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Coxcomb snake illustration by Tim Morris

Coxcomb snake

The coxcomb snake is one of the most widespread cryptids, with reports around all of Sub-Saharan Africa, China and possibly even Samoa. One area the coxcomb snake has been reported in is the remote interior of the Greater Antilles. 

Coxcomb snakes vary in size by region, but in the Caribbean, they tend to be about four feet long. Coxcomb snakes typically are a black or dark reddish-brown colour, with wide bodies and facial wattles below the jaw, resembling that of a gamefowl bird. Strangely, coxcomb snakes are said to vocalize, making a strange bird-like crowing or clucking noise. 

Coxcomb snakes use their wattles and bird-like calls to mimic gamefowl, allowing them to avoid being identified as a predator and not as simply another gamefowl. Although the coxcomb snake’s method of hunting and vocalizing sounds far-fetched, “aggressive mimicry” has been observed in hundreds of species, and there are multiple species of snakes that can vocalize. 

Karl Shuker theorizes that if the coxcomb snake is not a new species, it may be misidentified older specimens of large snakes, like the Jamaican boa, since they often struggle to shed their skin around their head, which could give it the appearance of wattles. This does not explain, however, the bright red colour of the wattles or its vocalizations. 

In the mid-1840s, English naturalist Phillip Gosse catalogued various reports of coxcomb snakes in Jamaica. One sighting was in 1829 by a physician who came across a decomposing carcass of a 4 ft long, thick-bodied snake with ochre-coloured, black-spotted scales. The most peculiar detail was a red, pyramid-shaped crest on its head with two lobes jutting outwards. The physician asked the locals about the animal, and they claimed it was a type of snake that had the ability to make a crowing sound, which it used to lure or distract its prey, which was primarily galliform birds. 

Before the physician’s sighting, a Jamaican man named Jasper Cargill was travelling through a gravel road in what is now the Blue Mountains National Park to visit his father’s estate. Suddenly, he came across a dark coloured snake on top of a pile of limestone rocks. It was about four feet long, with an unusually wide body, and two red flaps on its head like a chicken’s wattles. Eventually, the snake slithered into the pile of rocks. 

On March 30th, 1850, Jasper Cargill’s son also had a sighting. Cargill’s son was going on a walk deep in the forest when he came across “A curious serpent” that had “wattles on each side of its jaws.” Knowing how unusual the animal was, he shot and killed it and placed it in a hollow tree so he could come back later. Unfortunately, he was unable to find the spot again, but one of his friends did find it later, but it was gone, possibly taken by rats. Sightings have also occurred elsewhere in the Caribbean. For instance, Richard Hill claimed that his friend reported seeing a snake with red wattles in east-central Haiti near the Dominican border. This snake would apparently raid hen-roosts and trick them into believing it is a rooster due to its wattles and crowing vocalizations, only to eat them.

It is unclear if there are any modern sightings, as little scientists, let alone cryptozoologists have made any expeditions or witness interviews.

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