Discover the Largest Tiger Rattlesnake Ever Recorded

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Updated: May 1, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Up until 1982, the largest specimen of tiger rattlesnake on record was 34.8 inches. Then, a 35.9-inch snake broke that record.
  • The Guinness Book of World Records holds that the largest rattlesnake ever discovered was 7 feet 8 inches and 34 pounds.
  • Tiger rattlesnakes are aggressive and their bites deliver potentially life-threatening venom to their victims.

Tiger rattlesnakes, named for their tiger-like patterns, are one of the deadliest rattlesnakes. They have numerous vertical dorsal crossbands that are a bit similar to tigers. They aren’t born with their rattles but develop them as they age. Like other rattlesnakes, they lose a rattle section each time they shed their skins.

They are venomous and like all pit vipers, they have triangular heads, elliptical pupils, and keeled scales. On average, tiger rattlesnakes measure 24 inches in length. However, some snakes grow far past this average height. This article takes a look at the largest tiger rattlesnake ever recorded.

What is the Largest Tiger Rattlesnake Ever Recorded?

Most Venomous Snakes in the World - Tiger Rattlesnake

The largest tiger rattlesnake was registered through H.M. Smith and Brodie’s record of a 35.9-inch specimen in their book in 1982.

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In 1956, Laurence Klauber, an American herpetologist and the foremost authority on rattlesnakes set the record for the largest specimen discovered. It measured 34.8 inches.

However, just 26 years later in 1982, H.M. Smith and Brodie broke this record. In their book “Reptiles of North America: A Guide to Field Identification”, they recorded a specimen with a length of 35.9 inches. This species is known as the largest specimen of tiger rattlesnake recorded.

What is The Largest Rattlesnake Ever Recorded?

eastern diamondback rattlesnake curled up in grass

The largest rattlesnake ever caught was an eastern diamondback rattlesnake that measured 7 feet 8 inches in length.


According to the Guinness Book of World Records, a person, identified by only the singular name Rutledge, holds the record for the largest rattlesnake ever recorded. The record was entered in 1946 and stated that an eastern diamondback rattlesnake measuring 7 feet 8 inches in length was shot by Rutledge who was a hunter. It also weighed 34 pounds.


Tiger rattlesnakes are one of the most venomous rattlers as well the second most venomous of all snakes in the Western Hemisphere. They release only about 11 mg of dried venom per bite, which is extremely low compared to other rattlesnakes. Despite this, it is still incredibly potent and life-threatening.

Their venom contains potent neurotoxins and mycotoxins that cause muscles to die. Tiger rattlesnakes have long solenoglyphous fangs that allow them to inject their venom deep into their prey. Luckily, most times, their fangs don’t sink in too deep.

Tiger rattlesnakes are aggressive and can attack even if they are not touched or provoked. They are ridiculously easy to excite or agitate which makes them more likely to bite.

How to Avoid Tiger Rattlesnakes

  • Stay alert while taking walks. If you spot a tiger rattlesnake, calmly get out of its way. Allow rattlesnakes that are crossing to have the road.
  • If your surroundings are known to have these snakes, do not pick up any rocks or sticks that you walk past. Oftentimes, snakes are hidden underneath rocks and discarded wood such as trunks or sticks.
  • Stick to official and established routes and clearings. Grassy places are often snake-infested.
  • Check before picking camping or sitting spots. Remember that tiger rattlesnakes are experts at camouflaging so they could be hidden. Check carefully to be certain.
  • If you’re climbing trees or mountains in areas that have tiger rattlesnakes or other dangerous snakes, watch where you grasp to hold on to and where you place your hands. 
  • If you live in an area that has tiger rattlers, avoid staying out in the dark. Snakes are usually more active at night.

What Should You Do If You Get Bitten By A Tiger Rattlesnake?

In this case, it is much easier to prevent than to cure. However, if you have been bitten by a rattlesnake, do not panic. A tiger rattlesnake’s bite will sting but if you can stay in charge of the situation, you have a very high chance of survival. Remember that their venom will not cause death if you get treatment soon enough.

First, get as far away from the snake as soon as you can. Next, get to any phone and call 911. Treat your bite as an emergency. Stay calm and move as little as possible. There is venom in your body and you do not want to help it circulate. Do not suck out the blood. This can transfer venom to your mouth and will likely not take all the venom out from you. Do not cut off the infected part either. Wait for the doctors and do NOTHING.

Tiger rattlesnakes have the second strongest venom of any rattlesnake.

©Alexander Wong/

How Long Do Tiger Rattlesnakes Live?

The average lifespan of rattlesnakes is about 10 years in the wild. However, that number increases to about 20 or even 25 years in captivity.

Where Do Tiger Rattlesnakes Live?

Tiger rattlesnakes are found in many parts of Arizona, including its central and south-central parts. They were also recently found in Arizona’s southern Peloncillo Mountains. They are known to be present in Isla Tiburón in the Gulf of California as well as in southern Sonora and Mexico.

How to Identify Them

Tiger rattlesnake with large rattle

Tiger rattlesnakes have smaller heads relative to their bodies than other rattlesnakes.

©Vladislav T. Jirousek/

Tiger rattlesnakes can be a bit tough to identify. This is because they do not have unique colors and their side markings aren’t present sometimes. Their colors also depend on where they are found. The best way to identify this species is through their heads and rattles. Their heads are shaped like spades and are noticeably tiny. They have the smallest heads of all rattlesnakes. Tiger rattlesnakes also have large rattles that cut quite a contrast to their heads.

Is It Normal To See a Tiger Rattlesnake?

This particular species of snake is known for rarely being seen and thus is difficult to study by herpetologists. They are inactive during conditions of extreme hot or cold temperature and are typically only spotted soon after the rain has drenched the arid climate they call home. Since their pattern of camouflaging scales makes them easily blend into the rocky soil, you are more than likely to hear their rattle before you get the chance to notice one with your eyes.

Fun Facts About Tiger Rattlesnake

  • Born without rattles: Babies of this species aren’t born with rattles. Instead, they have skin caps where their rattles should be. Each time they shed skin, they grow a rattle segment. However, rattle segments cannot be used to approximate age as they often break.
  • Loner life: Tiger rattlesnakes live their adult lives alone. They do not like company and opt for solo journeys.
  • Excellent swimmers and climbers: These snakes are good swimmers and equally good climbers. It is no wonder they are good hunters. They often lay patiently in wait to ambush their prey.
  • They camouflage well: Tiger rattlesnakes can blend into their surroundings with ease because of their colorings and markings. This is yet another reason why they excel at hunting.
  • Wide diet: Due to their hunting skills, tiger rattlers have quite a lot of meals to pick from. The carnivorous snakes often hunt small and medium-sized mammals. They also eat birds, stolen eggs, lizards, and many more.
  • Outliers: These rattlesnakes have the smallest heads of any rattlesnake. This results in them having a lower venom yield compared to other types of rattlers. Their small heads also give them access to tiny spaces- useful for pursuing prey!
  • People often mix up tiger rattlers with speckled rattlesnakes.

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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