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Coachwhip snakes : 

Red Racer/Coachwhip, Santa Fe, New Mexico

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Masticophis flagellum is a species of nonvenomous colubrid snake, commonly referred to as thecoachwhip or the whip snake, which is endemic to the United States and Mexico. Seven subspeciesare recognized, including the nominotypical subspecies.

Masticophis flagellum

Baby Western coachwhip
Masticophis flagellum testaceus


Scientific classification










Species:M. flagellum

Binomial name

Masticophis flagellum
(Shaw, 1802)

Synonyms :

  • Coluber flagellumShaw, 1802

  • Psammophis flagelliformisHolbrook, 1842

  • Herpetodryas flagelliformis— A.M.C. Duméril & Bibron, 1854

  • Zamenis flagelliformis— Boulenger, 1893

  • Bascanion flagellum— Lönnberg, 1894

  • Masticophis flagellum — Taylor, 1938

  • Coluber flagellum— Utiger et al., 2005

  • Coluber flagellum — Liner, 2007

  • Masticophis flagellum— Collins & Taggart, 2009[1]

Geographic range :


Coachwhips range throughout the southern United States from coast to coast. They are also found in the northern half of Mexico.


Description :


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 127–183 cm (50–72 in) are common. The record sized specimen, of the Eastern coachwhip race, was 259 cm (102 in).[2] Young specimens, mostly just over 100 cm (39 in) in length, were found to have weighed 180 to 675 g (6.3 to 23.8 oz), whereas good-sized mature adults measuring 163 to 235 cm (64 to 93 in) weighed in at 1.2 to 1.8 kg (2.6 to 4.0 lb).[3][4]



Coachwhips are commonly found in open areas with sandy soil, open pine forests, old fields, andprairies. They thrive in sandhill scrub and coastal dunes.




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. Can slither up to 15 mph.






  • 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 H.M. Smith, 1941

  • Red coachwhip (Red racer), Masticophis flagellum piceus (Cope, 1892)

  • San Joaquin coachwhip, Masticophis flagellum ruddocki Brattstrom & Warren, 1953

  • Western coachwhip, Masticophis flagellum testaceus (Say, 1823)

Coachwhip, Masticophis flagellum, Florida

Western coachwhip

Coachwhip, Masticophis flagellum, Florida

Coachwhip, Masticophis flagellum, Florida

Myths :


The primary myth concerning coachwhips, that they chase people, likely arises from the snake and the person both being frightened, and both just happening 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 neither constrictors (snakes that dispatch their prey by suffocating with their coils) nor strong enough to overpower a person. Also, they do not whip with their tails, even though their tails are long and look very much like a whips.


Their bites can be painful, but generally are harmless unless they become infected.


In parts of Mexico, where ranching is a way of life, these snakes are believed to wrap around the legs of cows and feed on their milk as if suckling leaving the nipple dry. They will also hook on any other mammal that produces milk, leaving the young baby dehydrated.


Ranchers also tell stories of "chirrioneras", which hypnotize women then latch onto their breasts to feed. If the woman has a crying hungry baby the snake would stick their tail in the babies mouth to keep the baby quiet while feeding, then leave, undetected. This leaves the baby malnourished and getting weaker while the mother cannot feed her baby because her breasts have been sucked dry. The story goes that the only way 


to know if the snake has been there is if the baby has sores around the mouth.

Masticophis flagellum at Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve


Masticophis flagellum flagellum

Family: Colubridae

courtesy to :


Coachwhip Snake

THE WESTERN COACHWHIP - Fast, Scary, Awesome!

Videos : 

  • Adult Size: Adults routinely attain a very slender 6 to 7 foot length. Occasional examples may be 8½ feet long.

  • Range: This is an abundant snake of the southeastern Coastal Plain. A second population ranges southward from southern Missouri and Oklahoma to eastern Texas and Louisiana. A small population occurs in south central Kentucky.

  • Habitat: A generalist, the eastern coachwhip is at home in open mixed woodlands, sandy pine woodlands, pine-palmetto scrublands, as well as along creeks, marshes and swamplands.

  • Captive Lifespan: 12 to 20 Years

  • Dangerous:

  • Care Level: Intermediate

Overview :


Because of its usually feisty disposition, and resistance to handling, this is not a snake sought by a large number of hobbyists and collectors. It is not deliberately bred in captivity. Rather, the hatchlings that are occasionally offered are almost always the result of a clutch having been laid by a field-collected female and incubated. Hatchlings are from 13 to 16½ inches in length. A clutch may contain up to 2 dozen eggs.


This is a big, speedy, sand-colored snake either with or without black on its head, neck and anterior body. Occasional examples are solid black. They are very alert and flighty, thus difficult to approach in the field. Most that are collected are found beneath ground-surface debris following a cool morning or while they are preparing for ecdysis. Utilizing a hunting method termed “periscoping” coachwhips depend largely on their acute vision to find prey and avoid enemies. In periscoping the head is held above the level of the vegetation through which the snake is slowly moving. If prey is seen it is grasped in a forthlong rush while enemies are avoided in a startlingly rapid departure.


Coachwhips can be very difficult to acclimate to captivity. Most will bite readily, repeatedly and painfully. Although they have broad-based diet—small rodents, nestling birds, lizards, amphibians and even some insects—captives may steadfastly refuse to eat. Others may eat well, accepting mice ravenously. They frighten easily and may injure their noses by hitting the terrarium glass while striking or rubbing against roughened surfaces (such as screen tops) in an effort to escape. A hatchling or two may be temporarily housed in a 20 gallon capacity terrarium. A pair of adults should be housed in a 50 to 125 gallon capacity terrarium. This snake is more apt to abrade its nose in a small terrarium than if it is in a large tank. They can climb but are so nervous that they will probably not do so. Dry cypress, fir, aspen chips or bark shards are excellent choices for a substrate. A temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit at night and 85 degrees during the day is ideal for these snakes. Although they may not bask, a hot spot of 90 to 95 degrees is provided for several hours a day. A drinking bowl filled with fresh water should always be provided.

Videos on care & Feeding : 

My coachwhip snakes

Western Coachwhip Feeding

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