Can Snakes Cross A Rope? Debunking The Myth

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There’s an interesting rumor about snakes that won’t cross a rope. The reason behind it all was that cowboys would wrap their lassoos around themselves as they slept, saying that the barrier of rope prevented snakes from biting and crossing while you were asleep.

This story has many explanations, such as the fact that the snakes were misled into believing the rope was another, much bigger snake, or even the fact that horsehair ropes scare away snakes who are afraid of horses!

Is there any truth to the narrative, though? Can snakes traverse ropes? And what about horse hair ropes, or braided ropes? Yes, snakes will cross ropes, to provide the quick answer. As long as they have a compelling enough motive, nothing can stop them from doing it.

We’ll look at this myth today, including its deeply ingrained history, its offshoots (such braided rope and horse hair rope), the rationale behind why snakes can and will cross a rope, and the sensory anatomy of a snake. We’ll also examine a few techniques that will really discourage snakes.

Can Snakes Get Over a Rope?

The Story’s Beginnings

Cowboy myths say that if you tie a rope or lassoo around your bed at night, snakes won’t get to you. According to certain variations of the story, horsehair ropes or braided ropes are necessary to add to the rope’s rough texture and deter snakes from crossing. According to some stories, it’s rattlesnakes that are hesitant to cross.

One hypothesis about ropes made of horsehair is that snakes are scared of them because they equate the rope’s fragrance with horses. Since horses can crush a snake underfoot and are considerably bigger than snakes, people assumed that snakes would be afraid of horses.

There are others who still maintain the belief that snakes may mistake a rope for another snake. It seems sense that a snake would avoid a lassoo as it would symbolize a much larger and more dangerous foe.

Cowboys were often in danger from snakes, and it is well known that snakes are drawn to heat, whether it be from human body heat or the flames of a campfire. This belief is most likely the result of a deeply ingrained dread of snakes throughout human history—anything to keep the hope that you won’t get bitten while you sleep!

In many regions of the globe, snakes continue to pose a serious threat due to a lack of antivenom and accessible, well-run clinics. Thus, humans had to become used to coexisting with them. If you were worried that a snake couldn’t cross the rope, placing it down let you sleep better that night.

Does the Myth Have Any Basis in Truth?

No, the myth that says snakes won’t cross a rope is untrue. To put it briefly, snakes are used to traversing challenging and difficult terrain; for instance, they often encounter sand, grit, and cactus thorns under their skin! Consequently, their bellies wouldn’t have any issues with a rope, no matter how tough.

Additionally, a rope made of horsehair would not repel snakes due to its horse-like scent. It is quite improbable that they would associate a rancid horse rope with a possible instance of trampling! A horse that has been startled by a snake may try to stomp it, but a snake won’t avoid a rope that doesn’t vibrate in a way that resembles horse motions.

It’s also false that snakes perceive the rope to be another snake. Because snakes provide a genuine threat to other species as predators or because of the potential for dangerous bites, other animals may see items looking like snakes and avoid them like the plague. Snakes cannot, however, see well enough to identify prey or other snakes by sight. Their primary senses of hearing, taste, smell, and vibrations are how they identify their environment and other creatures. Some are even able to detect heat emanating from other creatures. All in all, a snake would disregard a rope and treat it the same as other inanimate items.

Additionally uninterested in humans, snakes are more inclined to avoid them. These reptiles see humans as predators, big creatures capable of killing snakes, rather than as prey. A snake would never knowingly approach you in the middle of the night and curl up on your bedroll!

The myth’s sole plausible explanation is that a snake would only cross a rope when absolutely necessary and for a compelling enough cause. There isn’t a good enough reason to cross the rope if there’s only a person laying there instead of any prospective prey items.

The Snake’s Perceptual Network

To further dispel the myth of the rope, we will go into further depth regarding how a snake locates prey and nearby creatures, as we touched on in our last post.


When compared to other creatures that hunt by sight, such birds and large cats, a snake’s vision is weak and underdeveloped. Since slithering around the ground reduces your ability to see your surroundings, snakes did not need to have superb long-range eyesight. Arboreal snakes are the lone exception, since they need improved eyesight to identify predators and prey from the tops of trees.


Snakes’ ears are well developed. Their internal ears pick up low frequency vibrations from the air, which aid in their accurate detection of moving things. They have hearing via their jaws as well! The quadrate bone of a snake, which joins the skull to the lower jaw, receives vibrations sent through the earth. These are transferred to the inner ear via the columella, or middle ear bone. Amazing!

This reduces the likelihood that a snake may approach you when you’re spending the night outside sleeping under the stars since it will often hear you before you see it!

Taste and Smell

Snakes are renowned for using their tongues for tasting and smelling, using their olfactory system to detect stimuli. The tongues have evolved specifically to pick up fragrance particles that are circling in the atmosphere. These are moved to the organ located on the roof of a snake’s mouth, known as the vomeronasal organ (also called Jacobson’s organ). This puts snakes at the very top of the chemosensory methods hierarchy!

Similar to how snakes hear, you’ll probably be detected long before you see one. Since human scent is not connected to prey, the snake is unlikely to explore. A rope, particularly one composed of horse hair, would likewise be detectable to a snake’s scent. Once again, however, it is unlikely to look into this.


A snake’s body is covered with tactile receptiors, which give it extreme sensitivity to changes in its surroundings. This allows them to respond to movements in their environment very quickly, activating internal muscle activity and enabling them to either seize prey or flee from danger.

Warm-Up Devices

The capacity to detect the heat of other living things is a remarkable additional sense possessed by certain, but not all, snake species. They are able to detect variations in the infrared light that other creatures release. The two families of snakes that exhibit this adaptation the most are pit vipers (family Crotalidae) and boids (pythons and boas).

Heat pits arranged in rows are found inside the supralabial pits (found on the upper jaw) and/or infralabial pits (found on the lower jaw) of species with this capacity. Heat pits are susceptible to variations in the ambient temperature in their immediate surroundings, which may arise from a tiny mouse sneaking by.

This is a skill that nocturnal predators—species that hunt at night—find especially useful. The majority of snake species that you are most likely to encounter while sleeping outside at night are nocturnal ones. Whether or not there was a rope in the way, a snake would be more likely to flee in the other direction than try to approach it if it sensed the temperature fluctuations caused by a sleeping person!

Are There Any Obstacles For Snakes To Cross?

Inanimate items do not terrify snakes. A snake will not hesitate to pass over anything if it is not causing vibrations. Is there anything, then, that will discourage snakes?

Repellent and fences are the two things that snakes are most likely to avoid crossing. These are made expressly to repel snakes and keep them off of places owned by people.

Repellent for Snakes

The finest repellents for snakes are the ones that don’t hurt kids, pets, or other wild creatures. There are many different products available on the market, such as liquids, powders, and granules that repel snakes. This may not be the best choice if you want to sleep beneath the stars in a rustic manner. Taking a whole container of snake repellant into the woods is not very practical! Given that snakes detest the scent of ammonia, some advise using a cloth soaked with ammonia. In case you’re searching for a garden remedy, using snake repellent could be a wise choice. (Warning: according to some experts, these products are ineffective. It’s best to do extensive research!

Fences with Snakes

This product reminds me of a fence made of snakes, therefore maybe it should have a different name! The purpose of snake fences is to prevent snakes from entering people’s properties. Usually, wire mesh or even hardware cloth is used to make them. Once again, they work well to prevent snakes from entering your yard or from getting near your hens, but not always while you’re camping.

Keep Snakes Away While You’re Sleeping Under the Stars

You now understand that using rope alone won’t be enough to keep snakes away from your campground! Other than having faith that snakes won’t approach you, there are no foolproof methods to totally keep them at bay. To be cautious, however, there are a few easy actions you can take:

Select a spot free of snakes; stay away from rough terrain, dense vegetation, and places that are close to water sources.
Stay in short grass since snakes stay away from these locations.
Pick a location with good lighting so you can notice any snakes nearby and stay away from them at night.
Starting a fire (if allowed by local laws). But, stay away from utilizing firewood that has been left out in a stack—it can be a snake’s home!
Maintain a tidy campsite by picking up dropped food, taking away garbage outside your tent, and avoiding leaving food containers laying about.
Make sure there are no holes in your tent, zip up all of your belongings securely, shake out your sleeping bag before going to bed, and shake out your boots before putting them on. Regularly check your campsite.

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