For a snake that has no poison - - not even enough to kill the toads and frogs upon which it feeds - - the Hog-nosed Snake can look as fierce as the most deadly of African vipers. He depends upon this ferocious appearance to protect himself when he faces danger. And quite often he finds himself in a precarious position. He spreads himself out on sandy areas or in plowed fields to enjoy the sun, and when discovered there, his thick, slow-moving body cannot get him into shelter.
Thus trapped, he tries to out-bluff his enemy. He takes in a deep breath and flattens his head and neck. This makes the colors on his neck stand out vividly and is calculated, so far as he is concerned, to impress the approaching enemy. His head swells to enormous proportions and assumes a fearsome appearance. Then, with a ferocious hissing, he lets out the breath, striking repeatedly at whatever is annoying him. But even the striking is a bluff, because he only “strikes at” and will not bite anything during these demonstrations. All he is trying to do is to look frightening enough to scare away his enemy.
If this first bluff does not succeed, the Hog-nose has another tactic. Suddenly his mouth flies open, he seems to be injured and to lose his strength. He is seized by convulsions; irregular undulations contort his body ending with a spasmodic wiggling of his tail; he turns over on his back and dies!!
Drag him around by his tail - - he still looks dead. Hang him from the fence – he dangles limply, swaying with each passing breeze. Tie him in a k now and throw him beside the road - - he is as limp and lifeless as before. But don’t turn him over on his stomach, or this tactic will also be exposed as a bluff. Quick as a flash, he will roll himself back on to his back and again lie “dead.” Apparently, to the Hog-nose, no snake looks dead unless he is lying on his back, and lie on his back he will, no matter how many times he is flipped over.
Lest one of the MIDNATS attempt this “snake-flipping” with another, less innocent, species of snake, the Hog-nosed Snake looks like no other snake. His nose ends in a shovel-like snout which is distinctive.