South American Bushmaster

Lachesis muta muta

Silent Fate

The bushmaster's scientific name, Lachesis muta, means "silent fate". Lachesis was one of the three Greek Fates, responsible for determining the length of thread spun for a person's life. Muta comes from the snake's ability to shake its tail like a rattlesnake, but without the noisy rattle. With this name and the potentially deadly venom of the bushmaster, they are feared in their native range of South America.

About the Species

The bushmaster is one of the longest venomous snakes in the world, with some reaching 12 feet.

The bushmaster's body is typically colored a yellowish, reddish or grey-brown color with dark brown or black patches that form triangles along its back. The head of the South American bushmaster is broad, distinct from its more cylindrical neck and rest of body. Around the dark triangles along its body is a row of scales, usually lighter in color, providing a sharp contrast between the black/brown triangles of its back and brown, yellowish color of the rest of its body. The venom of a bushmaster attacks the circulatory system. Due in part to their large size, the bushmaster also produces a large quantity of venom. While they are still a very dangerous species, some of their reputation may be over-hyped. Bushmasters are extremely elusive, sit-and-wait predators. They may remain in one location for days waiting for prey to cross their path.

Words From the Experts


The largest pit viper in the world, this snake is also a bit of an oddball, as it lays eggs. Most pit vipers give birth to live young.


Did You Know?

The bushmaster's tail ends with a thorny spine which it sometimes vibrates when disturbed in a similar manner to rattlesnakes. This led to some calling it "the mute rattlesnake"



Home range in Central and South America including the island of Trinidad


Native habitat is within the tropical forests, adjacent fields and cleared areas


Adults vary in length from 2 to 2.5 m


Diet consists of rodents, birds, amphibians and insects.


Due to the large size of the bushmaster adults, they have virtually no natural predators

Natural Defenses

Toxic venom allows the bushmaster to quickly kill its prey.


The bushmaster is an oviparous species, which means egg-laying. Each cluth is 8-16 eggs.


Not Listed

Life Expectancy

Unknown in the wild. In human care about 12-18 years

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