Red-tailed Pipe Snake

[Page Updated: 19 July 2022]

The red-tailed pipe snake is a beautiful snake, though at first glance you might wonder if it is a snake at all! It has a very flat appearance for the tail region and is very black on the top. The head is so small you might think it’s a large fat worm. The eyes are very small. This snake spends a lot of time in the dirt looking for grubs, maggots, and very small larvae and things.

Cylindrophis ruffus (Red-tailed Pipe Snake)

Thais say: (ngoo kon kob)

Length: max about .9 meters (90 cm, 35.5 inches)

Red Tailed Pipe Snake from Thailand
Red-tailed Pipe Snake – non-venomous – small. The white-black pattern of half stripes is the belly. The top is completely black in adults and has some banding on the lateral sides in either white or some shade of red.

Range: All over Thailand on flat ground and at some elevation up to 1700 meters.

Notes: I had one of these red-tailed pipe snakes at my home to photograph and shoot videos of for two days. They are beautiful snakes. Their top is black and has a radiance like a sunbeam snake – you know that rainbow appearance when the sunlight hits it? Beautiful.

Then, on the underside the bands of black and white don’t line up – so it’s very different. The bands will turn red and black as the juvenile red-tailed pipe snake ages. The head is very small and the eyes – are almost impossible to see.

I’ve found these pipe snakes in the fine mesh of roots growing into the water of streams, and also in leaf litter on mud bordering streams. Around my home in Krabi Town, I have found dozens dead on the road in the morning time – especially after rain.

Habitat: The snake lives on the ground and in rat holes and termite mounds, under stumps or rocks, and in other cool, damp places.

Active Time? The snake is mostly nocturnal and is active at night.

Food: Brahminy blind snakes, insect larvae, small frogs, and worms.

Defensive Behavior: This pipe snake hides the head under loops of its body and flips its red tail end up in the air – flattening it – as if like a cobra. Thais call this the 2-head snake because it wants you to think it has two. In an hour of handling this snake, it made no move to bite at all. That doesn’t mean it won’t, but they are not all that inclined to bite. Their mouth is VERY small and they’d have to catch you just right to bite you.

Venom Toxicity: None that affects humans.

Offspring: This snake has 5-10 young, born live, about 20 cm long (about 8 inches).

Red-tailed Pipe Snake’s Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Cylindrophiidae
Genus: Cylindrophis
Species: C. ruffus

Binomial name
Cylindrophis ruffus
Classified by Laurenti in year 1768

Belly and Tail of Red Tailed Pipe Snake native to Thailand
Belly side.
Top of Red Tailed Pipe Snake in Thailand
The top of this snake is completely black and patternless. The body is relatively flat shaped and can be made very flat when it chooses.

Here is Fred, one of our interns, showing a Red-tailed Pipe Snake he found on one of our field trips:

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  1. I have red tailed pipe snake in my sister gave it to me 5 days ago..she said i can feed it with small fish after it poop..yesterday it was poop but til now it doesn’t want eat..
    I’m afraid it’ll die..
    This is my first time pet snake..can u help me? :(

    1. hi –

      they don’t eat fish. they eat things in the dirt – like termites, ants, and termite and ant eggs.

      you might try putting some small meal worms in the dirt too – alive.

      you should have a lot of dirt that it can bury itself in – they need to dig holes. keep the dirt lose.

      Good luck!



  2. i just released him or her about 30 mins ago. What a shamed i feel i want to pet him now!
    i found him while i was washing my stuff. he’s just so amazing beautiful. by the way, i let him free in the bush and a bit of water next to the bush in shadow pretty nice place for this kind of snake. oh ! i feel so shamed! i should have pet for a day before let him free or even put him in the garden. now i’m going to have a look if he still there! wish me a luck :)

  3. Just got one yesterday, im planning to pet it, can i get some advice.? I think it still a baby , about 5 to 6 inches in length.

    1. You can query Youtube for a video of my 3 year old with a red-tailed pipe snake. They are harmless for people and I’ve never seen one attempt to bite.

  4. Thanks for the Details on this website~~

    I get a red tail thailand pipe snake at 11/15/16

    This snake was spoken me when i getting rest before breaktime around 3-4pm in my office, i notice that i sleep for 30minute that time and i woke up and saw somethings moving one my office table!!

    So i quickly take one pen and one basket and bring it into the basket !!

    After that, i asked my friend in facebook and he told me that this snake was not VENOMOUS and not DANGEROUS , so i try to bring it back to my house and buy him/her a new tank and some dirt and some insect larvae, then i measure the lenght of the snake is 5.7feet look like quite old already!!

    For more details Email me and i will show you the snake

    1. What a wonderful story… BUT, that is DEFINITELY NOT a red-tailed pipe snake, so I’m not sure what you have there. Maybe a deadly krait or coral snake. Red-tailed pipe snakes don’t get ANYWHERE NEAR 5.7 feet. AND, don’t rely on a friend telling you anything – check for yourself from experts.

      1. yeah maybe he meant 5.7 centemeters lol

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