The Eastern Coachwhip Myths and Reality


Authored by Rodney Southern in Nature and Wildlife 
Published on 10-07-2009

The eastern coachwhip is a snake that is best known for the legendary misconceptions about it. Most people have never heard of a coachwhip snake, but they have heard of the snake that grabs it’s tail and rolls down the hill like a hoop to chase after people. Some people might have heard the story about the snake that can whip you with their tails like a bullwhip. All of these stories are simply myths and legends, but they remain a part of our culture. What is actually true about this eastern coachwhip? The truth is not nearly as exciting as the myths, but they are still quite interesting. Lets take a look at the myths, and the truth as well about the eastern coachwhip:

Eastern Coachwhip Myth – The Eastern Coachwhip can Grow to Lengths of Fifteen Feet or More.

The Truth –While the eastern coachwhip is not exactly a tiny snake by any standards, they do not get nearly that big. They are actually skinny snakes that grow to about 8 feet at the most. This legend probably was started when around the same time as the next one for obvious reasons.

Eastern Coachwhip Myth – The Eastern Coachwhip can Whip People With It’s Tail

The Truth- The eastern coachwhip can not do this. The name coachwhip comes from the fact that the coachwhip’s tail looks like a braided whip such as the horse carriage driver’s used. The reason people think that a coachwhip can whip people like that is partly from the name, but also because they vibrate their tail when they feel threatened. This action is to mimic other snakes such as rattlesnakes and to instill fear in predators that mean them harm.

Eastern Coachwhip Myth – The Eastern Coachwhip can Roll Down The Hill Like a Hoop

The Truth-The coachwhip has never been capable of this. The only possible reason I can think of for this misconception is because of the speed of this long and lanky snake. They are capable of crawling at speeds up to 8 mph. That is really fast, and maybe led folks to think they were rolling instead of slithering. No snake on earth will chase humans save for possibly the black mamba, and even they will only do so when cornered.

Eastern Coachwhip Myth – The Eastern Coachwhip Attacks In Groups

The Truth-First off, the eastern coachwhip does not attack at all. The eastern is a nonvenomous snake that would just assume never see a human much less attack them. The most common response from an eastern coachwhip is to run and hide in a hole, or climb a tree. They will bite fast and furious if you give them no choice or corner them, but the vast majority are not aggressive. The reason for the “attack in groups” myth is because during the cold weather and at night, coachwhips have been known to huddle up in large groups to brave the cold.

Eastern Coachwhip Myth – The Eastern Coachwhip is Related to the Black Mamba

The Truth- The eastern coachwhip does not even have venom, much less the highly toxic venom of the deadly black mamba. They do have similar builds, and they both will move in a similar fashion. Both mambas and coachwhips will move across the ground with their heads up off the ground. This is for hunting purposes. The eastern coachwhip is not even close to related to the black mamba.


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