Lycodonomorphus rufulus (Common brown water snake)

Bruinwaterslang [Afrikaans]; Ivuzamanzi elimdubu [Zulu]; Izilenzi [Xhosa]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Lepidosauromorpha > Lepidosauria > Squamata > Serpentes (snakes) > Family: Colubridae > Subfamily: Boodontinae > Genus: Lycodonomorphus

Lycodonomorphus rufulus (Common brown water snake), Western Cape, South Africa. [T. Phelps , from SARCA Virtual Museum]

Lycodonomorphus rufulus (Common brown water snake), Western Cape, South Africa. [J. Els , from SARCA Virtual Museum]

Lycodonomorphus rufulus (Common brown water snake), Mpumalanga, South Africa. [M. Adams , from SARCA Virtual Museum]


The Brown water snake can be identified by its uniform olive or light brown colouration, the pink or mother of pearl coloured underside, its good swimming ability and vertical pupils. It grows to an average length of 60 cm but may reach 85 cm.

Distribution and habitat

The distribution of this snake includes the entire western coast line and the north eastern half of South Africa and central Zimbabwe. Their preferred habitat includes rivers and vleis in moist savanna and lowland forest.  


Eats frogs, tadpoles, small fish and rodents (e.g. rats and mice).

Common brown water snake next to a river in the Western Cape, constricting a frog it had caught. After swallowing the frog, it disappeared down a hole. [K. Marais , from SARCA Virtual Museum]

Predators, parasites and disease

Eaten by monitor lizards, birds of prey (e.g. snake eagles), other snakes and spiders.


Oviparous (egg-laying), lays between 6 and 23 eggs in mid summer.


Likely to have an average lifespan of 10 years.

Medical importance

Non-venomous and not dangerous to man and not likely to bite, however in the Zulu culture it is regarded as extremely dangerous.



  • Broadley, D.G. 1983. FitzSimons' Snakes of Southern Africa. Delta Books, Johannesburg.

  • Marais, J. 2004. A Complete Guide to Snakes of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.


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