Masticophis is a genus of snake characterized by its long, thin body, slender head, and large eyes. This genus of snake belongs to the Colubridae family, and is considered a colubrid snake. Whip snakes, as they are commonly known, bear a strong resemblance to a whip, mainly because their scales are patterned in such a way that they look braided at first glance. There are a number of species and sub-species of the whip snake, and they are often found in dry, temperate to sub-tropical areas.
Depending on the species and the area in which it is found, a whip snake can vary greatly in color. Most of these snakes have a color pattern that helps them blend into their surroundings. Some species are a solid color, while others may have a pattern down their back. The common striped type can be recognized by the light colored stripes running down its back, and the horseshoe whip snake of Spain is said to have a horseshoe pattern.
This snake can grow to be quite long. Smaller snakes of this sort can be roughly 2 feet (60 centimeters), but it is not unheard of for some species to grow 6 feet (183 centimeters)or longer. Although it is rare, some species of the whip snake can grow to be about 8 feet (2.4 meters) in length.
Most species are diurnal. This means that they are active during the day and sleep at night. It is a very fast moving snake, which helps it to catch its prey. The snake's diet typically consists of rodents, small birds, and even small reptiles, such as lizards and other snakes.
Whip snakes seem to prefer warm, arid climates, and they will hibernate during the cooler winter months. They can mostly be found in rocky areas, grasslands, and slightly wooded areas throughout the southern part of the United States and the northern half of Mexico. Other species of this snake have also been found in Spain and Singapore.
A common myth about this snake is that it is extremely aggressive and will give chase to any human who stumbles across it. It is also often said that it will whip a person with its long, thin tail. Today these myths are known to be fallacies, and whip snakes are known to be very shy snakes that will avoid confrontation. Although their tails do look very much like a whip, they are not used as a defense to whip humans, or any other animal for that matter.