ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Pets and Animals»
  • Reptiles & Amphibians

A Hillbilly Guide to Snakes: Bull Snakes

Updated on July 17, 2012
Bullsnake - Psyon (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License)
Bullsnake - Psyon (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License)

Pituophis catenifer sayi... The Bull Snake

Also refereed to as the gopher snake, bull snakes are a common snake in the United States. They are large, act tough, and are often mistaken for rattlesnakes.


The bull snake has a base color of yellow with an overlay of spots that are usually brown but can be reddish or black. This coloring pattern along with their color scheme often gets them mistaken for rattlesnakes... Which of course often causes them to be killed by humans.

They are one of the largest snakes in the United States with an average length of around 6 feet, but it's not completely uncommon for them to get above 8 feet. It's not just their length though, these snakes have impressive girth as well and can weigh several pounds.

What kind of snake am I?
What kind of snake am I?

Question 1

Is the snake pictured above a bull snake or a rattlesnake? Answers at the bottom.

See results


When you consider the appearance of the bull snake it makes sense that they prefer to live in grasslands where they can blend in easily with their surroundings. This makes them common to find on farms, where farmers either mistake them as rattlesnakes and kill them or recognize them and love having them around to help control rodent populations. They can also be found in woodlands as well of course.

Bull snakes are common throughout most of the United States, and some parts of Mexico and Canada.

Bull Snake
Bull Snake


As mentioned bull snakes eat rodents, and with such a large size they can put a down a lot. This makes them very popular farmers and other people that don't want large rats around. They also will eat small mammals, birds, eggs, etc.. In fact, they've actually come under scrutiny before for their ability to find wild duck eggs. At their size even mammals as large as rabbits or squirrels can become victim to the large snakes.

Bull snakes are constrictors which means that they wrap themselves around their prey and choke them to death. Bull snakes are not venomous.

Bull Snake
Bull Snake

Interactions with humans

It's not just looks that causes the bull snake to mistaken as a rattlesnake, but somewhere along the line they seemed to some how realize that they looked liked rattlesnakes and learned to behave similarly. When approached in the wild a bull snake has a tendency to act tough and whack it's tail on the ground to make predators think that it is in fact a deadly venomous rattlesnake.

To tell them apart there are the first obvious differences between a venomous viper (Rattlesnakes, copperheads, and water moccasins) and nonvenomous snakes. This is of course with the exception of the coral snake which carries the features of the nonvenomous snakes. First of all the vipers all have large triangular shaped heads. This is because of the giant venom glands that run beside the mouth and kind of puff their cheeks. The nonvenomous snakes have small round heads. The venomous snakes also have an extra set of nostrils called pits. The nonvenomous snakes do not have these. The venomous snakes have slit cat like eyes while the nonvenomous snakes have round eyes more similar to humans.

If you happened to see either a bull snake or rattlesnake out in the wild it might be hard to tell these differences from a safe distance. Fortunately, they have a give away. The rattlesnake makes the well known rattle sound by sticking their rattles up in the air and shaking them. The bull snake on the other hand is only emulating this sound and has to smack their tail against something. So if you are following my logic... The rattlesnake will have it's tail up in the air, while the bull snake will have it's tail down on the ground.

As far as how aggressive the bull snake is once in human hands I've heard different things. Some people say they are pretty aggressive and have a lot of attitude while others say that they become pretty docile when handled. Grab on to a wild one at your own risk! Seriously though, it's better for both you and the snake to leave them alone if you stumble across one in the wild.

What kind of snake am I?
What kind of snake am I?

Question 2

Is the snake pictured above a bull snake or rattlesnake? Answers at the bottom

See results
A large Bull Snake
A large Bull Snake


Question 1: Bull Snake... The roundness of the eyes and shape of the head are a dead giveaway that this can't be a venomous pit viper such as a rattlesnake.

Question 2: Rattlesnake... You can't get a good look at the eyes, but the large venom glands puffing up his cheeks give it away.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Phillbert profile image

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 3 years ago from The Ozarks

      Lesley, I think I understand where that theory is coming from, but I don't think it's a good method. As far as I know, all snakes shed their skins periodically. When a snake is getting close to to shedding, their skin will be very dull. After they shed their skin will be very shiny. This is true of venomous and nonvenomous snakes.

      Thanks DMSimonds! I appreciate it!

    • profile image

      DMSimonds 3 years ago

      I am a Full Time RV'er base camped in S.E. New Mexico slap dab in the desert snake country. Here we have bull snakes and rattlesnakes and often campers have difficulty telling the difference between the two. This is the best article I have seen as of yet on subject with great real world photos to boot.

      Your work will be listed in Choice Is Yours.

    • profile image

      Lesley 3 years ago

      What about shiny vs. dull scales...have always been told that is a distinguishing feature with venomous snakes for the most part being quite dull.

    • Phillbert profile image

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 4 years ago from The Ozarks

      Thanks for commenting Sandi. I may not be the best expert to ask, but I will say most species have common characteristics. The big thing is to make sure the snake crawling across your feet doesn't have a big triangle shaped head or slit eyes like a cat as that indicates venomous snakes.

      Despite what many would think, snakes do have a bit of personality. In another article I wrote about snakes, I talked about this large snake that used to hang out in my yard when I was a small child. I played with it all the time. We joke that it was my first babysitter.

    • profile image

      Sandi 4 years ago

      a couple of things. First we have a number of Bull snakes on our farm. I would like to know if you can identify individual snakes by the markings on their heads? They all seem to have different markings, but don't know if the markings change or remain the same throughout its life.

      Second there is one snake that seems to like me. I have had it come up to me, lay across my feet, stretch out behind my heels, and hang around when I am outside working. It doesn't seem to care about my husband and will stay away from him. My question is this a known thing about snakes?? I would love to know more about these amazing critters!

    • Phillbert profile image

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 5 years ago from The Ozarks

      That's alright. I've watched a full grown man attempt to crawl out the driver side window of a vehicle (Which he was driving) moving 70 mph down the highway because of a tiny little spider on the dashboard. I was holding him by the legs, while another passenger tried to hold the wheel straight. The upper half of the driver's body was out the window screaming bloody murder. We were all really lucky not to die!

    • Cat R profile image

      Cat R 5 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

      About as embarrassing as my encounters with spiders that I turned into a hub called 'Ridiculous' after the scene in one of the Harry Potter movies when Ron encounters the spider Boggart.

      I can make a great fool out of myself with such things. But I live to entertain! grin

    • Phillbert profile image

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 5 years ago from The Ozarks

      Hahaha Those are great stories Cat R! Thank you for sharing them!

    • Cat R profile image

      Cat R 5 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

      The first encounter I had with a real snake was during K9 Search & Rescue training in Texas. I was playing 'victim' and laying in an area that is predominant Mesquite and life-size Cactus (with a CAPITAL C!). It awoke within a few feet of me and let me know quite noisily that I was intruding. While it may have been the wrong reaction, I broke my record in jumping up and running; while jumping a several feet wide cactus field. My fellow 'team members' continued to tell the story for a long time how this old lady could jump that high, fast and far at the sight of a rattler. lol

      My daughter encountered a rat snake by our pond last year. She jumped across a small ditch and landed on the sun-bathing snake. She jumped up and the nsake fled. The picture of the soon napping snake on FB soon revealed its harmless identity and we were releaved.

      The look on her face, tough... Sorry, Baby..., was to die for!

    • Phillbert profile image

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 5 years ago from The Ozarks

      Thanks Gerogie! I hope that works for you if you ever find yourself face to face with snake! Puffy cheeks = bad!

    • Georgie Lowery profile image

      GH Price 5 years ago from North Florida

      This is interesting. I live in the woods in Western NY, and I never could find a quick way to tell a bad snake from a good one. I will remember the puffy cheeks, the eyes and the extra nostrils, but I hope I never have to get close enough to any of them to look!

      Great Hub!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: ""

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)