How Intelligent Are Snakes?

Do you wonder what a snake thinks about all day?

Have you ever thought about how your snake knows to do certain things?

If you are curious and want to learn more about your snake’s behaviors and just general snake information, you might start by asking:

How intelligent are snakes?

While there has been little testing done to test a snake’s intelligence, the small amount of testing shows snakes have a remarkable ability to learn and are excellent trackers, with some able to recognize boundaries of the territory they control in the wild. Some might label this as more instinctual than intelligent, yet another reason more testing is required.

The research into a snake’s intelligence has many gaps because it is challenging to test the animal.

Keep reading for more information on how intelligent snakes are. 

how intelligent are snakes

How Intelligent Are Snakes?

In the scientific community, reptiles have not been regarded as some of the most intelligent creatures on the planet.

And when you look at reptiles and no other animals, snakes aren’t anywhere near the top.

For a long time, snakes have been put at the bottom of the list when it comes to intelligence level.

They didn’t complete the same standard kinds of tests scientists were running on other animals.

Without the comparison, brain size was a marker for how smart these animals were.

And to be honest, the size of their brain isn’t something to brag about.

A snake has a smaller brain than many other animals, so scientists didn’t believe them to be very intelligent. 

In their already small brain, their frontal lobe is also on the small end.

This smaller brain means they don’t have the same ability to remember other animals have. 

What this means is no real long term memory. 

Ability To Learn

A lack of testing and a small brain didn’t give them much hope, but more recently, there has been some more work done by the scientific community on reptiles as a whole and, in turn, on snakes.

Scientists are starting to realize snakes have more smarts than they ever expected before. 

Some recent tests and other research conducted show snakes have a great ability to learn.

Additionally, experts see them as excellent trackers, and some know the boundaries of their territory.

The King Cobra is one such snake researchers believe to be pretty smart.

This species of snake is actually considered the world’s most intelligent snake.

The species’ males can establish and recognize land boundaries and defend their territory to the death if another male King Cobra comes on the scene. 

Other studies conducted in more recent years show snakes will use reasoning, logic, and problem-solving skills to hunt for their next meal.

Intelligence Or Instinct?

There is some debate regarding labeling these kinds of skills as intelligence or more as an instinct

Experts see snakes as instinctually driven creatures, with their needs being pretty simple.

They only seem to be concerned with eating, drinking, mating, and avoiding predators to stay alive. 

There is little to no attachment to other snakes, even their young.

So some argue their hunting skills are not a sign of intelligence, but more so a product of instinct, a deeply ingrained trait they are born with after generations of selective breeding. 

At the end of the day, a snake is probably not going to solve a complex equation, but they do use their brain.

So we can argue snakes have some level of intelligence, but it is not something we have enough research to understand at this point. 

More testing and research will need to be done to fill in the gaps left from a lengthy period of time, with little to no testing and research.

Scientists have been developing new research on snakes’ intelligence, and these animals are smarter than they initially thought. 

Why Is It Hard To Test A Snake’s Intelligence?

The scientific community hasn’t done many studies on a snake’s intelligence in the past.

One major reason for this is the inability to motivate the snake.

Most animals are motivated by food or positive reinforcement during intelligence tests, but this doesn’t quite work for the snake.

Snakes eat once a week and don’t require a whole lot of food.

Take, for example, a maze set up to test a mouse or rat.

A positive result for a mouse is making it to the end to get the food. 

Mistakes along the way often result in the mouse getting a small electric shock.

If the snake isn’t hungry, it won’t care about the food, and if it is hungry, you have one shot for the animal to run the maze.

Another problem is snakes want a cool place to curl up and don’t care to travel too far to find it if they don’t have to. 

They often stop once they find an adequately cool place, refusing to go any further in a maze.

Because they are harder to test, they are often labeled not so smart, but this means we haven’t found a test for them to compare to other animals.

This lack of testing means assumptions on their intelligence have been made based on their brain size.


Now you know why it’s hard to tell precisely how intelligent snakes are.

The studies surrounding snakes’ intelligence are few and far between, but some researchers have conducted show an animal with a certain level of smartness.

Whether you believe this is an instinctual thing or being intelligent is still up for debate, but since testing is a challenge, the debate continues. 

We hope you have a little more of an understanding of snakes’ intelligence after reading this post. 

If you enjoyed this article, check out our other one on how snakes communicate.

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