed on lizards. It emits a warning sound by blowing through its mouth.

Distribution in Israel: in the Negev, between Dimona, Sede Boker and Yotvata. it is common in Makhtesh Ramon and its nearby wadies.

Global distribution: from the deserts of Pakisan to Sinai. It is interesting that the snake has a pit at the opening of its nostril. it is not known whether the pit is part of a valve system to protect the nostril from dust or whether it conceals a special sensory organ.

In Jacob’s last words describing his sons, he speaks of Dan:

Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that his rider falls backward. (Genesis 49:17 ESV)

The Hebrew lexicon by Holladay says the word viper in this verse means a “horned snake.” BDB and TWOT likewise. The NAU version is the only popular one that I check regularly that includes the word horned.

For information about the Palestinian Viper (Vipera palestinae) see here.

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