Psammophis elegans (SHAW, 1802)


Subspecies Psammophis elegans univittatus PERRET 1961
Psammophis elegans elegans (SHAW 1802)
Common Names  Elegant Sand Racer
Synonym Coluber elegans SHAW 1802: 536
Psammophis elegans — DUMÉRIL & BIBRON 1854: 894
Psammophis elegans — STERNFELD 1917
Psammophis elegans — RÖDEL et al. 1999
Psammophis elegans — CHIRIO 2009
Distribution Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Benin, Togo, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Gambia (HÅKANSSON 1981), Ivory Coast (RÖDEL et al. 1999), Cameroon, S Mauritania, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Togo, S Niger, Sierra Leone


Trape & Mané on the snakes of Niger (2015):

Psammophis elegans univittatus Perret, 1961
Material: 32 specimens, including four univittatus.
Localities: Baboul (3 + 1 univittatus), Cissia (3), Goudoumaria (6), Kellé (1), Kusa (1), Piliki (6 + 3 univittatus), Téla (8).
Literature records: SW Niger (Roman 1974); Gaya, La Tapoa (Chirio 2009).
Remarks: The satus of univittatus initially described from northern Cameroon is unclear. Hughes (circa 1998, unpublished document) reports specimens from Mali, Niger (La Tapoa, Garin, Maradi, Soku), Nigeria, Cameroon, and Central African Republic). This taxon is characterized by a single vertebral brown line, and lacking those usually present on the flanks in elegans. It appears sympatric with elegans in Niger and is also distributed in Burkina Faso where five specimens from Bam area (13°20’N, 01°30’W) of Roman’s collection are attributable to univittatus (J.-F. Trape, unpublished). Molecular studies are needed to clarify whether univittatus deserves taxonomic recognition or is simply intraspecific variation.


  About P. elegans in Sierra Leone: "This is one of the savanna snakes that is not showing any tendency to haunt houses and gardens. Its appearance at Kenema,  a town virtually surrounded by high forest, is rather suprising" (Menzies 1966: 175).
Types BMNH 1946.1.8.10-11 (and possibly additional specimens).
Captive keeping James Killey, 2021: "Rear fanged species, feeding on defrost rodents. This species thrives under good uv lighting and make a great display. We have kept this species personally for a number of years, they are a joy to keep, actively sit out basking for most of the day and give owners the opportunity to observe new behaviour patterns different to most other snakes. A very intelligent species with great eyesight and observe everything."
  • Shaw, G. 1802. General Zoology, or Systematic Natural History. Vol.3, part 2. G. Kearsley, Thomas Davison, London: 313-615
  • Duméril, A. M. C., BIBRON, G. & DUMÉRIL, A. H. A., 1854. Erpétologie générale ou histoire naturelle complète des reptiles. Tome septième. Deuxième partie, comprenant l'histoire des serpents venimeux. Paris, Librairie Encyclopédique de Roret: i-xii + 781-1536 - get paper here
  • Sternfeld,R. 1917. Reptilia und Amphibia. In: Schubotz, H. (Hrsg.): Wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse der Zweiten Deutschen Zentral-Afrika-Expedition, 1910-1911 unter Führung Adolph Friedrichs, Herzog zu Mecklenburg. Leipzig: Klinkhardt & Biermann, [Band] 1, Zoologie, Lieferung 11; S. 407-510. - get paper here
  • Perret 1961. Bull. Soc. neuchâtel. Sci. nat., 84: 133.
  • Menzies, J.I. 1966. The snakes of Sierra Leone. Copeia 1966 (2): 169-179. - read paper here
  • Hughes, B. 1983. African snake faunas. Bonn. Zool. Beitr. 34: 311-356 - get paper here
  • Rödel,M.O.; Kouadio,K, & Mahsberg,D. 1999. Die Schlangenfauna des Comoé-Nationalparks, Elfenbeinküste: Ergänzungen und Ausblick. Salamandra 35 (3): 165-180
  • Trape, Jean-François; Mane, Youssouph 2000. Les serpents des environs de Dielmo (Sine-Saloum, Sénégal). Bull. Soc. Herp. France 95: 19-35 - get paper here
  • Barnett, Linda K. 2001. The herpetofauna of Abuko Nature Reserve, the Gambia. Herpetological Bulletin (77):5-1
  • Trape, J.-F. & Mane, Y. 2004. Les serpents des environs de Bandafassi (Sénégal oriental). Bull. Soc. Herp. France 109: 5-34 - get paper here
  • Barnett, Linda K. & Emms, Craig 2005. Common reptiles of The Gambia. Rare Repro, Hailsham, East Sussex, 24 pp.
  • Trape, J.-F. & Mane, Y. 2006. Guide des serpents d’Afrique occidentale. Savane et désert. [Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger]. IRD Editions, Paris, 226 pp.
  • Chirio, L. & Lebreton, M. 2007. Atlas des reptiles du Cameroun. MNHN, IRD, Paris 688 pp.
  • Chirio, L. 2009. Inventaire des reptiles de la région de la Réserve de Biosphère Transfrontalière du W (Niger/Bénin/Burkina Faso: Afrique de l’Ouest). [Herpetological survey of the W Transfrontier Biosphere Reserve area (Niger/Benin/Burkina Faso: West Africa] Bull. Soc. Herp. France (132): 13-41 - get paper here
  • Ullenbruch, K.; Grell, O.; Böhme, W. 2010. Reptiles from southern Benin, West Africa, with the description of a new Hemidactylus (Gekkonidae), and a country-wide checklist. Bonn Zool. Bull. 57 (1): 31-54 - get paper here
  • Segniagbeto G. H., Trape J. F., David P., Ohler A., Dubois A. & Glitho I. A. 2011. The snake fauna of Togo: systematics, distribution and biogeography, with remarks on selected taxonomic problems. Zoosystema 33 (3): 325-360. DOI: 10.5252/z2011n3a4 - get paper here
  • Hughes, B. 2013. Snakes of Bénin, West Africa. Bull. Soc. Herp. Fr. 144: 101-159
  • Pury, S. de & W. Böhme 2013. A contribution to the understanding of the self-rubbing behaviour in psammophiid snakes (Squamata: Psammophiidae). Salamandra 49 (1): 18-30 - get paper here



TDWG region - Region according to the TDWG standard, not a precise distribution map.

Pictures & videos

Picture by Hannah Margaret Rose Bourne-Taylor in the Facebook group ‎East African Snakes & other reptiles, May 2016. Picture by James Killey, captive specimen
  Psammophis elegans, self-rubbing. Video by William Huntsman (2018)  Picture by James Killey, captive specimen
Picture by James Killey, captive specimen