How Do Snakes Fight?

Ever wonder how an animal without arms and legs can fight?

What happens to the loser of a snake battle?

Fighting is often a necessary part of life. 

Most animals compete with one another and establish dominance in different ways. 

This may you leave you wondering:

How do snakes fight?

Snakes fight by rising into the air, intertwining, and wrestling each other to the ground. Fights are generally not deadly, except when they involve one snake eating another.

Check more details on snake battles. 

how do snakes fight

Reasons For Fighting

Most commonly, two animals will fight each other because there is something each of them wants. 

Sometimes it’s about territory, other times it’s about food, and a lot of times it’s about a mate.

Snakes’ reasons for fighting are nuanced and actual fights are rare. 

Snakes generally don’t claim territory for themselves.

Male snakes are quite social and frequently cross paths without conflict, so conditions have to be right for a fight even to occur.

How Do Snakes Fight Over Mates?

The main reason why snakes fight is to secure a mate. 

Fights are always between two males, and there is frequently a female snake somewhere in the area as they battle. 

The “Dance”

People witnessing snake fights often confuse them with mating rituals because battling snakes look like they’re dancing. 

It’s an understandable mistake to make since a lot of animal fights are lethal.

Snakes aren’t as ruthless as many other animals when fighting; they’re more about intimidation than injuring or killing one another.

This nonlethal form of fighting is called rutting, where a snake displays dominance but doesn’t harm the other snake.

Even venomous snakes are generally nonviolent – they aren’t immune to their poison, but they don’t use it against each other. 

Nonvenomous snakes may bite each other, but they generally don’t do too much damage.

The “dance” begins when both snakes raise one- to two-thirds of their bodies off the ground, practically “standing up.”

Sometimes this is called a vertical combat pose.

They’ll face each other a few inches apart, then sway back and forth as they maintain eye contact – almost like they’re having a staring contest. 

Then they’ll start thrusting their heads and necks at one another.

Eventually, they’ll intertwine and slam each other to the ground.

This process will repeat until a winner is declared – usually when one snake decides he’s had enough and leaves the area.

Check out this video of two black mambas engaged in precisely this behavior. 

Will Snakes Ever Fight Over Territory?

Certain species of snakes will fight each other when a female isn’t present. 

Instead, their battle decides who can stay in an area with excellent potential for finding a mate.

A winner of the fight is declared when one snake wrestles the other to the ground. 

He either earns the right to mate with the female waiting in the wings or wins the prime real estate where he can later search for a partner.

The loser must retreat. 

He survives, and he’s free to work his magic on another female somewhere else.

Sometimes, an old, cranky snake will chase away a young, overzealous whippersnapper through intimidation alone, eliminating the need for any fight at all.

Food Fight!

The rules of the game change drastically when the focus of the conflict is food. 

Because when snakes fight over a meal, one of them is the meal. 

When the loser of the battle gets eaten, it’s literally a matter of life and death.

Biting And Constricting

A staple of many snakes’ diets is smaller snakes. 

When a snake is hunting another, all bets are off. 

Biting, constricting – whatever tactics the predator uses when hunting, they’ll use them during the battle, and the prey may retaliate with equally lethal defenses.

The king cobra, a venomous snake, almost exclusively eats other snakes. 

In other circumstances of battle, venomous snakes wouldn’t dream of poisoning each other. 

But in a hunt for food, these snakes will attempt to bite each other with deadly results. 

The kingsnake is one of the more well-known constrictors whose diet consists of other snake species. 

It’s appropriately named because it’s known for never losing a fight. 

This constrictor will suffocate and eat other constrictors, even when they’re the same size or up to 20% larger! 

Cannibalism

Scientists previously believed snakes only ate other snakes outside of their own species. 

But new studies have shown cannibalism to be much more common than previously imagined, especially in cobras.

Cobra males will regularly eat other cobra males after fighting. 

The jury is still out on females; not much research has been done on them yet.

Eating another snake of the same species could happen for opportunistic reasons, such as when food is scarce, or a predator happens to come across a smaller, yummy snake.

It could also be a display of dominance in a fight over a mate. 

Or, it may be just another normal meal.

More research needs to be done before we can know their true motivations.

What Effect Do Snake Fights Have?

Snakes fight because there is natural competition in their ecosystem. 

Without this competition, the environment might look very different.

Dominating snakes control the population density of snakes in a certain area. 

Small snakes might avoid hunting in a particular location because they’ve witnessed a larger snake hunting nearby, for example.

Stronger snakes get more opportunities to mate. 

This ultimately means stronger traits pass down to the next generation of snakes. 

Stronger snakes survive longer. 

Predators don’t eat them and they can survive more threatening circumstances. 

Conclusion

Snakes fight either in a no-holds-barred battle for life with biting, venom, and constriction.

Or it’s a simple wrestle for mating privileges. 

Across-species snake fights are usually are by a predator hunting its prey. 

Under these circumstances, all bets are off, and battles between snakes are lethal and vicious.

But snakes, being the curiously social creatures they are, generally do not fight each other inside the same species. 

When they do, it usually doesn’t lead to bloodshed. 

Instead, it’s a dance-like, respectful display of strength, ending when one snake concedes the battle and departs.

Winner and loser both live to see another day.

If you enjoyed this article check out how snakes show affection.