Snakes have many capabilities, among them being able to assume an upright posture. This feature is common with terrestrial snakes, and most can rise up to a third or half the length of their bodies.
While some assume the stance as a defense mechanism, some species “stand up” to look around in an explorative manner or to climb surfaces.
Cobras are known for their deadly upright stance when they are about to strike a predator. Other snakes that tend to stand upright include pythons, black mambas, the eastern brown snake, and the green tree snake.
Snakes That Stand Upright
1. Ball Pythons
The ball python is the smallest python species and is endemic to western Africa. It is non-venomous and pretty harmless to humans, making it a favorite for snake enthusiasts who like to keep pet snakes. While they grow to an average length of 3 -5 feet, some adult ball pythons can go up to 4-6 feet.
Ball pythons are known to lift a part of their body to assume a standing posture, a stance that is commonly referred to as periscoping. Unlike other snake species who exhibit the same behavior, standing upright is not a defensive stance for ball pythons. Rather, they do this to explore and have a better look at their surrounding, especially if there are shrubs and tall grasses all around. Ball pythons also periscope when you let them out of their cage for some fresh air.
2. Black Mamba
Black mambas are fast, very venomous, and they are highly aggressive when threatened. They are considered the world’s deadliest snakes, causing more deaths in Africa than any other snakes in the region.
When threatened, black mambas will raise up to a third of their bodies to assume an upright position. Since they can grow up to 14 feet in length, it means they can reach a height of 5 to 6 feet when standing. While in an upright position, a black mamba will spread its neck-flap, open its mouth, and hiss loudly to scare away a threat.
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3. Carpet Pythons
There are seven types of carpet pythons, but the best known is the jungle variety with black and yellow bands. Carpet pythons are mostly kept as pets because they are attractive and non-venomous, making them harmless to humans. Besides, they are pretty easy to care for as they are relatively small and grow to a length of 4 meters.
Carpet pythons are semi-arboreal, meaning that they like climbing. This characteristic means that they can stand upright as they have the capability of raising up to a third of their bodies off the ground. Normally, though, they assume an upright stature when climbing a surface. They have strong muscles which help them to hold the weight of their body when standing.
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Cobras make the list of the most iconic snakes in the world: they are elegant and extremely venomous. One distinct behavior of cobras is their defensive display of standing upright when under threat.
They have the ability to raise their upper body, up to a third of their whole body, and stand upright. The height to which they can reach will depend on their body length. For instance, a 10ft forest cobra can ‘stand’ to a height of 3 to 4 ft. In this position, cobras expand their hoods and hiss loudly. Besides attacking, cobras also stand upright when looking for food.
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5. Eastern Brown Snake
Eastern brown snakes are native to Australia, from northern Queensland to South Australia. They mostly live in open grasslands and woodlands. An adult brown snake may exceed 2 meters in length and move at high speed on hot days.
They have slender bodies with colors ranging from tan to grey or dark brow. The belly may be cream, yellow with darker orange spots. They are very poisonous and have caused many deaths in Australia. Eastern brown snakes are, however, afraid of humans and will do anything to avoid confrontation.
Eastern brown snakes attack very aggressively, even to a larger prey than themselves. This snake will stand at an angle of about 60 degrees with half of its body coiling to throw strikes.
6. Green Tree Snake
Green tree snakes are common in parts of northern and eastern Australia. Their color varies from olive green, dark brown, black or blue, golden yellow with bluish head. The skin between their scales is light blue, and the belly is yellow.
The snake has no fangs and is non-venomous. They are reluctant to bite and wild rather flee when confronted. However, when provoked, the green tree snake will assume an upright posture in defense. It will then fiercely inflate its body and throat to scare away the threat.
7. King Cobra
King cobras are extremely venomous and, at 18 feet, are the longest venomous snake in the world. This snake species does not belong in the Naja genus like all other cobras, which brings forth the argument that it may not be a real cobra. The King cobra belongs to the genus ophiophugus. Moreover, the shape of their head and hood are distinctly different from the normal cobra’s.
King cobras can “stand up” to reach the height of a full-grown human being. They do this when threatened, where they retaliate by glaring into the eyes of the threat and can move and attack in this upright position. They are capable of lifting up to the third of their bodies off the ground, meaning they can reach a high of 5 to 6 feet.
Rattles are very specialized and venomous snakes with large bodies and triangle-shaped heads. They are only found in America, the United States, Central America, South America, and Mexico. More than 24 species of rattlesnakes are found in the United States and range from 0ne foot (300 cm) ridge-nosed rattlesnake to eastern diamondback from 5-8 feet (1.5-2.4 meters).
While you won’t necessarily find them with their body off the ground in an upright position, rattlesnakes will exhibit this behavior when attacking a potential threat. They have the capability of raising to half their length when striking. For instance, an 8 ft rattlesnake can easily bite a 5’3″ person on the neck if it starts right at the victim’s feet.
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Apart from cobras known to stand upright, we can see other snakes have the ability to do so. Pythons and black mambas are examples of snakes that exhibit the same behavior. Apart from self-defense, snakes stand upright to explore their area, climb surfaces, or look for food.
Joe is a freelance writer for FaunaFacts. Joe has written extensively about snakes for the site, but also contributes content about a range of animals.