The 5 Most Venomous Vipers in the World

Take a closer look at the five most toxic vipers found across the globe - learn about what they look like and where you might spot them, as well as some other fun facts.

Oct 31, 2023By Caitlin Ross
most venomous vipers in the world

It’s pretty common to look at a slithering snake and get the heebie geebies. We all know that snakes can be dangerous, so it’s normal for the sight of them to strike fear into our hearts. However, not all serpents were created equal, and some of them are decidedly more villainous than others. Vipers are venomous snakes with large fangs that you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley - here are some of the most poisonous of their kind.

5. The Saw-Scaled Viper

saw scaled viper
Image credit: AZ Animals

First up on the list is an inconspicuous little brown viper known as the saw-scaled viper. These snakes are on the smaller side, but their aggression and lethal venom more than make up for their smaller size.

Saw-scale vipers are commonly found in Africa, Southwest Asia, India, and Sri Lanka since they’re partial to hotter and dryer regions like savannahs. They’re mostly nocturnal, spending their days hiding out in abandoned burrows, crevices in rocks, and fallen logs. They’ll even bury themselves in the sand, if need be, to hide from the harsh sun of their environment.

A bite from one of these snakes can be lethal, and their venom has been used in the manufacturing of several anticoagulant drugs!

4. The Gaboon Viper

gaboon viper
Image credit: iNaturalist

The heaviest venomous snake in all of Africais the gaboon viper, weighing over 45 lbs. and reaching lengths of about 7 ft! These vipers are known for their incredibly beautiful scales, boldly patterned with rectangles and triangles in browns, oranges, and purple tones. This makes them masters of disguise with excellent camouflage against the leaves of forest floors.

Gaboon vipers have the longest fangs out of any snake in the world at up to 1.6 inches long, and they use these sharp chompers of theirs to inject extremely poisonous venom into their prey, which is usually rodents and birds - however, don’t think they’ll hesitate to strike a human who gets in their way! Like all of the snakes on this list, a bite can be fatal, so it's best to steer clear if you happen to spot one.

3. The Russell’s Viper

russells viper
Image credit: Newsweek

This next snake goes by many names - a Chain Viper, Chandoborha, Seven Pacer, and even a Scissors Snake. However, it’s most commonly known as an Indian (or Common) Russell’s Viper, and it’s an incredibly venomous snake.

These vipers are abundant in southern Asia, from Pakistan to China and Indonesia, and are considered the leading cause of death by snakebites in these areas. Their side triangular heads and small yellow, tan, or brown scales are what mark their appearance. They have darker brown spots that run the length of their bodies and wide nostrils on either side of their face.

Russell's are solitary and nocturnal creatures, making them rather elusive. They’re sluggish and slow, and therefore not particularly aggressive, however, when they feel threatened, they’re ready to strike in no time.

2. The Mojave Rattlesnake

mojave rattlesnake
Image credit: Animals Around the Globe

Crotalus scutulatus (more commonly known as the Mojave rattlesnake) is an incredibly venomous pit viper that's found in North America - yes, US citizens, you have one to watch out for, too! The Mojave is the most poisonous snake in America, and it can be identified by the distinctive rattle at the end of its body as well as its pale or dark green and brown coloring.

Their colors make them tough to spot, especially from a distance, especially when they’re lurking in desert regions. Their venom (which can, of course, be fatal) can shut down your nervous system and prevent your blood from clotting, which will cause a human being to bleed out relatively quickly. However, these snakes are timid and skittish and will most likely slither away from a perceived threat as fast as their scales can propel them.

1. The Death Adder

common death adder
Image credit: alephrocco

Last, but most certainly not least, is a snake whose name should not be taken lightly. The Death Adder (scientifically known as Acanthophis) is an Australian native that will paralyze you with just a drop of venom, and can (of course) kill you too.

These snakes have broad, flat heads shaped like triangles, with thick, stout bodies. Their torsos are striped with thick bands of different colors - reds, browns, oranges, and blacks. Their undersides are typically lighter cream or even pink, and they long fangs which they use to capture their prey, which typically includes frogs, lizards, and birds that are commonly found in Australia.

They lurk in forests and woodlands, so you’re unlikely to find one in your home - but be on high alert when out in nature!

Caitlin Ross
By Caitlin Ross

Caitlin is an animal lover at heart with a passion for writing and sharing this love with the world. She’s a born and raised South African and grew up always surrounded by animals: more pets than she can count, and regularly adventuring with her family into the bush, where she feels most at peace with the wildlife in their natural habitat.