What is a Brown Snake?

G. Wiesen

A brown snake is a snake usually belonging to a specific genus that is identified due to its coloration and appearance rather than other physical traits. The term does not usually refer to a specific scientific category of snake, and instead is either used colloquially or as a common name for one of a variety of different snakes. They will typically be snakes that are brown in color and common in a certain area, with examples being the Massachusetts brown snake, eastern brown snake of Australia, and the Texas brown snake.

The eastern brown snake of Australia and the inland taipan are two poisonous brown snakes found in Australia.
The eastern brown snake of Australia and the inland taipan are two poisonous brown snakes found in Australia.

The Texas brown snake is a small snake that is typically brown in appearance, often with dark spots and a long light stripe running along its length. They are typically only about a foot (about 30.5 cm) in length when fully grown and feed on small insects and invertebrates such as worms and slugs. While not venomous, they will often act aggressively if confronted, in an effort to ward off potential predators. They will coil up and even strike out at a target, though this is mostly for show as they typically strike with their mouths closed and cannot open their mouths enough to actually bite a person.

One type of brown snake can be found in Massachusetts.
One type of brown snake can be found in Massachusetts.

Another type of brown snake can be found in Massachusetts and is quite similar to those found in Texas. Both types are often found in moist dirt, and both feed on small insects. The Massachusetts brown gives birth to live babies and is typically active and hunts during the day rather than in the night. They are also non-venomous, though they may bite if threatened or stepped on by an unwary hiker or gardener.

The eastern brown snake found in Australia, on the other hand, is the second deadliest snake in the world, and they have been responsible for numerous human deaths. Only the inland taipan, also found in Australia, produces more venom than the eastern brown, and the eastern brown can easily inject enough venom in a single bite to endanger an adult human. The eastern brown grows to about five feet (1.5 meters) in length, is active during the day, and can be quite aggressive if confronted.

The venom from an eastern brown snake contains both neurotoxins, which cause negative neurological and chemical effects within the human body, and coagulants. These coagulants can cause the blood of a bitten victim to turn to a consistency similar to gelatin. Once bitten by an eastern brown, a person will often spontaneously collapse and will typically die if not given immediate medical attention.

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Discussion Comments


I didn't know about the Texas brown snake. They must not be found as far east as I live. I've heard of hognose snakes, which will also play dead, which I find funny. You can turn them over and they will flop right back over on their backs, and will even let their tongues dangle out of their mouths. It's hilarious. When the coast is clear, they will flop back over and get out of the vicinity as soon as possible.

I don't think I've even ever seen a picture of a Texas brown snake. I guess they don't hurt people, so you don't usually see too many pictures of them.


I knew the eastern brown snake was deadly, but had no idea its venom turned blood to jello! Good grief. I've never been to Australia, but I do know a couple of people who are from there, and they have told me that snake catchers make a big living there.

They have told me that people who are willing to remove eastern browns and tiger snakes can pretty much name their fees. Most of these people don't charge what they could, simply because they know they are saving lives. The venomous snakes in the US are quite enough for me. I can't imagine living in a country where so many very deadly snakes are so common!

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