Python vs Rattlesnake: Which Deadly Snake Would Win in a Fight?

Written by Eliana Riley
Updated: June 10, 2023
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The python is native to the Eastern Hemisphere, and the rattlesnake resides in the Western Hemisphere. While it is unlikely that the two snakes would ever meet, it’s possible, especially in places like Florida, which is home to both rattlesnakes and the Burmese python. While the python has super strength and an intense constriction force, the rattlesnake can inject potent venom into its victim. Both snakes have advantages over the other, but only one snake can be the winner of this battle. Discover which deadly snake wins in a fight and find out what other dangers they pose to prey and humans.

Background on Pythons

The term “python” encompasses around 40 different python snake species. Most of these species live in the Eastern Hemisphere, including continents like Africa and Asia. The largest python species is the reticulated python, which may grow up to 31.5 feet in length. Other species may be a little over three feet in length, and still, others may be somewhat greater than 10 feet long. The power and strength of the python depends on its size. The larger the python, the stronger and more menacing it will be.

Some pythons are terrestrial, meaning they slither on the ground. Other species are semiarboreal or arboreal, meaning they may reside in trees. For example, the green tree python, which is found in countries like New Guinea and Australia, mainly resides in the treetops. On the other hand, terrestrial pythons are prone to living near bodies of water, as they are good swimmers and can easily find prey near water sources. When prey goes to a water source to drink, the python can strike the prey, kill it, and consume it.

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The diet of pythons is dependent on their size. Smaller pythons typically eat reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, and birds. Large species of pythons prefer birds and small or large mammals in their diets. In addition, the coloration of pythons depends on the species. For instance, the green tree python is usually bright green with yellowish-white spots across its body. On the other hand, the reticulated python may be yellow, brown, red, white, or tan with a diamond pattern and a long black strip running from head to tail. Finally, the Burmese python, which is the only python species found in the United States, is usually tan with dark spots across its body.

Burmese Python in a tree
The Burmese python is the only python species in the Western Hemisphere. The Burmese python resides in the Everglades in Florida.

©Heiko Kiera/

Dangers of Pythons

Several features aid the python in capturing its prey. First, these snakes have a good sense of smell and vision, allowing them to detect prey with ease. Furthermore, pythons also utilize heat-sensing. The lip scales of pythons contain receptors that track infrared radiation. Therefore, pythons can sense heat coming from their prey, which allows them to detect and attack them. In addition, the heat-sensing capability of pythons is especially useful at night when their vision is impaired by darkness.

When pythons attack prey, they typically bite first, stunning the prey. Then, the python will wrap its body around the prey, which is called constriction. During constriction, several bodily functions begin to break down in the prey. For one, the body’s blood flow will be blocked. In addition, the airways will be blocked, and the chest will be unable to expand while breathing. Therefore, constriction immobilizes and suffocates the prey of the python. The constriction force of the largest python, the reticulated python, measures 14 PSI.

Furthermore, some larger python species can kill animals larger than themselves and even humans. While pythons do not hunt for humans, they may attack them if they feel threatened. Several instances of python attacks on humans have been recorded. In some cases, pythons have swallowed humans whole. In fact, many pythons are prone to swallowing prey whole. The jaws of many python species can expand to great widths. Therefore, the python can take an animal or human within their jaws and gradually swallow them in one gulp.

Reticulated python on white background
This reticulated python is the largest, most menacing species of python, measuring up to 31.5 feet long with a constriction force of 14 PSI!


Background on Rattlesnakes

Like the python, the term “rattlesnake” includes around 33 species. However, rattlesnakes live exclusively in the Western Hemisphere in countries like the United States and Mexico. In fact, rattlesnakes are most common in the deserts that stretch between the Southwest United States and northern Mexico. In addition, rattlesnakes are venomous, unlike the python.

Rattlesnakes typically measure between 1.6 and 6.6 feet in length. However, some species may grow up to 8.2 feet long. The scales of these snakes usually incorporate unique patterns, such as diamond or hexagon-shaped spots. The spots are darker than the rest of the body, which may range from light brown to gray. Although, some rattlesnake species may appear green, red, orange, or pink in coloration.

While pythons, apart from the Burmese python in Florida, do not reside in the United States, various rattlesnake species live in the country. Some of the most common rattlesnakes in the United States are the prairie rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake, pygmy rattlesnake, and eastern or western diamondback rattlesnake.

Eastern Dimondback Rattlesnake Full View
The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is one of the most common snakes to encounter in the United States, and it has extremely potent venom!

©Brittany Mason/

Dangers of Rattlesnakes

The diet of rattlesnakes includes small mammals, such as rodents, or lizards. Rattlesnakes typically hunt for prey at night. Like the python, rattlesnakes also have a heat-sensing capability, which allows them to detect prey in the darkness. Furthermore, the fangs of the rattlesnake vary according to the snake’s size. Larger species may have fangs measuring up to six inches in length. The fangs of the rattlesnake are curved, and a venom duct lies at the top of the fangs.

Rattlesnakes can choose whether to inject venom into a victim. In many cases of human bites, rattlesnakes may not inject venom. Venom is most useful in capturing prey, but rattlesnakes may be hesitant about using it in defense. When a rattlesnake stalks and kills prey, it will strike the prey with a bite and inject venom into it. The bite force of a rattlesnake measures approximately 150 PSI. The prey becomes paralyzed in most cases and dies. The rattlesnake can then consume the prey with ease. The most dangerous rattlesnake species are the South American rattlesnake, Mexican west coast rattlesnake, and Mojave rattlesnake.

Similarly to pythons, rattlesnakes do not hunt for humans, and they will only attack humans if they feel threatened. However, rattlesnakes are venomous, and rattlesnake bites on humans can be a severe threat without medical treatment. Some symptoms of rattlesnake venom include swelling, bleeding, pain, vomiting, and bruising. Shortness of breath or the inability to respirate may also result from a rattlesnake bite.

Venomous bites can result in the breaking down of the nervous system, which may turn fatal. Therefore, victims of a rattlesnake bite should always seek medical treatment to ensure that the bite does not become fatal. Children are especially susceptible to snake venom, and they should immediately seek medical attention if bitten by a venomous rattlesnake.

Mojave rattlesnake close-up of rattle
The Mojave rattlesnake is one of the most venomous rattlesnake species. The venom of this snake targets and breaks down the nervous system.

©Rusty Dodson/

Python vs. Rattlesnake: A Comparison

Maximum length31.5 feet8.2 feet
Constriction/Bite Force14 PSI150 PSI
Venom Toxicity LevelN/A5% to 25% human mortality rate (untreated); less than 1% human morality rate (treated)
ColorationTan, white, yellow, green, and more; may have designs or stripes, depending on speciesGray, light brown, orange, pink, red, or green with dark designs
DistributionEastern Hemisphere (excluding the Burmese python)Western Hemisphere
Dangerous to HumansYesYes (untreated bites)

Which Deadly Snake Would Win in a Fight: Python or Rattlesnake?

In an epic battle between a rattlesnake and a python, the python would likely emerge victorious. However, the victor would depend on the species of rattlesnake and python engaging in a fight. Due to the python’s massive size, rattlesnake venom would work gradually to take down the beast, and the python wouldn’t be defeated immediately. Therefore, only the most venomous of rattlesnakes, such as the Mojave rattlesnake, could have a chance at defeating the python.

On the other hand, pythons vary in size. If the smallest python were to face up against a rattlesnake, the rattlesnake might have a chance at winning. However, if a reticulated python of 30 feet in length faced off against a rattlesnake, the rattlesnake wouldn’t stand a chance. Thus, this battle all depends on the species of snakes facing up against one another.

If the strongest python and the strongest rattlesnake went head-to-head, the python would win. While the rattlesnake could inject venom into the python, the python’s massive size bars the venom from working immediately. In the meantime, the python could easily wrap around the rattlesnake and constrict it. The rattlesnake would suffocate before the python would experience the fatal effects of the venom. While the python’s bodily functions might fail between a few hours and a few days later, the rattlesnake would have already died. Therefore, the python is crowned the winner of this deadly snake fight.

Close up of carpet python with its tongue out
The victor of this deadly snake battle is the python due to its size and strength advantages over the rattlesnake.

©Michelle Marks/

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Python vs Rattlesnake

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About the Author

I'm Ellie, and I am a full-time college student at Miami University. I enjoy writing, copy editing, and being involved in journalism. I write for The Miami Student newspaper as an opinion columnist. My favorite animals are fish, rabbits, and cats.

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