Brown Whip Snake – Dryophiops rubescens – Not Dangerous

Keel-bellied whip snake, Dryophiops rubescens. Thailand.

Here is a whip snake that was a bit of a mystery for a while, my first one was finally identified by an American expat snake researcher in Bangkok – Michael Cota in 2007.

This snake is found in Southern Thailand. We’ve found some in Krabi province of Thailand. There were a couple found in the southernmost provinces – near Narathiwat – near the Malaysian border.

Dryophiops rubescens (Keel-bellied Whip Snake)

Also known as: Red Whip Snake, Brown Whip Snake, Keel bellied whip snake, keel bellied vine snake.

Length: As long as 1 meter (3+ feet)

Description: The head of this snake is browner than any other part of the body. Keep in mind there are red and brown varieties. The head is elongated and has a ridge between the eye and snout. Pupils are set horizontally. The body of the snake is slender – ideal for climbing through vines and light growth.

Dryophiops rubescens - Brown-Whip-Snake - Krabi, Thailand
Dryophiops rubescens – Brown Whip Snake. Rear fanged. Not dangerous to humans. Relatively rare.

The snake is measured in grams, not exceeding 300 grams for the largest of them. Scales on top of the body are smooth. The underside scales are keeled and are excellent for climbing. The whip snake I caught yesterday was able to climb up a smooth plastic water jug and grip it tightly. I was quite surprised. The head is brown, the neck and the first half of the body is silver/grey and mottled with some black and dark grey. The belly is pale yellow under the head and neck, and toward the tail gets a coloration very similar to the top – heavily mottled and darker brown moving posteriorly. These snakes are thinner than my smallest finger.

Range: Literature has this snake occurring only in Thailand’s deep south, but we have found half-a-dozen in various spots around Krabi province – so, obviously the range includes this province, probably as well as others.

Habitat: Trees and ground. I found a few on the ground and some in the trees. They are excellent climbers and love vines and light brush. I’ve also found them twice on 60 cm diameter trees, climbing slowly. Recently we found one hanging out in the curve of a guardrail on a mountain in Krabi.

Active Time? Diurnal, but possibly also nocturnal – they’ve been found on trees at night and appear to be hunting. Most of our finds were during daylight hours.

Food: Small geckos and frogs primarily. Possibly small insects.

Defensive Behavior: Accurate strikers! One of the ones we’ve had didn’t bite at all. One got me in the head twice before I even knew it struck. Another tagged my finger, striking quickly and very accurately. I bled slightly. No ill effects were noted.

Venom Toxicity: Weak for humans. Effective for geckos, lizards and frogs. These are rear-fanged colubrids and a prolonged bite could possibly cause swelling and pain at the bite site.

Offspring: Nothing known.

Notes: These are really beautiful snakes resembling the Ahaetulla prasina in body morphology and Gunther’s Whip Snake. Studied closely you’d be amazed at the pattern in the body of the snake. Both of ours were brown whip snakes (we are guessing – there are few photos in the lit), there are also red-colored species of this snake.

Scientific classification: Dryophiops rubescens

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Colubrinae
Genus: Dryophiops
Species: D. rubescens

(Classified by Grey, in the year 1835.)

Video – Brown Whip Snake from Southern Thailand:

Video of Another Keeled Whip Snake from Krabi Province in Thailand:

Page Updated: 12 February 2020

Vern

Snake posts by Vern Lovic. Amateur herpetologist roaming about Thailand on field herping tours and events to find king cobras, kraits, vipers, corals, keelbacks, and other snakes native to Thailand. FYI - Thailand has over 200 snake species. Here's our latest book with detailed information on Thailand's 35 Deadly Snakes. "Is That Snake In Your House Dangerous? Identify Deadly Thailand Snakes In Under 5 Minutes!" INFO HERE.

9 thoughts on “Brown Whip Snake – Dryophiops rubescens – Not Dangerous

  • May 1, 2011 at 6:06 pm
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    hi,i have many whipped snake in captivity myself,
    and i have the one u show one of the video,
    howevr these snake is not poisonous..
    and they move very fast…they will bites once threatened..
    but will not sore or pain,,some smalller whip will not even leave a tooth hole after the bites,
    nice work,like the way u show on video

    Reply
  • April 16, 2015 at 11:32 pm
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    Think I have one on my balcony on Koh Lanta/Krabi. Have pics if interested! :-)

    Reply
  • April 22, 2016 at 11:02 am
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    Is it possible that I found one yesterday in Samui?????

    Is there other snake with the exact same shape? Mine looks darker but it was on the night time, and moved very slowly… I didnt get the chance to see the tongue if it was red or not…

    Reply
    • April 24, 2016 at 2:06 pm
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      Hi Camille,

      Hmm, I think possible. We get them here in Krabi. They are not found in many places. I’d be a bit surprised to find them on Samui, but possible, yes. No photos, huh?

      Reply
  • October 9, 2017 at 2:36 pm
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    I’ve come across members of this snake family in Sumatra, found in groups up in the branches of small trees. When disturbed they dropped down in numbers on to the “beast” below. In this particular case that was me (!) and I hastily increased my walking pace ! …. still I won’t say I was “troubled” It was just an interesting experience. These snakes were not very big – only about a foot long, rather non-descript brownish grey colour, but with bright red tongues. For this reason they were called fire snakes (translated from Indonesian) l never discovered whether or not they were venomous and why they would victimise any “beast” far bigger than they could eat. I guess it is just a scare tactic to protect their territory, especially if nesting nearby – but I don’t think that reptiles normally look out for their young?

    I just corrected my email address . . . . cheers!

    Reply
    • October 14, 2017 at 1:08 pm
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      Hi Ron,

      I think they drop out of sheer fright. Bronzebacks do that occasionally too! Had it happen a few times. Always when I was walking right at them, or when my bright headlamp hit them. The wouldn’t be attacking!

      Reply
  • July 30, 2019 at 8:26 am
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    I have had a very thin snake in my kitchen and judging by the photos that I have seen on the internet. I believe that it could very well be a whip snake as it is no thicker than a pencil and about half a metre long. It did rear up for a moment then shot out under the door. It climbed a concrete fence for a few centimetres before disappearing behind a gap in the fence. I live in Buriram Thailand so am I correct in my assumption?

    Reply
    • August 1, 2019 at 11:00 am
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      What color Lyn? Are you saying it was the same colors as this brown whip snake?

      Reply

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