Bitis caudalis (Horned adder or Side winding adder)

Horingadder, Horingsman [Afrikaans]; inDlondlo [Ndebele]; Shaushawane, sheushewane [Tswana]; Tshitemahe [Venda].

 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: Viperidae > Genus: Bitis

Bitis caudalis (Horned adder or Side winding adder), Northern Cape  (I. Scammel from SARCA Virtual Museum]

 Bitis caudalis (Horned adder or Side winding adder),  Northern Cape [Le Roux & Wolfhaardt from SARCA Virtual Museum]


Can be easily identified by three rows of spots down the length of its body, an hourglass marking on the head, a single horn above each eye and its habit of concealing its body in loose sand. It grows to an average length of 40 cm but may reach 60 cm.

Distribution and habitat

The Horned adder is found in the following areas; the Northern Cape, the eastern part of the Western Cape, the North West province, northern Limpopo, parts of Zimbabwe, Botswana and most of Namibia. Its favoured habitats include the Namib desert, Karoo scrub and arid savanna.


Feeds on lizards (e.g. geckos and skinks), small rodents (e.g. rats and mice), birds and frogs.

Predators, parasites and disease

This adder species is fed on by birds of prey (including secretary birds and snake eagles) and other snakes. It is also threatened by humans who remove it from its natural habitat.


Viviparous (gives birth to live young; three to eight young are born in summer or early autumn.


Can live for ten years or more.

Medical importance

Has dangerous cytotoxic venom which although non-lethal can cause tissue damage. Antivenom is not available and would be unnecessary even if it were.



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

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


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