Venomous vipers and snakes

Vipera Ammodytes - Horned Viper

Conservation status: LEAST CONCERN

Vipera Ammodytes


Vipera Ammodytes, commonly named Horned Viper, is a venomous snake. It can be found in southern Europe through to the Balkans and parts of the Middle East. It is reputed to be the most dangerous of the European vipers due to its large size, long fangs (up to 13 mm) and high venom toxicity.

V. ammodytes grows to a maximum total length (body + tail) of 95 cm (37.5 in), although individuals usually measure less than 85 cm (33.5 in). The head is covered in small, irregular scales that are either smooth or only weakly keeled, except for a pair of large supraocular scales that extend beyond the posterior margin of the eye. 10-13 small scales border the eye, and two rows separate the eye from the supralabials. The nasal scale is large, single (rarely divided), and separated from the rostral by a single nasorostral scale. The rostral scale is wider than it is long. The most distinctive characteristic is a single "horn" on the snout, just above the rostral scale. It consists of 9-17 scales arranged in 2 (rarely 2 or 4) transverse rows. The color pattern is different for males and females. In males, the head has irregular dark brown, dark gray, or black markings. A thick, black stripe runs from behind the eye to behind the angle of the jaw. The tongue is usually black, and the iris has a golden or coppery color. Males have a characteristic dark blotch or V marking on the back of the head that often connects to the dorsal zigzag pattern. The ground color for males varies and includes many different shades of gray, sometimes yellowish or pinkish gray, or yellowish brown. The dorsal zigzag is dark gray or black, the edge of which is sometimes darker. A row of indistinct, dark (occasionally yellowish) spots runs along each side, sometimes joined in a wavy band.

The common name sand viper is misleading, as this species do not occur in really sandy areas. Mainly, it inhabits dry, rocky hillsides with sparse vegetation. Not usually associated with woodlands, but if so it will be found there around the edges and in clearings. Sometimes found in areas of human habitation, such as railway embankments, farmland, and especially vineyards if rubble piles and stone walls are present. May be found above 2000 m at lower latitudes [1].


Venom. Horned viper is venomous snake. This is likely the most dangerous snake to be found in Europe. In some areas it is at least a significant medical risk. Bites promote symptoms typical of viperid envenomation, such as pain, swelling and discoloration, all of which may be immediate. There are also reports of dizziness and tingling [1].

There are antivenoms for this species produced in the Serbia, Croatia and France [2].

Conservation status

Conservation status. This species is classified as Least Concern (LC) according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is, however, listed as strictly protected (Appendix II) under the Berne Convention. In that case you must remeber that you as a human are also dangerous for this viper and hurting or killing it is not acceptable [1].

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Useful Links:

  1. Wikipedia: Vipera ammodytes
  2. WHO: Venomous Snakes Database


Data about Vipera ammodytes viper occurence is based on the information from Wikipedia page [1]. The data are divided into two indicators: [1] - risk region [0] - secure region. The data was created based on the maps and descriptions from the corresponding Wikipedia’s websites. (See data access and policies).

Data access and policies: The data is avaible on the webpage: [1]. This data may be shared and adapted for any purpose with appriopriate credit and on the same license as metadata. More information:

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