Gaboon Viper Fangs: Why They Are The Biggest Snake Fangs in the World
Gaboon Viper Fangs: Why They Are The Biggest Snake Fangs in the World

Gaboon Viper Fangs: Why They Are The Biggest Snake Fangs in the World

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Chances are, you’ve probably never heard of the fangs of the Gaboon rattlesnake. Despite having the largest fangs of any snake in the world, the Gaboon venom is little known outside of herpetological circles. This is because, unlike the well-known striking snakes, such as the king cobra, boa, and Burmese python, the Gaboon venom is rarely seen. This snake lives in the deepest rainforests of central Africa, happily feeding on the food of small and medium-sized mammals. Gaboons are some of the deadliest snakes on the planet, but they rarely come into contact with humans.

Here, we’ll find out everything there is to know about the fangs of the Gaboon rattlesnake. We’ll start by getting to know the Gaboon rattlesnake a little better. Then, we’ll learn about their fangs, and why they get so big. Finally, we’ll look at the venom of the Gaboon rattlesnake, and what makes it so deadly.

Gaboon Viper Profile

Gaboon Viper
The Gaboon Viper is one of more than 150 species of viper worldwide.

Danita Delimont/

Gaboon vipers are African snakes, they are found nowhere else on Earth. They have some of the most intricate patterns of snakes, which makes them very difficult to spot on the forest floor. The gaboon viper’s tusks are the longest of all snakes, including those that are longer and heavier than it. This snake hunts only at night, and rarely bites humans. The Gaboon snake has a very strong venom; bites often lead to serious complications and even death.

Location and Habitat

The gaboon snake lives in central and western Africa. They have been seen in Togo, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Ghana, Liberia, and more. They live mainly in rainforests but also happen to be in the savanna. Thanks to their diet, Gaboon rattlesnakes also live in agricultural areas with lots of rodents.

Unlike other lighter species of snake, such as the green mamba, the Gaboon rattlesnake does not climb trees. Instead, they spend their entire lives on the forest floor, mingling with leaf litter. Gaboon rattlesnakes are actually so heavy that climbing is nearly impossible for them.

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Appearance and Size

Gaboon viper on the ground
Gaboons are some of the heaviest snakes on Earth.

Stu Porter/

The gaboon viper’s tusks aren’t the only thing remarkable about this snake. They also have some of the most intricate and complex patterns of snakes. Gaboon rattlesnakes have an overall brown body, but almost every shade of brown shows up somewhere on their scales. They have rectangles and an ‘X’ mark along their backs, accompanied by an hourglass-shaped pattern of several shades of brown along the sides.

Their pattern isn’t the only thing remarkable about Gaboon rattlesnakes. Their heads are also very different. They are very large and very wide. Like all vipers, they have heat-sensing holes near their nostrils and vertical elliptical eyes. Also, they have large poison glands located just behind their eyes. As if Gaboon rattlesnakes weren’t unique enough, they also have elongated scales on their noses that look like twin horns.


The Gaboon viper is a nocturnal ambush predator. At night, they lie in wait, completely camouflaged in dead leaves or grass on the ground. When small mammals, such as mice, rats, rabbits, rabbits, hedgehogs, or Gambian marsupials, pass by, they attack. Gaboon rattlesnakes have very long fangs; they are capable of pumping lethal amounts of venom into their prey in less than a second.

Gaboon Viper Fangs

Gaboon Viper fangs
Gaboon vipers are pit venomous snakes, which means they have very large fangs.


When it comes to snake teeth, there are several different varieties. The fangs of Gaboon rattlesnakes are known as solenoglyphous, which basically means they should not be disturbed. All pit vipers are solenoglyphous, that is — large fangs, and are venomous. The gaboon snake has two rows of tiny teeth that point backwards on the roof of its mouth. But the big showstoppers are the two-inch long canines that sit at the front of the mouth.

The gaboon viper’s tusks are so long that it literally folds back when it closes its mouth, like a penknife. They don’t retract, like a cat’s claws. As the Gaboon rattlesnake was preparing to ambush, its fangs pressed flat against the roof of its mouth. But, when attacked, all two inches of fangs extended and pierced through. Like their hind teeth, they are curved, so there is no chance of their prey escaping.

Why Are Gaboon Viper Fangs So Big?

Of all the types of snakes in the world, pit vipers generally have the largest fangs. Among pit rattlesnakes, the Gaboon rattlesnake’s fangs rule. But, why are their fangs so big? Studies show that the fangs of the Gaboon rattlesnake grow to terrifying sizes as a way to more effectively immobilize and kill their favorite prey—small mammals.

The bigger the fangs of venomous snakes, the greater their chances of successfully poisoning their prey. And, the more successful their attacks, the longer they live, and the more babies they produce. So, over time, snakes with disproportionately larger fangs passed on their large fang genes, leading to future generations of large fangs.

Gaboon Viper Venom

Gaboon snakes have venom that is poisonous enough to kill humans.


Because Gaboon venomous snakes live mainly in uninhabited forests, come out only at night, and are generally docile, their bites are rare. Often, it takes someone to actually step on it for the Gaboon viper’s fangs to sink in. Many of the bites that occur occur when people deliberately try to handle this gentle but deadly snake.

A gaboon snake bite is always a medical emergency. Their hemotoxic poison is strong enough to immediately affect the body’s major systems. It can quickly lead to death if left untreated. Locally, the bite area is significantly swollen, and the tissue surrounding the bite generally becomes necrotic. Death from the bite of a Gaboon rattlesnake is not unheard of, but, with prompt antivenom and emergency medical care, victims can be treated.

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