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A Fearsome Predator in the Arab world: The Sahara-Horned Viper

posted on: Jun 15, 2022

A Fearsome Predator in the Arab world: The Sahara-Horned Viper
The Sahara-horned Viper.

By: Antonia Wagura / Arab America Contributing Writer


The Sahara-horned viper is a venomous snake found in the desert of North Africa and parts of the Middle East. Its most distinct feature is the pair of horns above its eyes. It is also known as a desert sidewinding horned viper, Sahara horned viper, desert horned viper, North African horned viper, and cerastes.

The horned viper is unique because it adapts to an environment where few predators can. The Sahara horned vipers favor dry, sandy areas with a scanty outcropping of rock; however, it does not prefer coarse sand. The color pattern of the horned viper camouflages with the substrate color of where the animal lives. The belly is white, and the tail may have a black nib that is usually thin.

The Sahara Horned Viper’s Lifestyle

The Sahara horned viper is a nocturnal reptile. It is active from dusk till dawn. They spend their days resting and burrowing in the sand, hiding under rocks and holes. They have a crab-like movement and press their body weight into the sand while moving.

The Saharan horned viper is a carnivore. Their prey includes rodents, birds, and lizards. When threatened, the horned viper strikes rapidly, holding on to the captured until the venom takes effect. The horned viper has a subdued character. It is noteworthy, that in instances where the viper feels endangered, it coils its body, hisses, and produces a rasping sound by rubbing keeled scales together.

According to research, the mating season takes place between April to June. They are oviparous. They produce eggs that hatch after leaving the female body, unlike ovoviviparous. They lay approximately eight to twenty-three eggs that hatch after 50 to 60 days of incubation and they are known for being solitary creatures.

Interesting Facts About the Sahara Horned Viper

  • Female horned vipers are longer than male horned vipers. However, a male horned viper has a big head compared to the female one.
  • The color of the horned viper camouflages that of the environment.
  • The horned viper produces venom that consists of 13 toxins.
  • Not only does it attack its prey, but it swallows it in one piece.
  • The upper parts of the horned viper are usually sandy, yellowish, or pale brown. Apart from this, light brown scars cover their bodies. It helps them to camouflage with the environment.
  • The desert viper is located in North Africa and spotted in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Sudan, Niger, Libya, Egypt, Chad, and Somalia.
  • It is also located in the Arab Peninsula and pinpointed in Yemen, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
  • The desert vipers are active from dusk to dawn.
  • The male horned vipers have big eyes than female horned vipers.
  • The Sahara horned viper is also known as El torisha in Egypt.
  • Assuming to touch the horns of the horned viper, they will tuck blush against its head. Thus, letting the snake move through the sand.
  • They are approximately 12 to 24 inches in length.
  • The horned viper moves in quick jumps.
  • The Sahara horned viper has crab-like movement.
  • Lastly, the predator optimizes its speed when hunting.
The Sahara horned viper envenoming its prey.


The features of the horned viper make it adaptable in the desert, unlike other predators. The horned viper helps in the ecological balance and plays a significant role in hunting rodents that endanger agriculture. When the number of rodents increases, it affects agriculture negatively.

Nevertheless, it is capable of life-threatening poisoning in human beings. Early administration of specific antivenoms can be an effective treatment for poisoning. In addition, avoidance of ineffective and potentially harmful helping methods.

Despite the vipers not being endangered species, there is a decline in horned vipers in Algeria. As a result of over-collecting, pollution, habitat destruction, and introduction of new species. The predators of the Sahara horned viper include the Nile monitor, various wild cats, and honey badgers.

Is the horned viper fearsome? Yes, It can cause blood clots and death in various cases. The fact is that all vipers are toxic and deadly. The effect of a bite can vary, yet; however dangerous, they keep the number of rodents under control. For, they are ecologically important.
Undoubtedly, all animals are a significant component of our environment. They contribute to the web activity in a functioning system. A Sahara horned viper in North Africa and the Arab peninsula is no different. Animals are the gift of nature to us.


Saharan Horned Viper – Facts, Diet, Habitat & Pictures on Animalia. Bio. (2022). Retrieved June 4, 2022, from Animalia. Bio website:

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