Gaboon Viper vs Black Mamba: What Are the Differences?

Gaboon Viper
© Danita Delimont/Shutterstock.com

Written by Kyle Glatz

Updated: April 12, 2023

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Key Facts:

  • The Gaboon viper has a thick heavy body compared to the mamba which is slender but longer.
  • The Gaboon viper injects the most venom per bite of any snake.
  • The black mamba injects one of the most potent neurotoxic venoms of any snake. 

Africa is home to many different venomous snakes. Among them are the black mamba, the world’s most dangerous snake, and the Gaboon viper, a heavy, unique-looking venomous snake. These two snakes are very distinct and deadly, so they merit comparisons to one another. Today, we are going to examine, compare, and contrast the Gaboon viper and black mamba. By the time we’re done, you’ll know how they measure up, what makes them so dangerous, and which snake is deadlier than the other.

Comparing a Gaboon Viper and a Black Mamba

 Gaboon ViperBlack Mamba
SizeWeight: 20lbs-45lbs
Length:  4ft-7ft
Weight: 3.5-4.5lbs
Length: 6ft-9.5ft, up to 14ft maximum
Venom– Delivers massive amounts of venom because it doesn’t release after biting
Cytotoxic venom that is not highly toxic but enhanced due to volume
– Delivers between 200 and 600mg of venom per bite
– Capable of killing roughly 6 people with a single bite
– Powerful venom that can kill humans quickly
– Neurotoxic venom that quickly overwhelms a person’s body
– 100mg-120mg of venom per bite on average with 400mg maximum
– Capable of killing 10-20 humans with a single bite
100% envenomation rate, and the snake delivers several bites
Fangs– 2.2in length– 0.5in-0.8in length
Morphology– Broad, Leaf-shaped head
– Horns between nostrils
– Body can measure 6in across
– Colors include brown, grey, purple, and yellow
– Easily blends in with the forest floor
– A long, thin snake that can spread the ribs in its neck to mimic a viper
– Brown, olive, and gray colors and a black mouth
Location– Sub-Saharan Africa in warm, moist areas like rainforests– Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly central-east and south-east parts of the continent
– Prefers savannahs and some forested areas

The Key Differences Between a Gaboon viper vs Black Mamba

Gaboon viper on the ground

The Gaboon vipers are short in reference to black mambas.

©Stu Porter/Shutterstock.com

The most significant differences between a Gaboon viper and a black mamba are their size, venom, and morphology. The Gaboon viper is a large snake that can measure 7ft and 45lbs, has a thick body and wide, leaf-shaped head with two horns, and injects the most venom of any snake per bite. The black mamba is a thin, long snake measuring 4.5lbs and up to 14ft, has one of the most potent neurotoxic venoms on the planet, and has a distinct black mouth.

These animals are very different from one another in terms of appearance and size, but they can both deliver deadly bites. Let’s take a closer look at the various points of comparison that will help us highlight the differences between these snakes.

Gaboon Viper vs Black Mamba: Size

The Gaboon viper is heavier than the black mamba, but the black mamba is typically longer. The Gaboon viper measures anywhere between 20lbs and 45lbs at its largest, and it can grow up to 7ft long. This is a seriously thick snake! The black mamba weighs up to 4.5lbs, a tenth of the weight of a Gaboon viper.

However, the black mamba grows between 6ft and 9.5ft on average, and it can grow up to 14ft. Both snakes are rather large in a specific way.

Gaboon Viper vs Black Mamba: Venom

Black Mamba

The Black Mamba has the fastest trike of any snake.

©NickEvansKZN/Shutterstock.com

The Gaboon viper delivers a potent cytotoxic venom that can destroy tissue where the individual is bitten. However, it’s not just the power of the venom that causes concern. The Gaboon viper can deliver as much as 600mg per bite! This snake doesn’t bite and then let go. It bites and holds its victim to inject as much venom as possible. A single bite from the Gaboon viper injects more venom than any other snake.

Gaboon vipers can have as much as 2,400mg of venom in their glands when they strike, and they’ll try to inject as much as possible. Still, on average, this snake can kill about 6 people in a single bite.

The black mamba can inject up to 120mg of venom per bite, and that is enough to kill 10-20 human beings in a single event. Yet, this snake doesn’t hang on when it bites, and it has a 100% envenomation rate. The black mamba will also bite several times during an attack.

The black mamba has a neurotoxic venom that can kill a person in less than an hour after envenomation. Also, the mortality rate for an untreated black mamba bite is above 90%, possibly 100%.

Gaboon Viper vs Black Mamba: Fangs

The Gaboon viper’s fangs are longer than any other venomous snake, including the king cobra. They can measure up to 2.2 inches. They can penetrate deeply into the bodies of their prey and then hang on until the prey is dead. The black mamba’s fangs are far shorter, measuring about 0.5in-0.8in at their maximum.

Gaboon Viper vs Black Mamba: Morphology

Despite their names, black mambas are long, thin snakes that are rarely, if ever, black. They’re usually brown, olive, and gray, but they have a black mouth from which they get their name. This snake is not a cobra, but it can spread the ribs in its “neck” to form a small hood as part of its threat display.

The Gaboon viper has a unique head that resembles a leaf in terms of color and width. This snake also has horns between its nostrils. Unlike the thin black mamba, the Gaboon viper has a very wide body that can measure about 6 inches across.

The Gaboon viper rarely bites humans, even when they come to their territory. However, their colors make it easy for them to blend in with their surroundings. They’re brown, gray, purple, yellow, and other colors that make them look like fallen leaves. As a result, some bites from this snake occur when people accidentally step on them, not realizing it’s a snake.

Gaboon Viper vs Black Mamba: Location

The Gaboon viper and black mamba are both found in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, the Gaboon viper is most likely to be found in the rainforests and surrounding areas. The black mamba is often found in savannahs and some woodlands.

Gaboon Viper vs Black Mamba: Lifespan

The majority of vipers live for about a decade in the wild. However, under human care Gaboon vipers have been known to live for almost twice as long, and lifespans of 15 – 20 years have been recorded.

Black mambas live for slightly longer in the wild with a lifespan of 11 years and will live for over two decades when cared for by humans.

Gaboon Viper vs Black Mamba: Which Is Deadlier to Humans?

Black mambas are rarely black, and they're actually named for the inside of their mouth.

Black mambas are rarely black, and they’re actually named for the inside of their mouth.

©reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

The black mamba is far deadlier to humans than the Gaboon viper. Black mambas are highly aggressive snakes that can deliver bites far above the knee and waist due to their attacking posture. Although the Gaboon viper delivers more venom per bite than the black mamba, the black mamba has far more potent venom.

The Gaboon viper can certainly kill a human being due to their venom’s power and the amount they inject in a bite. Yet, black mambas kill faster and with greater surety due to their incredibly potent neurotoxic venom.

All in all, black mambas are more capable and willing to bite humans than the Gaboon viper.

Summary: Gaboon Viper vs Black Mamba

 Gaboon viperBlack mamba
VenomCytotoxic
Large volume, 1 bite
Neurotoxic
Concentrated, several strikes
SizeHeavierLonger
ColorationBrown, grey, purple, and yellow
Leaf pattern/head shape
Grey, brown, olive body; black mouth
HabitatSub-Saharan Africa
Rainforest
Sub-Saharan Africa
Savannahs & forests
FangsLargest of any snake
~2 inches
~0.8 inches

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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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