Urban Legends: The Biggest Rattlesnake in Texas

Biggest Rattlesnake in Texas
Viral image, origin unknown

Circulating via forwarded email since 2005, there is a viral image of what appears to be a giant rattlesnake killed in Texas. Allegedly measuring 9 feet, 1 inch in length and weighing 97 pounds, this is one mammoth rattlesnake! However, the authenticity of this image is suspect, for rattlesnakes are not known to grow to such proportions. This analysis of the image and available facts attempts to shed some light on the veracity of these claims

Example of the Email Message

Fw: "BIG" Texas Rattle Snake
Next time you're out in the tall grass, remember this one. This snake was recently found at the J & S Quik Mart located just south of RR 3014 Turnoff on Highway 281 south of Tow, Texas. [That's just west of Burnett, Texas]
9 feet, 1 inch; 97 lbs.
A reminder that these creatures are actually out there and no matter what you believe, sometimes they should get not only prescriptive rights to be there, but the full right of way.
And here's how to cook 'em...
1 medium-sized rattlesnake (3-4 lbs.), cut into steaks
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup cracker crumbs
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
Mix dry ingredients. Whisk milk into beaten egg and use to dip snake steaks. Then coat them with dry ingredients. Fry, uncovered, in 400 degree oil until brown.


Probably—no, surely—a bit of a tall tale. Another version of this same message claims the photo above was taken near Fritch, Texas. Yet another version, making the rounds since 2006, says it was taken near Devil's Lake, North Dakota. Let's face it: It's a forwarded email. People make this stuff up as they go.

The reptile in question appears to be a western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox), which is native to Texas (but not North Dakota) and is popularly known as the "Texas rattler." It's venomous and dangerous. You wouldn't want to try to pick one of these up unless it's dead.

Camera Perspective

The image itself doesn't appear to have been manipulated, but perspective plays a giant role in the apparent size of the snake. Note how the specimen is being dangled on the edge of a rod. Note how much closer the snake is to the camera lens than the human subject, this causes its relative size to be exaggerated. Either that or the human in the photo is a smaller than average man—perhaps it's both.

A normal snake of this type is usually around 4 feet long. Though the largest specimens of the western diamondback can grow to 6 or 7 feet in length, the size of this one has obviously been exaggerated at "9 feet, 1 inch." (If true, it would have been the largest western diamondback rattlesnake ever documented.) Texas is full of giant snake stories.

Rattlesnake Cuisine

As to the recipe, I haven't tried it, but it looks to be a pretty good one. People do cook and eat rattlesnakes in some places. Usually, the meat is floured or battered and deep-fried, as in the recipe above, but you can also bake it with rosemary and mushrooms if you prefer.

The main thing to remember if you're cooking rattlesnake is to skin the dang thing first. Otherwise, you're likely to break a tooth.


Animal Fact Sheet: Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Snake Photo Likely Trick Photography
The Courier, 26 February 2013

About That Giant Dead Rattlesnake Email You Got...
Living Alongside Wildlife, 21 July 2009