Heterodon Species

Within the Heterodon genus there are currently 3 described North American hognose species, and 1 whose status is highly debated:

Eastern hognose (Heterodon platirhinos)

H. platirhinos can be found around the eastern half of the US and in some parts of southern Canada. They prefer sandy, well-drained soil, but can be found in pine and deciduous forests, prairies, meadows, and pastures. They are the largest member of Heterodon, with males measuring between 28-46” (71-117 cm). Females grow even larger. They are considered a species of Least Concern by the IUCN Red List.

Eastern hognose are also the most colorful of the three Heterodon species. Depending on the locality, they come in red, orange, yellow, brown, black, and even green. The underside of an Eastern hognose’s tail is lighter than its belly, and the snake’s pattern tends to feature darker spots and blotches against a lighter background; however some are so dark that they’re almost patternless. Unlike the other two species, Eastern hognose also have a flat nose scale rather than curved.

Eastern hognoses are almost exclusive toad eaters in the wild. For this reason they can be tricky to feed as pets, so we recommend them for Intermediate reptile keepers.

Current weather in eastern hognose habitat — Washington D.C., USA:

Eastern hognose snake, Heterodon platirhinos

Photo contributed by Lorenzo de Roo.
Heterodon species: Eastern hognose (Heterodon platyrhinos)

Photo contributed by Jason Taylor.

Western hognose (Heterodon nasicus)

H. nasicus is the most popular member of Heterodon in captivity. They can generally be found from southern Canada to northern Mexico, and in the United States they are found between Illinois on the east and Colorado/Wyoming on the west (Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada, Wright and Wright, 1957). They prefer shortgrass prairie, dry rocklands, and coastal inland areas with sandy soil.

Wild western hognoses are fairly uniform in appearance, although there are many color and pattern variations (morphs) available in captivity. Normal types are sandy colored with darker brown round or oblong markings, occasionally reddish. Their belly is black, sometimes with yellow or white spots. The nose scale is curved. Males measure 17-24” (45-60 cm) at adulthood, and females measure up to 35” (89 cm).

Although western hognoses have a similar defensive display to other Heterodon species, it is said to be not nearly as well developed or pronounced in H. nasicus.

Western hognoses have a very diverse diet in the wild, and are well suited to Beginner reptile keepers.

Current weather in western hognose habitat — Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA:

Heterodon species — western hognose, Heterodon nasicus
Photo contributed by Jason Taylor.

Mexican hognose (Heterodon kennerlyi or Heterodon nasicus kennerlyi)

The Mexican hognose is native to the extreme southwest of the United States and throughout northern and north-central Mexico. It tends to prefer fairly open semidesert grassland, desertscrub, and grassland habitats with with loose, well-drained, sandy or gravelly soil.

The Mexican hognose often bears a strong resemblance to the western hognose. It can be distinguished by reddish- or orangish-brown coloration and blurry-looking dorsal blotches that morph into stripes along the tail. The belly is marked with a light orange and black checkered pattern, and often solid black under the tail. They tend to measure no longer than 30″ (76cm) on average.

Sources disagree as to whether the Mexican hognose is its own species or a subspecies of H. nasicus, so until we hear something definitive from genetic testing, ReptiFiles takes a neutral stance on the classification.

Current weather in Mexican hognose habitat — Monterrey, Mexico:

Southern hognose (Heterodon simus)

H. simus is the hardest to find in captivity, although there are a few isolated breeders in the US. They are native to parts of the southern US, with populations in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. They prefer sandhill, rand ridge, pine flatwood, and coastal dune habitats with sandy soil. Populations of H. simus are declining, so they are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Southern hognose are gray, tan, or reddish in color with series of dark brown blotches down the center of the back, with alternating smaller blotches along the sides. The underside of the tail is the same color as the belly. Southern hognose are the smallest Heterodon species, with males measuring between 14-20” (35-50 cm) and females measuring up to 24” (61 cm).

Southern hognose are also almost exclusive toad-eaters, so they are better suited to Intermediate reptile keepers.

Current weather in southern hognose habitat — Gainesville, Florida, USA:

Heterodon Species — H. simus, Southern hognose snake
By Glenn Bartolotti (Project Simus Florida) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Keep reading:

  1. Introduction to Hognose Snakes
  2. Hognose Shopping List
  3. Species of the Heterodon Genus (YOU ARE HERE)
  4. Terrarium Size Guidelines
  5. Temperature & Humidity Requirements
  6. Substrate Options for Hognose Snakes
  7. Environmental Enrichment: Decorating the Terrarium
  8. Feeding Your Hognose Snake
  9. Handling Tips & Body Language Info
  10. Common Diseases & Hognose Health Questions
  11. Additional Resources