This powerfully built viper is a relatively large snake by European standards, measuring up to 95 cm in length; longer lengths have not been secured. Most individuals have lengths between 70 and 80 cm, with males generally growing larger than females. However, individuals of some populations sometimes remain significantly smaller. For example, European horned vipers on the Aegean Islands often reach a body length of only forty to fifty cm.
Coloration varies greatly; most individuals are gray, yellowish, or reddish brown with darker zigzag or diamond bands on the back, the color of which also varies from light brown to black. Males are usually slightly lighter in color than females and have more pronounced head and body markings. The underside of the tail is often yellowish, reddish or greenish in both sexes. Occasionally, completely black (melanistic) animals occur similar to asp vipers and European adder.
The triangular head is clearly separated from the trunk. On the top of the head are many small scales without large shields. The conspicuous horn on the snout, covered all around with small scales, gives the animal its name. Above the eyes, as in most viper species, there are strongly developed ridges, which give it a look perceived by humans as "threatening". The pupils are vertically slit-shaped. Around the middle of the body, European horned vipers have about 21 to 23 keeled dorsal scales. The tail is relatively short, and the anal shield is undivided.
It lives in dry, stony scrubland and sparse forests. It is especially common on dry, sunny rocky slopes and stone walls. However, its habitat also includes sparse deciduous forests with sunny clearings, overgrown gardens, and scrubby scree. Contrary to what its occasionally used trivial name sand otter suggests, it is very rarely found on sandy areas.
The text is a translation of an excerpt from Wikipedia (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europäische_Hornotter). On wikipedia the text is available under a „Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike“ licence. Status: 24 June 2021