Animals In Appalachia Appalachia

Black Racers and Hoop Snakes

King Snake in Appalachia

Last weekend Miss Cindy came over to visit, as she was leaving she found a snake on our front porch. We all ran out to see it and by then it had wedged itself between the stair runner and the wall. I said I bet it’s after the baby birds. The Deer Hunter said it’s just a King Snake leave it alone. Miss Cindy went on her way and we all went back the house.

A few hours later Chitter discovered the snake was indeed after the baby birds. A few sprays from the water hose sent the snake off the porch into the yard and over the bank.

I couldn’t resist telling the girls “You better watch out it might be a hoop snake or a black racer.”

As long as I can remember I’ve heard stories about hoop snakes and black racers.

The gist of the hoop snake stories: a black snake loops itself into a hoop and then goes rolling after whoever disturbed it. Some versions claim hoop snakes have stingers on their tails to sting you.

The gist of black racer stories: a black snake races or chases you once its disturbed. Every time I think about a black racer I see a field of tall lush green grass with a jet black snake slithering through it at break neck speed. (break neck speed: is that a phrase you ever use?)

Along with hoop snakes and black racers, Appalachia also has stories about joint snakes. Although the stories aren’t as common, the gist behind them is a joint snake can break itself into pieces and then put itself back together again. I guess the breaking of joints is a defense mechanism of sorts.

Tipper

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33 Comments

  • Reply
    Margie
    August 4, 2018 at 12:48 am

    It makes me sad that so many people hate and fear snakes. They are awesome creatures. I’ve loved and been fascinated by them since I was four, when my older brother’s friendly pet snakes tickled my nose with their tongues as I held them and they wrapped themselves around my hand and arm. There are only a very few here that are poisonous. Learn to recognize them, respect them, and avoid cornering or stepping on them. You don’t have to kill snakes. Watch where you put your feet and leave them alone (except please do run them away from baby birds). I’ve heard those snake stories, too. They’re interesting, but on a par with the one about cats sucking the breath out of babies.

  • Reply
    libby rouse
    August 3, 2018 at 10:48 pm

    Oh does this bring back memories of hoop snakes,joint snakes and black snakes chasing people! My beloved Grandma told me all these snake tales, and I believed! I guess I still believe for my own personal self, as I am terrified of snakes, even though I know it is no truth in what I grew up believing. But my Grandma acted like she really believed this too!

  • Reply
    Shelia
    July 18, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    When I was a little girl, about 8 or so, I stopped my play in the backyard to visit the outhouse– down the little path and past the holly tree. I closed the door, did my business, looked up and there was a snake–not four feet away–lying on the crossbar. It flicked it’s tongue at me and I got outta there as fast as I could, screaming for Mama, whilst I ran past the holly tree and up the little path. She grabbed the hoe, walked to the outhouse and chopped the snake up and dropped it down the hole. Whatever you think of snakes–they always cause a certain amount of adrenaline and stories of personal encounters.

  • Reply
    James Smithson
    July 18, 2016 at 1:14 am

    Paise God they are in abundance this year!!! I have seen more than ever before.

  • Reply
    Tamela
    July 17, 2016 at 9:22 am

    Wonder if the snake in the picture was shedding it’s skin – reason for the “wrinkling”.
    Snakes sure do grab out attention – very few folks focused on what you apparently intended to be the focus of this entry: “breakneck speed” – which I’ve often heard and use though my pace tends to be “slow and plodding” – definitely more of a turtle than a hare.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    July 16, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    My Mother told a story of long ago when she declares a hoop snake rolled along the dirt road in front of her. They say no mountain lions in this area even though they have been seen. I have no explanation, but it makes mountain life more exciting for strange critters to be seen or heard. Strangely, most kin or friends have never seen Bigfoot, even the drinking ones.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 16, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    Did I ever tell you about the time me and cousin Joe went snake hunting along the railroad track over in the Nantahala Gorge? I didn’t? Well remind me when I have time and I’ll tell you.
    Snakes whose pupils look like slits are poisonous. Those with round pupils are non-poisonous. Poison snakes have a blunt nose that accommodates their fangs.
    Some non-poisonous snakes puff up their heads and rattle their tails to make themselves look like their dangerous relatives.
    Snakes with rattles on their tails are definitely poisonous.

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    July 16, 2016 at 6:28 pm

    We moved to a mountain farm in Virginia when I was 14. We heard all these snake stories, some of which were obviously far fetched (hoop snakes, joint snakes) but others seemed worth finding out about. So we created a snake box 8’x6’x4′ high, and began collecting snakes.
    My dad offered a $5 bounty for a full sized rattlesnake, but only one neighbor ever collected the reward. Everyone else killed them on sight. So my brother and I soon learned how to snare rattlesnakes and copperheads using a walking staff and a boot lace. Non-venomous snakes were easier to capture. By the end of each summer, we had a whole collection of the serpents, all of which we took up on the hill and turned loose at a rock outcropping area before first frost, so they could hibernate. Then we started over the next spring.
    Some results:
    Black racers are the longest (up to 8 feet) and fastest, but their fluid motion makes them appear swifter than they are. Their top speed can pace a person walking, and always to get away–never saw one turn and chase anyone. They are temperamental and will bite. I’ve been bitten, but the tiny teeth barely draw blood. A good mouser at the barn, where we left them alone, because they don’t get along well with other snakes, including the poisonous reptiles.
    Black rat snakes are gentle, clean and easily handled, and make good pets, though best left at the barn to keep the rodents down. They have a faint pattern on the back, and whitish bellies. They get along so comfortably with rattlers and copperheads that they all curl up together on chilly nights.
    King snakes were one species that we could not collect because they eat other snakes, including rattlesnakes and copperheads, they being immune to the fanged serpent’s venom.
    Common water snakes can be mistaken for copperheads, though the heads are completely different. We caught them but never kept them because they’re aquatic.
    Rattlesnakes and copperheads are born live, not in eggs, and are self-sufficient enough to strike when only a day old. The two pit vipers will strike at moving objects if they sense warmth. We were very careful in handling rattlers and copperheads, and were never bitten, though a hiker just up the way suffered a copperhead bite that swelled her calf painfully to nearly twice its size, and put her in the hospital. The poisonous snakes get along well with black rat snakes, corn snakes, milk snakes and all the others except the king snake and black racers.
    Snakes don’t need much food. A freshly trapped mouse once in a while is enough, and some will swallow an egg.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    July 16, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    We spotted a very large black snake in our yard late yesterday. Must have been over 6 feet long. When I encounter them, they try to act aggressively to scare me off, but never in pursuit. But I like having them around to keep the small rodents down. If I see a copperhead, though, I don’t want him around.

  • Reply
    Ken
    July 16, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    Tipper,
    Poison Snakes have a well pronounced Triangular shaped head…Ken

  • Reply
    Pam Danner
    July 16, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Oh Lord Tipper, I am TERRIFIED of snakes of any kind!!! I grew up hearing how black racers would chase you and had visions of being out a chased by one. I remember hearing about the snake that would whip you. I was out with a friend one day and when we got back to her house I opened my car door and got out and she said “wait, there are two snakes”, they doth stood up (I thought I was going to die right there) they finally went back down and slithered off. A neighbor in Florida killed a 5-1/2 foot diamond back rattler between our house and his. There are snakes everywhere in Florida. I knew several people who had them get in their houses, one was wrapped around a plant on the bathroom counter of a friends house. I knew some people in Virginia who got a really good deal on a house, trouble is it was infested with snakes!!!! The lady had to go down to the basement to do her laundry and was bitten several times! Laundry Mat her I come is what I would say! Years ago a lady told me that when she was little she went out to use the outhouse. While she was sitting there she felt something around her leg, looked down and it was a snake! She said she jumped up and burst out the door screaming, panties around her knees! Oh Lord, I would have just fallen over dead! Last but not least, My 21 year old granddaughter LOVES snakes and always has and would save them all if she could! Her dream job is to be a Herpetologist and she has had snakes as pets. She can tell you all about snakes. The poor girl sure does not take after me! I have more but this is getting lengthy.
    Pam
    scrap-n-sewgranny.blogspot.com

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 16, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Black racers are real. They are a cousin of the common black snake. They are long and slender. They can move about was fast as you can walk. They are mean. Unlike the common black snake they will turn on you and bite you if you get too close.
    I had one on my carport. I didn’t want to kill it, so I got a broom and tried to guide it off into the woods. It didn’t want to go. More than once it turned on me and tried to bite me. After a few minutes of battle, it trying to kill me and me trying not to kill it, I finally had to break out the heavy artillery. He was no match for a garden hoe.

  • Reply
    Tamela
    July 16, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Last week’s sermon was about the snake in the Garden of Eden and the three variations on the creation story in Genesis. We are fortunate to have a true biblical, history, and anthropology scholar in our pulpit who believes heart, soul, and mind in the Triune God but also can explain and help folks understand misconceptions about biblical stories while getting to their true lessons.
    So, snakes are part of God’s creation too – – – does anyone know the distinction between pointy nose and blunt nose snakes? I’ve always heard that pointy heads are safe and blunt nose snakes are venomous; however, I don’t trust that bit of folklore much. Bet your woodsmen and women can think of a lot of examples that counter that saying.

  • Reply
    Patti
    July 16, 2016 at 11:01 am

    Glad it wasn’t there when we visited last week. Yikes!

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    July 16, 2016 at 10:54 am

    whenever my granddad killed a snake (usually in the chicken house) he would always hang it on the fence – 1) he said it would really die until sundown, and 2) it’s mate would come to find it and try to carry it off . I hadn’t thought about that for years.

  • Reply
    Ken
    July 16, 2016 at 10:39 am

    Tipper,
    When I was just a little thing, daddy and mama told us boys about that mean ole hook snake. (so we wouldn’t wonder far off into the woods) And even when I got to be a teenager, walking around the liquor trails, squirrel hunting, if I heard something in those buckberry bushes above me, I’d think of a Hook Snake and ready to blast him. Ain’t it funny how things stay with you after all these years? And one time we all were in the cornfield working and the fiests found a Joint Snake and slung the stuffing out of him. Sure enough, after supper we went back up there to check on the snake and it was still wiggling, trying to find the rest of himself. A Joint snake has a black line about every 3″ and has checker-bord squares all over. I seen this with my own eyes. . . Ken

  • Reply
    ron creager
    July 16, 2016 at 10:25 am

    As young children I can recall two cases when a black racer chased us on our 20″ bicycles for at least 100 yards and we couldn’t outrun it. It stayed right beside us as we pedaled frantically. Talk about scared!!

  • Reply
    Will Dixon
    July 16, 2016 at 10:20 am

    99% of snake stories are pure hoq wash. They, like all other creatures have their place on this old earth.
    Let them alone and they will leave you alone!

  • Reply
    Will Dixon
    July 16, 2016 at 10:20 am

    99% of snake stories are pure hoq wash. They, like all other creatures have their place on this old earth.
    Let them alone and they will leave you alone!

  • Reply
    Will Dixon
    July 16, 2016 at 10:20 am

    99% of snake stories are pure hoq wash. They, like all other creatures have their place on this old earth.
    Let them alone and they will leave you alone!

  • Reply
    Will Dixon
    July 16, 2016 at 10:20 am

    99% of snake stories are pure hoq wash. They, like all other creatures have their place on this old earth.
    Let them alone and they will leave you alone!

  • Reply
    TimMc
    July 16, 2016 at 9:39 am

    Black Snakes, and Chicken Snakes are the most common around here, all thou my Brother who lives across the woods from us said he kill a copperhead this year, and I remember the Man who previously owned that land said he had killed some.. Right after we built this house we had a black racer, try to get into our garage, I’d take the hoe and catch him/her and put it back into the woods, day or two later there it would be trying to get under our garage door, it finally got tired of me picking it up and give off this horrific smell, and made me gaag, need less to say I shot that snake… I didn’t know they’d do that.. horrible smell..

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 16, 2016 at 9:34 am

    I worked wiith an old man who showed me how a black racer would chase you. He would chase one a little way then stop and turn around. The snake would do also stop and turn around then chase him.
    We had a big black snake that lived in the barn when I was a boy. It was at least six feet long. We never bothered it because it kept the mice and rats down. It used to spend the winter in the stuffing of an old truck seat and we think the fellow that bought the truck hauled it off. Guess they both got a surprize.
    Joint snake is a name for a legless lizard called an eastern slender glass lizard. The tail is a significant part of its body length and will break off in pieces if pinned or struck. Glass lizards are rarely seen. I have only ever seen one and it was one someone gave me. I gave it to the college professor who wrote the book “Mammals of Kentucky”.
    Never seen a hoop snake but heard the story many times.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    July 16, 2016 at 9:34 am

    A huge black snake lives here on the farm and has for many years. It is so big that it has caused several people to run away at a break neck speed. It scared the lawn guy so bad he left without finishing his job and one visitor called and asked someone to come help him kill it. Thank goodness we don’t have rattlesnakes around here like we did where I grew up. We do have copperheads. It doesn’t matter what kind of snake it is, I grab the hoe and see which one of us can move the fastest. Mom’s stories about black racers and charmers would make anyone run when they see a snake. I’ve never heard of a hoop snake.

  • Reply
    roger fingar
    July 16, 2016 at 9:28 am

    I remember “joint snakes” from my Florida swamp childhood. Because there were so many snakes infiltrating everywhere (e.g. cotton mouths in bathhouse toilets and showers) the adults killed all species due to the shear volume of their existence. Out of general fear and misunderstanding, they were often times cut into small pieces, like link sausage, to make it a little harder to for the snake (whatever species) to reassemble itself. I do remember joint snakes specifically. They are also called glass snakes because of the beautiful sheen of their body, but they are really a legless lizard. Like other lizards, they can regenerate their tail, if severed. It seems like their tails actually readily pop off when grabbed, like legged species, but that memory is pretty foggy. The joint myth probably was reinforced by the fact the it is unclear where the “tail” ends and the body with vital organs begins.
    Tipper, your imaginings about black racers in a grassy field is still a reality in our Florida backyard. They are fast and bold. (I wouldn’t call them aggressive) I guess their speed gives them more confidence as they navigate their world as it overlaps ours. Also I think their jet black color (deep indigo in the sunlight) makes them looks even faster. Their range is supposed to be throughout the southeast, but no one I’ve asked in the Brasstown area has seen a solid black snake. They identify a mottled black pattern as the local black snake. Has any Blind Pig readers seen a solid black snake in the Tri-state area?
    Your snake posing in the photo has creases on it’s body, particularly on the tail end, like a toy that was scrunched up in storage, that you hope will straighten out, given time. Has anyone seen a snake’s body do that before?
    Thanks

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    July 16, 2016 at 9:24 am

    I heard a boy tell the classroom teacher he seen a hoop snake roll over the hill and stung a tree and the tree died.The boy never backed up from his story and I about believed him.
    My mom even to this day says she was chase by a black racer.I’ve never been chased by any black snake,but have had them rear up on me.I’ve pushed them over with my gun barrel and sometimes they leave and sometimes they rear back up
    Have you ever heard a black snake shake it tail in dry leaves?
    LG

  • Reply
    Quinn
    July 16, 2016 at 9:16 am

    I’ve ridden a horse at breakneck speed a few times – and never on purpose!

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    July 16, 2016 at 9:15 am

    We were warned as children about the Hoop snake and Black Racer. I always wanted to see the elusive varmits chasing or rolling after someone other than myself and spent summers keeping an eye out for them. I was also told a Coachwhip snake, which is a real thing, would whip you with its tail. Not true by the way! They get that name because their skin pattern looks like a braided rope or whip. It would be cool to live in that mythical world where those kind of things actually happened. Well, for a little while anyway. Living in the woods like we do we are constantly aware of the Copperhead and Rattlesnakes. We have taken our boys to a snake education event with live venomous and non-venomous snakes. I do not care for snakes but I respect the fact that they serve a purpose like everything else unless I find a venomous one around our house then all bets are off!

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    July 16, 2016 at 9:09 am

    I grew up hearing stories about black racers and hoop snakes. My grandmother (born in1898) was utterly convinced she had seen both. One of her favorite stories was about being chased by a black racer. My son is building a house near me and while under construction, and still open somewhat to the outside, he found two snakes fighting in what will be the living room. I can’t think of anything more creepy than fighting snakes. My granddaughter found a fresh snakeskin (still oily looking) in my yard a couple of days ago and begged me to sew it onto her dress. I talked her out of it. The snake stories I’ve heard in my lifetime would fill a book.

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    July 16, 2016 at 8:38 am

    Yuk! I Don’t like any snakes. When I saw your title this morning, I thought I might not want to bring up your blog as I was sure there would be a picture of a snake. I pushed back when the picture came up and quickly scrolled down where I didn’t have to look at that picture. Maybe it goes back to the garden of Eden. It seems like when I was a child and visiting grandparents down South I was always told to look out for snakes. We had them in Illinois and they are here in PA but I rarely saw them in Illinois unless I was at the zoo or here in PA the same being true. Here i think I have seen maybe a garter snake in about 37 years. Different story down in the South. I saw huge copperheads and cotton mouth. I remember my mother told me when she was a little girl she was out playing and came across this black racer. She went running and screaming toward home. Looking back she could see it coming after her. Her mother heard her screams and met her just as my mother tripped and fell on the ground. The snake turned and went another way but it had scared my mother to the point of throwing up and breaking out in hives. I heard so many scarey snake stories that I wouldn’t walk around out side looking up. I was always looking at the ground when I was at my grandparents. My father always said to leave a black snake alone as it took care of mice, and rats in the barn. I had heard of a joint snake and that they broke apart as part of a defense but I’m not sure if that was true. Never saw one. When my parents retired and moved back South in 1980. My father was having a large area around a barn bushogged and they found and killed a snake that had a tail that looked like a spike. I had never seen anything like that before or since. Like I said – Yuk!!

  • Reply
    Alica
    July 16, 2016 at 8:16 am

    Just looking at that picture makes me want to run “at break neck speed” as far away as I can possible get! I am terrified of snakes unless they’re in a cage…I think it’s the surprise of seeing them, and the way they slither. Ok. Enough said. I’m thankful we don’t have many around our place. 🙂

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    July 16, 2016 at 7:51 am

    Tipper,
    Watch after your “hen eggs” too! They love them some eggs any size.
    Heard all the tales you told today.
    We never killed big black snakes, because one of their favorite meals was the slow moving copperheads.
    I still don’t like one on any kind to slither across my path or crawl up on my porch or steps.
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…They are also hunting cooler spots…even though they are cold blooded varmits..

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 16, 2016 at 7:40 am

    I don’t remember ever hearing of a joint snake, hoop snake, or a black racer. I did always hear don’t kill black snakes they are friends. They kill rodents and where there are black snakes there are not poisonous snakes like copperheads. I guess we know that last thing is not true given the number of copperheads that like to hang around your house.

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