Field's horned viper, P. p. fieldi
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Subfamily: Viperinae
Genus: Pseudocerastes
Boulenger, 1896
Species: P. persicus
Binomial name
Pseudocerastes persicus
(Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1854)
  • Pseudocerastes - Boulenger, 1896[1]

  • C[erastes]. Persicus - A.-M.-C. Duméril, 1853
  • Cerastes Persicus - Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1854
  • Vipera persica - Jan, 1859
  • V[ipera]. (Cerastes) persica - Jan, 1863
  • Pseudocerastes persicus - Boulenger, 1896
  • Pseudocerastes bicornis - Wall, 1913
  • Vipera persica persica - Marx & Rabb - 1965
  • Pseudocerastes persicus persicus - Minton, Dowling & Russell, 1968
  • Daboia (Pseudocerastes) persica persica - Obst, 1983
  • Pseudocerastes persicus - Latifi, 1991[1]
Common names: Persian horned viper, false horned viper,[2] more.

Pseudocerastes is a monotypic genus created for a venomous viper species, P. persicus.[3] This species is found throughout the Middle East and as far east as Pakistan, but not on the African mainland. Often referred to as the false horned viper because of the hornlike structures above their eyes that are made up of numerous small scales. This is in contrast to the "true" horned viper, Cerastes cerastes, that has similar supraorbital horns that consist of a single elongated scale.[2] Two subspecies are currently recognized, including the nominate subspecies described here.[4]



Averages between 40 to 70 cm in length, with a maximum of 108 cm being reported. Females are usually larger than males. These snakes can attain a considerable weight relative to their size, with specimens sometimes exceeding 500 gr.[2]

The head is broad, flat, distinct from the neck and covered with small, imbricate scales. The snout is short and rounded. The nostrils are positioned dorsolaterally and have valves. The nasal scale is unbroken. The rostral scale is small and wide. The eyes are small to average in size. There are 15-20 interocular scales and 15-20 circumorbitals. The supraorbital hornlike structures above each eye consisting of small, imbricate scales and are also present in juveniles. There are 11-14 supralabials and 13-17 sublabials. 2-4 rows of small scales separate the supralabial scales from the suboculars.[2]

The body is covered with weakly to strongly keeled dorsal scales. On many of these, the keel terminates before the end of the scale and forms a bump. Many others form a point. At midbody, there are 21-25 scale rows, none of them oblique. There are 134-163 ventral scales and 35-50 paired subcaudals. The tail is short.[2]

Common names

Persian horned viper, false horned viper,[2] Persian horned desert viper,[5] eye-horned viper.[6]

Geographic range

The Sinai of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia, the mountains of Oman, northern and northwestern Iraq, possibly southern Syria, extreme southeastern Turkey, northwestern Azerbaijan, Iran and Pakistan to the borders of Afghanistan. The type locality is listed as "Perse" (Persia).[1]


These snakes are generally rather slow-moving and may employ various methods of locomotion, including sidewinding, serpentine and rectilinear. These snakes are almost totally nocturnal, only being seen during the day or early evening during colder periods. It is not particularly aggressive, but will hiss loudly when disturbed. It is not capable of sinking into the sand vertically like Cerastes.[2]


Pseudocerastes is oviparous and lays 11-21 eggs. When produced, these already contain well-developed embryos than can be as much as 8.5 cm long. As a result, they hatch after only 30-32 days at 31 °C and then measure 14.0 to 16.2 cm in length. They do well in captivity and are relatively easy to breed.[7][2]


P. p. persicus venom exhibits strong hemorrhagic activity typical of most vipers. No antivenin is available for bites from this subspecies, although it is reported that a polyvalent antiserum does offer some protection.[7][2]


Species[4] Taxon author[4] Common name Geographic range
P. p. fieldi Schmidt, 1930 Field's horned viper Sinai Peninsula, southern Israel, Jordan, extreme northern Saudi Arabia and southwestern Iraq[2]
P. p. persicus (Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1854) Persian horned viper North Iraq, south-east Turkey, Iran, southern Afghanistan, Pakistan and the mountains of Oman[2]

These two subspecies are allopatric.[2]


Some sources elevate P. p. fieldi to species level.[8]

In 2006, Bostanchi, Anderson, Kami and Papenfuss described a new species: P. urarachnoides. It is found in the Zagros mountains of western Iran and is described as having the most elaborate tail ornamentation of any snake yet described, save for the rattlesnakes, Crotalus and Sistrurus.[9]

See also


  1. ^ a b c McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. 1999. Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, vol. 1. Herpetologists' League. 511 pp. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Mallow D, Ludwig D, Nilson G. 2003. True Vipers: Natural History and Toxinology of Old World Vipers. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, Florida. 359 pp. ISBN 0-89464-877-2.
  3. ^ "Pseudocerastes". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2 August 2006. 
  4. ^ a b c "Pseudocerastes persicus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2 August 2006. 
  5. ^ Brown JH. 1973. Toxicology and Pharmacology of Venoms from Poisonous Snakes. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas. 184 pp. LCCCN 73-229. ISBN 0-398-02808-7.
  6. ^ U.S. Navy. 1991. Poisonous Snakes of the World. US Govt. New York: Dover Publications Inc. 203 pp. ISBN 0-486-26629-X.
  7. ^ a b Spawls S, Branch B. 1995. The Dangerous Snakes of Africa. Ralph Curtis Books. Dubai: Oriental Press. 192 pp. ISBN 0-88359-029-8.
  8. ^ Pseudocerastes fieldi at the Reptile Database. Accessed 8 September 2007.
  9. ^ Bostanchi H, Anderson SC, Kami HG, Papenfuss TJ. 2006. A new species of Pseudocerastes with elaborate tail ornamentation from western Iran (Squamata: Viperidae). Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences. Fourth Series, Vol. 57, No. 14, pp. 443-450. PDF at California Academy of Sciences. Accessed 14 December 2007.

Further reading

  • Joger U. 1984. The venomous snakes of the Near and Middle East. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag. 175 pp.
  • Latifi M. 1991. The snakes of Iran. Published by the Dept. of the Environment and the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 2nd edition, 156 pp.
  • Mendelssohn H. 1965. On the biology of venomous snakes of Israel. Part II. Israeli Journal of Zoology 14:185-212.

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