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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 6

Hoplocephalus Variegatus. D. and B. — Broad-Headed Snake

Hoplocephalus Variegatus. D. and B.

Broad-Headed Snake.

Body and tail moderate; head flat, broad behind, very distinct from neck, obtuse in front; eye moderate, pupil sub-elliptical; vertical shield rather small, six sided, frontals of nearly equal size, large posterior ones rounded behind; occipitals regular, rather broad, forked; large lower temporal shield wedged between fifth and sixth lower labial; 6 lower labials, the last of which is the largest; one large pre-ocular in conjunction with nasal; anterior, frontal and second upper labial replacing the loreal.

Above black, irregularly spotted with yellow (white inspirits), forming a series of broad black blotches upon the back.

Beneath shining greyish black, each ventral plate with a large yellow spot on each side; first and second row of scales yellow, with here and there a black one intermixed; all the light scales more or less shaded towards the point.

We know little or nothing as regards the geographical distribution of this reptile; the few specimens in European collections were obtained by Mons. Verreaux, near Sydney, and so rare has this snake always been that up to 1858 no specimen of page 52 it was to be found in the British Museum. Since then I have been able to collect several hundreds of these snakes, which are strictly nocturnal in their habits, and seldom if ever observed during the day time. They may be procured from under stones in sunny localities during the cold season, and all the stony ridges around Sydney have harboured them in large numbers. At the present time they begin to become scarce, many of their favourite haunts being invaded by the gardener or the builder.

The bite of this snake is not sufficiently strong to endanger the life of man. I have been wounded by it several times, and experienced no bad symptoms beyond a slight headache; the spot where the fang entered turning blue to about the size of a shilling, for a few days.

Cats, dogs, and goats have been frequently experimented upon without any fatal result.

In January or February the female produces from 15 to 20 young ones, which, though only a few inches long, will show fight if one attempts to lift them; the adults always look formidable if attacked.

The snake which Schlegel describes as Naja bungaroides Abbildungen, Tab. 48, fig. 17 and 18, is nothing but a variety of the present species. The Australian Museum is in possession of a specimen from the Hastings, which is banded instead of having the irregular blotches of H. variegatus.