The 10 Largest Vipers in the World

Written by Brandi Allred
Updated: July 7, 2022
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Key Points

  • The family viper stands out from other snakes because of their long, hollow, venomous fangs that act as switchblades folding from their jaws.
  • Every species of viper is venomous.
  • These snakes are found throughout the world except for Australia, Antarctica, and various islands.

Vipers are a type of snake that live on almost every continent on Earth, except Australia, Antarctica, and some islands. They’re characterized by long, hinged fangs that can fold in and out like switchblade knives. All vipers are venomous, and all share characteristic vertically elliptical pupils, like a cat’s eye.

The family of vipers encompasses around 200 species, split into subfamilies: Old World vipers and pit vipers. Species of viper range in size from under a foot long to over six feet long for the largest vipers in the world.

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Read on to learn more about ten of the largest vipers in the world—number one will blow your mind!

10. Common European Adder (Vipera berus)

Common adder on leaf litter.
European adders, also known as common adders or common vipers, live throughout western Europe and Asia.

/Shutterstock.com

They may not be the largest vipers in the world, but at three feet long, European adders are no tiny snakes. Like all vipers, they’re venomous, though their venom is not particularly potent, and they rarely bite people. These snakes eat anything small enough to catch, like rodents, reptiles, birds, insects, and amphibians.

9. Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus)

Moccasin Snake
Also known as water moccasins, cottonmouths have cottony white mouths.

Nathan A Shepard/Shutterstock.com

You may not know it, but cottonmouths are actually pit vipers, meaning they can sense heat. They’re one of the largest vipers in the world, with adults growing up to four feet long. Cottonmouths live in the southeastern United States in semi-aquatic environments like lakes, rivers, and marshes. They’re frequently confused with non-venomous species of water snakes. Water snakes lack the elliptical eyes and fangs of cottonmouths.

8. Northern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus)

Southern pacific rattlesnake
Pacific rattlesnakes live along the Pacific coast of North America, from Baja in the south to British Columbia in the north.

Audrey Snider-Bell/Shutterstock.com

Most northern Pacific rattlesnakes grow to around four feet long, but it’s not uncommon for larger snakes to reach five feet or more. Like cottonmouths, Pacific rattlesnakes are pit vipers with long, folding fangs designed to deliver hemotoxic venom into prey.

7. Russell’s Viper (Daboia russelii)

Deadliest Snakes - Russell's Viper
Russell’s vipers live in the Indian subcontinent as well as Sri Lanka.

jaroslava V/Shutterstock.com

One of the largest vipers in the world is the Russell’s viper, which grows up to five feet long. Russell’s vipers have very distinct dark brown diamond patterns overlaid on a sand-colored body. Russell’s vipers are one of the four species of snake responsible for nearly all severe snakebites in India.

6. Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)

A Timber Rattlesnake striking prey
The timber rattlesnake is also known as the canebrake or banded rattlesnake.

Joe McDonald/Shutterstock.com

Timber rattlesnakes live only in eastern North America. They’re closely related to other types of rattlesnake, like the prairie rattlesnake and the Great Basin rattlesnake. As members of the viper family, timber rattlesnakes are highly venomous, though they rarely bite humans. They grow to a maximum length of around five feet.

5. Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)

western diamondback eating mouse
The western diamondback rattlesnake has a broad, triangular head and large fangs.

Audrey Snider-Bell/Shutterstock.com

Though not quite the biggest, western diamondback rattlesnakes are one of the largest vipers in the world. They grow up to five feet long, and some even grow a few inches past that. They’re the most well-known species of rattlesnake and, unfortunately, also deliver more bites to humans than any other species of rattlesnake. These snakes live throughout the desert southwest regions of the United States and northern Mexico.

4. Terciopelo (Bothrops asper)

Most Venomous Snakes - Fer-de-lance Snake
Known for their large, yellow eyes and striking pattern, terciopelos are one of the prettiest species of pit viper.

Mark_Kostich/Shutterstock.com

Terciopelos are a type of viper endemic to Central America. They have thick bodies and can reach lengths of 5.5 feet long. Like all vipers, they’re venomous and use their highly toxic venom to incapacitate and kill prey. Terciopelos are one of the largest vipers in the world, but they’re still nowhere close to number one on our list.

3. Puff Adder (Bitis arietans)

puff adder with tongue out
As their name suggests, puff adders are known for puffing up their bodies to appear bigger when they’re threatened.

iStock.com/S_Lew

One of the largest vipers globally, the puff adder, grows up to six feet long. Puff adders are not to be messed with—they have potent venom and won’t hesitate to defend themselves. Puff adders have heavy bodies designed for blending into the ground and low foliage of central, eastern, and southern Africa. They’re mostly nocturnal and eat rodents, reptiles, and amphibians. Unfortunately, people often come into contact with puff adders, resulting in painful and occasionally life-threatening bites.

2. Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica)

Gaboon viper on the ground
Native to central Africa, Gaboon vipers spend their entire lives on the forest floor.

Stu Porter/Shutterstock.com

Gaboon vipers may not be the longest vipers globally, but they’re certainly one of the largest vipers in the world. These heavy vipers can reach lengths of five feet and weigh over 25 pounds. Gaboon vipers have the dubious distinction of having the longest fangs of any venomous snake; their fangs can reach over two inches long. Luckily for humans, these venomous snakes tend to stay away from populated areas, preferring instead to hunt rodents and other small mammals in leafy forests.

1. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus)

Large eastern diamondback rattlesnake
Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes can be found only in the extreme southeastern United States.

Chase D’animulls/Shutterstock.com

Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are the largest vipers in the world. These massive pit vipers grow up to seven feet long and can weigh more than 20 pounds. Though most eastern diamondbacks only grow to about five feet long, true behemoths are not uncommon. Their diets consist primarily of small mammals, like rats and rabbits, as well as birds, reptiles, and any other small creature unfortunate enough to cross their path.

Eastern diamondbacks have heavy, thick bodies characterized by regular patterns of light and dark brown scales. Like all rattlesnakes, they have wide, flat heads and vertically elliptical pupils. They’re longer than gaboon vipers, but gaboon vipers tend to weigh more than eastern diamondbacks, despite their shorter length.

Summary

The top 10 largest vipers in the world are:

  1. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
  2. Gaboon Viper
  3. Puff Adder
  4. Terciopelo
  5. Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
  6. Timber Rattlesnake
  7. Russell’s Viper
  8. Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
  9. Cottonmouth
  10. Common European Adder

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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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