Common European adder

Common European adder Introduction

The Common European adder, also known as the black adder or the northern viper is a venomous snake that is extremely widespread and can be found throughout most of Western Europe and as far as East Asia. The color pattern of adders varies, ranging from very light-colored specimens with small, incomplete, dark dorsal crossbars to entirely brown ones with faint or clear, darker brown markings, and on to melanistic individuals that are entirely dark and lack any apparent dorsal pattern. However, most have some kind of zigzag dorsal pattern down the entire length of their bodies and tails. The head usually has a distinctive dark V or X on the back. A dark streak runs from the eye to the neck and continues as a longitudinal series of spots along the flanks. Unusually for snakes, the sexes are possible to tell apart by the color. Females are usually brownish in hue with dark-brown markings, the males are pure grey with black markings. The basal color of males will often be slightly lighter than that of the females, making the black zigzag pattern stand out. Melanistic individuals are often females.

Keywords to learn

Melanistic: The condition in which an unusually high concentration of melanin occurs in the skin, plumage, or pelage of an animal

Culminate: Reach a climax or point of highest development

About Me

Hey Kids, my name is Campbell the Common European adder and I am very happy to meet you. Learn more about me and my species @

Key Data

  • Order:
  • Lifespan:
    Up to 15 years.
  • Class:
  • Scientific Name:
    Vipera berus.
  • Mass:
  • Length:
  • Region found:
    Western Europe to East Asia.
  • Population Status:
    Least concern.
  • Current population trend:
  • Diet:
  • Sexual maturity:
    3-4 years.


So, while adders are quite big, and look dangerous, and while they have some venom, these snakes are not dangerous.


Now that you know more about the Common European adder by learning the key data above, be sure also to check out the fun facts. When you are finished learning the facts, try answering the questions in the Q&A corner on the bottom right side of the page.


Download questions about the cobra here:  (answers are on this page)



Cobra Fun Facts for Kids

  • # 1. In Poland the snake is called żmija zygzakowata, which translates as ‘zigzag viper’, due to the pattern on its back.
  • # 2. In several European countries, it is notable as being the only native venomous snake. It is one of only four snake species native to Britain. The other three, the barred grass snake, grass snake and the smooth snake, are non-venomous.
  • # 3. In the United Kingdom, it is illegal to kill, injure, harm or sell adders under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The same situation applies to Norway under the Viltloven (The Wildlife Act 1981) and Denmark (1981). The common viper is categorized as ‘endangered’ in Switzerland, and is also protected in some other countries in its range.
  • # 4. Relatively speaking, bites from this species are not highly dangerous. In Britain there have been only 14 known fatalities since 1876—the last a 5-year-old child in 1975—and one nearly fatal bite of a 39-year-old woman in Essex in 1998. An 82-year-old woman died following a bite in Germany in 2004, although it is not clear whether her death was due to the effect of the venom. Even so, professional medical help should always be sought as soon as possible after any bite. Very occasionally bites can be life-threatening, particularly in small children, while adults may experience discomfort and disability long after the bite.
  • # 5. Males find females by following their scent trails, sometimes tracking them for hundreds of metres a day. If a female is found and then flees, the male follows. Courtship involves side-by-side parallel ‘flowing’ behavior, tongue flicking along the back and excited lashing of the tail. Pairs stay together for one or two days after mating. Males chase away their rivals and engage in combat. Often, this also starts with the flowing behavior before culminating in the dramatic ‘adder dance’.

Q&A Corner

# 1. What distinctive marking does the common adder have on their head?


# 2. What is the average lifespan of the common adder?


# 3. What is the average length of the common adder?


# 4. What does the polish word for common adder translate to?


# 5. How many recorded deaths by common adder have occurred in Britain since 1875?


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