Are Horses Afraid of Snakes? No. Now Find Out Why

For humans, the sight of a crawling snake is a frightful scene as we know the danger of its venomous bite. We are aware that it can hurt us or worst, even kill us.

It is no different for horses. Snake bites can, certainly, endanger their lives. But are they as afraid of these serpents as much as humans and other creatures are?

Can horses get immune to the venomous bites eventually? What should be done if a horse is bitten by a snake and what are the ways to prevent that unfortunate incident from happening?

Are Horses Afraid Of Snakes?

Generally, horses are not afraid of snakes; rather, they just get easily apprehensive with peculiar movements that these slithery creatures make.

Horse breeders and owners can agree that their equines are commonly very curious creatures.

Horses are inquisitive by nature. Since the day they are born, they are highly interested in the things around them. From their younger days up to their mature years, they are always and will be wanting to learn and experience new things.

They possess a curious attitude despite being prey animals. As prey, they are likely to meet dangerous confrontations with predators but it did not stop them from exploring.

However, they can get easily nervous with unfamiliar movements which is simply a part of them being prey animals.

Snakes are one of the shuffling creatures that commonly startle horses.

Horses are not afraid of them literally, but just get alarmed with the quick movements that they are not accustomed to.

Basically, horses are not fully aware that snakes are venomous and can endanger their lives. This is the case if they haven’t been bitten before or are not trained to be cautious and avoid snakes.

Horses do not see snakes as predators so they will care less about seeing one.

If a snake is not moving and just stays still in its position, a horse will not get agitated as it has no instinctive fear of this reptile.

However, sudden movement of snakes will stimulate the flight response of horses; that is why many will think that the hoofed animals are afraid of snakes.

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Do Horses Hate Snake?

Horses do not hate snakes, rather just their abrupt appearance and movements.

Just like being not afraid, snakes do not hate snakes in general.

In fact, several horses have been bitten on the end of their noses because they put down their head on the ground out of curiosity when they hear funny sounds that some snakes are making, just like rattlesnakes.

Snakes are good at hiding; they camouflage with nature.

Snakes and horses can share a similar environment at the same time if snakes will not stay quietly in their spaces. Horses will not mind seeing them and will not think of them as a danger.

Horses will not mind seeing them and will not think of them as a danger.

However, there are unfortunate incidents when horses killed snakes by stomping on them.

These typically happen when a horse gets surprised and feel threatened when a snake quickly slides under it and through its legs.

Can A Snake Bite Kill A Horse?

Yes. A snake bite can kill a horse due to its venom that can cause asphyxiation, infection, and other related diseases.

The venom of a snake is known to be deadly not just for animals, rather for humans as well.

You can typically encounter those slithering serpents during the spring and summer seasons.

Warm weather means snakes are most likely to go out of their hideouts and possibly encounter one of your horses on the farm.

Both you and your horses should always be on guard if ever you might come across these poisonous snakes.

However, it is important to note that not all snakes have deadly venoms in their bites.

In the United States, there are just four kinds of poisonous snakes that pose a fatal threat especially to small animals like dogs and young horses or foals. These snakes are the copperheads, coral snakes, water moccasins, and rattlesnakes.

The components of venom differ based on the kinds of snakes. Some substances crack up blood vessels, weaken blood clotting, paralyze the body, and can even damage the heart.

The size, age, and health condition of the horse, likewise the location of the injury impact the severity of the bite.

Snakes that are less venomous such as coral snakes can typically harm or kill young foals.

Snakes have commonly bitten faces and muzzles of horses, especially the young foals that get too curious about what is happening on the ground. Horses are also grazing on grasses where snakes would usually crawl and hide.

Severe snake bites can be usually seen on horses’ legs. This happens when a horse steps on the snake’s body which causes it to release all its poison on its last bite before it dies.

When your adult horse gets bitten by a snake, your Veterinarian’s major concern shall be asphyxiation because of the swelling. The venom usually results from a swollen face and difficulty in breathing that can lead to suffocation and death. Also, the bite can be infected and possible secondary illnesses can happen.

Are Horses Immune To Snake Venom?

No. Horses are not immune to snake venom; however, they are less vulnerable as they can develop a strong immunity to a snake bite over time.

Just like other animals, horses can be harmed due to snake venom.

They can experience simple swelling or even sudden death once a deadly serpent bites them.

The snake’s size, type, current diet, and the number of bites all contribute to the severity of the injury. Bites that only little venom is injected into are called “dry bites”. Some snakes release a large amount of venom when they get stepped into their body.

Those dangerous species of snakes that release large doses of venom can cause an equine to experience coagulopathy, shock, internal bleeding, cardiac arrhythmias, paralysis, and even death.

When a horse is bitten on the face, suffocation is the very first concern as its nasal will swell massively, probably leading to suffocation.

If the snake bite is on the legs, horses can damage their tissues due to bone infection if the bite is not attended to immediately.

Complications can still arise even if a horse has already recovered from a deadly snake bite. After a few weeks or even months, cardiac failure and kidney problems are some of the potential complexities that can happen.

Typically, the bite of snakes can only kill a young foal, not an adult horse, especially with dry bites.

For mature horses, a veterinarian will commonly worry about asphyxiation because of the swelling. The venom will not be the main cause of anxiety for your vet as adult horses can develop a strong immune system against poisonous snake bites.

You might be amazed to know that horses are actually playing an integral part in the antivenom industry.

Surprisingly, they possess a hyper-immunity towards snake bites.

Horses are one of the traditional animals used to develop antibodies. They are one of the top choices since they can easily adapt and survive in different settings around the world, they are sociable animals, and have a massive body size.

They are used to humans as well which makes them cooperative during the injection procedure. When equines are already hyper-immune to the bite of snakes after the process, they are being bled twice a year.

Dos And Don’ts When A Horse Is Bitten By A Snake

As a horse breeder and owner, you should be well-informed of the measures that you must do in case a snake suddenly bites your horse.

The very first thing that you must do is to maintain your calmness and presence of mind.

It is very understandable for you to panic a little as you think of your horse’s safety. But, too much nerve will only do no good for your injured horse. 

You must contact your veterinarians quickly. While waiting for them to reach you and personally aid your horse, they will tell you some emergency aid that you can do in the meantime.

Try locating where the bite is specifically and do not attempt riding on your horse way back to the stable as it can cause more injury.

As for the things that you must not do, you should not try to trap, catch or kill the snake. You will be only wasting time; it might even bite you as well. Instead, focus on helping your horse.

Do not also try to suck out the venom from the bite. This will not work and you will just endanger your life.

Do not also use a tourniquet to the injured area; likewise, never apply heat as it will only speed up spreading the poison.

How To Prevent Snake Bites

To protect your horses from the venomous bites of snakes, you should be more cautious and do extra measures.

First, you should avoid riding on your horse at night as you cannot easily see a snake in the dark.

You should also remove lushes of foliage, debris, branches of trees, logs, and cut off tall grasses outside the stable as these are potential hiding spots for snakes.

You can also put some mothballs in some dark areas or holes in the stables as snakes do not like the smell of these.

If you are in a place where snakes are commonly seen, you can put some leg wraps to the legs of your horse to protect them from snake bites.

You should always have a first aid kit and know how to observe the vital signs of your equines.

References:

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Gaskill, C., & DVM. (2013, July 16). Snakes and horses, a bad combination. Stable Management. https://stablemanagement.com/articles/snakes-and-horses-a-bad-combination

Herbert, B. (2016, December 19). Horses provide life-saving snake antivenom for pets. ABC Rural News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2016-12-19/snake-antivenom-thanks-to-former-racehorses/8

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Puiu, T. (2021, February 1). Antivenom: How it’s made and why it’s so precious. ZME Science. https://www.zmescience.com/ecology/animals-ecology/antivenom-made-precious/

San Diego Union Tribune. (2012, April 5). Manes and trails: Rattlesnakes and your horses. Retrieved from https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/ramona-sentinel/sdrs-manes-and-trails-rattlesnakes-and-your-horses-2012apr05-story.html

University of Florida. (2021). What to do if a snake bites your horse. Large Animal Hospital. Retrieved from https://largeanimal.vethospitals.ufl.edu/resources/what-to-do-if-a-snake-bites-your-horse/