Masticophis flagellum

Masticophis flagellum


Western coachwhip
Masticophis flagellum testaceus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Masticophis
Species: M. flagellum
Binomial name
Masticophis flagellum
(Shaw, 1802)

Coluber flagellum
Shaw, 1802
Psammophis flagelliformis
Holbrook, 1842
Herpetodryas flagelliformis
Duméril & Bibron, 1854
Zamenis flagelliformis
Boulenger, 1893

Masticophis flagellum is a species of nonvenomous colubrid snakes commonly referred to as coachwhips or whip snakes, with seven recognized subspecies.

Geographical range

Coachwhips range throughout the southern United States from coast to coast. They are also found in the northern half of Mexico. Typically, they are found in open grassland habitats, but can also be found in lightly forested areas.


Coachwhips are thin-bodied snakes with small heads and large eyes with round pupils. They vary greatly in color, but most reflect a proper camouflage for their natural habitat. M. f. testaceus is typically a shade of light brown with darker brown flecking, but in the western area of Texas, where the soil color is a shade of pink, the coachwhips are also pink in color. M. f. piceus was given its common name because specimens frequently, but not always, have some red in their coloration. Coachwhip scales are patterned so at first glance, the snake appears braided. Subspecies can be difficult to distinguish in areas where their ranges overlap. Adult sizes of over 160 cm (63 in) are not uncommon.


Coachwhips are diurnal, and actively hunt and eat lizards, small birds, and rodents. They tend to be sensitive to potential threats, and often bolt at the first sign of one; they are extremely fast-moving snakes. They are curious snakes with good eyesight, and are sometimes seen raising their heads above the level of the grass or rocks to see what is around them.


  • Sonoran coachwhip, Masticophis flagellum cingulum (Lowe & Woodin, 1954)
  • Eastern coachwhip, Masticophis flagellum flagellum (Shaw, 1802)
  • Baja California coachwhip, Masticophis flagellum fuliginosus (Cope, 1895)
  • Lined coachwhip, Masticophis flagellum lineatulus (Smith, 1941)
  • Red coachwhip, Masticophis flagellum piceus (Cope, 1892)
  • San Joaquin coachwhip, Masticophis flagellum ruddocki (Brattstrom & Warren, 1953)
  • Western coachwhip, Masticophis flagellum testaceus (Say, 1823)
Western coachwhip


The primary myth concerning coachwhips, that they chase people, likely arises from the snake and the person both being frightened, and both just happen to be going the same way to escape. Coachwhips are fast snakes, often moving faster than a human, and thus give an impression of aggression should they move toward the person.

The legend of the hoop snake may refer to the coachwhip snakes.

Another myth of the rural southeastern United States is of a snake that, when disturbed, would chase a person down, wrap him up in its coils, whip him to death with its tail, and then make sure he is dead by sticking its tail up the victim's nose to see if he is still breathing. In actuality, coachwhips are nowhere near strong enough to overpower a person, and they do not whip with their tails, even though it is long and looks very much like a whip. Their bites can be painful, but generally are harmless unless they become infected.


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Masticophis flagellum — noun a whipsnake of southern United States and Mexico; tail resembles a braided whip • Syn: ↑coachwhip, ↑coachwhip snake • Hypernyms: ↑whip snake, ↑whip snake, ↑whipsnake …   Useful english dictionary

  • Masticophis — Whip Snakes Western Coachwhip, Masticophis flagellum testaceus Scientific classification Kingdom …   Wikipedia

  • Masticophis — Masticophis …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Coluber flagellum — Coluber flagellum …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Gewöhnliche Kutscherpeitschennatter — (Masticophis flagellum) Systematik Ordnung: Schuppenkriechtiere (Squamata) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • List of Texas reptiles — This is a list of Texas reptiles, including all snakes, lizards, crocodilians, and turtles native to the state of Texas.The state of Texas has a large variety of habitats, from swamps, coastal marshes and pine forests in the east, rocky hills and …   Wikipedia

  • whip snake — noun any of several small fast moving snakes with long whiplike tails • Syn: ↑whip snake, ↑whipsnake • Hypernyms: ↑colubrid snake, ↑colubrid • Hyponyms: ↑coachwhip, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • whipsnake — noun any of several small fast moving snakes with long whiplike tails • Syn: ↑whip snake, ↑whip snake • Hypernyms: ↑colubrid snake, ↑colubrid • Hyponyms: ↑coachwhip, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • whip-snake — noun any of several small fast moving snakes with long whiplike tails • Syn: ↑whip snake, ↑whipsnake • Hypernyms: ↑colubrid snake, ↑colubrid • Hyponyms: ↑coachwhip, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • coachwhip — /kohch hwip , wip /, n. 1. a whip, usually having a long lash, used in driving a coach horse. 2. Also called coachwhip snake. a long, slender snake, Masticophis flagellum, of the southern U.S. and Mexico, having a thin tail resembling a braided… …   Universalium

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