Caught and Coloured: Zoology Illustrations from Colonial Victoria

Common Brown Snake, Pseudonaja textilis

Image Details
  • Plate Number: 23
  • Media: Drawing - Pencil, watercolour, indian ink and varnish on paper
  • Lithographer: Ludwig Becker
  • Location: Australia, Victoria, junction of Murray and Darling Rivers
  • Primary inscriptions: [Dimensions, colour, texture, detail of eye and tail]
  • Secondary inscriptions: Ludwig Becker/Oct.2.1858
  • Tertiary: [Pencil numbering by Bartholomew hand many years later tying this drawing to Bartholomew's later drawing D123.]
Transcript from the Prodromus of Zoology

Plate 23, Figure 1. Common Brown Snake, Diemenia superciliosa (now known as Pseudonaja textilis), found at Sebastian, Sandhurst

This is one of the largest of the poisonous and very dangerous snakes of the colony, and is more generally distributed than any of the others, being equally common from the south coast to our northern Murray boundary. In the experiments made by Dr. Halford on snake poisoning, tabulated in the Medical Society's Journal for March 1875, all the cases of people bitten by the Brown Snake and treated by the injection of ammonia recovered; but in one of the last cases mentioned in the public journals (Bendigo Advertiser, 27th October 1877), a snake of this species, 3 feet 6 inches long ( the fifth in above table of measurements), bit Mrs. Eleanor Ingleby, residing at Sebastian, in the hand, and she died from the effects within fifteen minutes. The acting coroner, Mr. Strickland, who held the inquest, sent the specimen to the Museum, where it is now deposited, so that the species is determined with certainty.

Plate 23, Figures 2-3. Small-scaled Brown Snake, Diemenia microlepidota (now known as Inland Taipan or Fierce Snake, Oxyuranus microlepidotus), found at Murray Darling junction

This large well-marked species is only found in the warmer northern parts of the colony. It is very distinguished from the Common Brown Snake (D. superciliosa) by the greater number of rows of scales across the back, and their obviously much smaller size and greater number, particularly across the neck. The two type specimens in the Museum have the following dimensions and numbers of scales.

Current Scientific Information

Common Brown Snake, Pseudonaja textilis


Long, slender species up to 2 metres long. Uniform brown in colour. Juvenile with black head and occasionally dark cross-bands and numerous red-brown spots on the belly; may be mistaken for Eastern Tiger Snake. Scales in 17 rows at mid-body; scale in front of the anus divided; most scales under the tail divided except for a few anterior ones that are occasionally single.

Habitat and range

Within the Melbourne region, this species is mostly encountered in the western and northern areas. It is a swift-moving snake, which is active during the day. It occurs in a broad range of habitats, from coastal heaths to dry sclerophyll forests and woodlands.


Dangerously venomous: numerous fatalities have been recorded, and juveniles can inflict fatal bites. The Common Brown feeds on a variety of vertebrates, including small mammals and reptiles. Females lay up to 35 eggs in cracks in the soil.