Caught and Coloured: Zoology Illustrations from Colonial Victoria

Black Snake, Pseudechys porphyriacus

Image Details
  • Plate Number: 1
  • Media: Drawing - Pencil, watercolour and wax on paper
  • Lithographer: Arthur Bartholomew
  • Location: Australia, Victoria, Melbourne, Studley Park
  • Primary inscriptions: [spec. number is adjacent to each of the details]
  • Secondary inscriptions: A. Bartholomew [morphological description in ink possible by another hand]
Transcript from the Prodromus of Zoology

Plate 1. Black Snake, Pseudechys porphyriacus (now known as Red-bellied Black Snake, Pseudechis porphyriacus) caught at Studley Park

This is the most beautiful of all the Victorian snakes, and one of the most deadly in effects of its bite. It is, however, fortunately much rarer in Victoria than in the warmer more northern colonies of Australia; and although not uncommon near the northern Murray boundary if is seldom found in the cooler southern districts, and is not known at all in Tasmania. The only locality near Melbourne where it is not very uncommon is Studley Park, where in the bend of the Yarra the specimen here figured and some others I have seen were killed.

Like the other genera of the family Elapidœ, the poison-fang in Pseudechys is grooved in the front face for the duct of the poison gland, which opens near the point, and, as in the family generally, there are a few small harmless solid teeth behind the fang in the upper jaw, besides two rows on the palate, and the usual row of small hooked solid teeth on the lower jaws.

Some fatal cases of snake-bite in man from this species are known, and a large-sized dog will usually die in an hour from the effects of its bite.

Current Scientific Information

Red-bellied Black Snake, Pseudechis porphyriacus


Large snake up to 1.7 metres long. Shiny black with distinctive red or pink colouring on each side adjacent to the belly scales. Scales are in 17 rows at mid-body, the scale in front of the anus is divided and anterior scales under the tail are undivided, while the posterior ones are divided.

Habitat and range

This species is uncommon in the Melbourne area, where it is apparently restricted to the Bacchus Marsh region near the Lerderderg Gorge. It is usually associated with streams, swamps or lagoons but will range away from these.


This species is dangerously venomous. Its diet consists primarily of frogs. Females produce up to 16 live young.