Cowboys have a lot of outdoorsy wisdom. Always drink upstream from the herd. Solid advice. Don’t squat with your spurs on. Again, a top suggestion. But will a snake cross a braided rope? Hmmm.
If this technique worked, then it would make sense for everyone in snake-frequented areas to erect a simple rope barrier. What a smart and cost-effective way to keep slithering visitors away!
So, does it actually work…or should this bit of cowboy knowledge be consigned to hiss-tory? (Sorry. Had to.) Below we will answer this burning question once and for all. We will also take a look at some other non-rope snake deterrent techniques.
So, Does a Rope Keep Snakes Away?
Short answer – no! No, it will not.
Sorry, but this particular nugget of cowboy wisdom doesn’t stand up to any real scrutiny at all. Snakes are not scared of ropes, braided or not. And if you are about to say “what about horsehair ropes?” then save yourself the breath. Snakes are also not afraid of horsehair ropes. Or ropes made from any other material you can think of.
The slightly longer, more nuanced answer, is that some ropes may dissuade some snakes – but researchers can’t discern exactly why. They think it’s just the preference of that particular snake. Yet the overwhelming majority of ropes will have zero impact on where the vast majority of snakes want to slither.
Snakes will usually cross a braided rope in order to go exactly where they want to go. Fortunately, they don’t want to go anywhere near us humans if they can avoid it.
Where Does This Myth Come From?
Well, cowboys had a lot of time to sit around campfires and spitball. Plus they were likely heavily drunk, almost all of the time. Just think of all the drunken campfire theories you’ve come up with!
That said, there are a few thoughts on where the notion may have first arisen. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the two that make the most sense, followed by an explanation of what we think most likely happened.
Snakes think ropes look like other snakes
Pros: This one has some logic to it. A rope is a snakey-looking thing. Especially braided ones. So it stands to reason that snakes would be wary.
Cons: Snakes aren’t dumb. Ropes might look like snakes to us humans – but not to snakes. They are well aware of what they look like and can easily tell themselves apart from inanimate objects.
Snakes don’t like the sensation of the rope
Pros: Sliding belly first on a thick coarse rope would presumably be very uncomfortable. Think of when a rope runs through your hands and the friction burn it can cause. Ouch!
Cons: Snakes spend their entire lives sliding around on the floor – it’s kinda their thing – so they are built for it. They will slide through a whole heap of things more uncomfortable than a rope. For example cactus, sand and rocks.
Anecdote became evidence
We think it’s likely a cowboy once saw a snake slide up to a rope and, for some reason, decided not to cross it. He took this to mean the rope was the deterrent – when in fact, it could have been one of a thousand other reasons. He told his buddies. They laid out ropes and it may have happened again. This story then spread and became enduring cowboy wisdom.
You see? Anecdote got inflated into evidence. That is, until science got involved. We love you, science!
If Not Ropes, What Will Keep Snakes Away?
We have good news and bad news for you here.
The Bad News
Snakes are pretty badass. They aren’t scared of much. No known snake repellent has been proven to work. You can’t leave out tea bags or an orange peel and you can’t hang a dead snake on a fence as a warning to others. Well, you can…but it would have no impact, apart from scaring off your neighbours.
Here is a list of things proven NOT to deter snakes:
- Ultrasonic sound emitters
- Chemical solutions
- Wood smoke
- Agricultural lime
- Pepper Spray
- Castor Oil
- Skunk Scent
The Good News
In search of food, snakes will pretty much go where they want to go. The only thing they are scared of are things that can kill them. And this is where we have some good news for you. Snakes are scared of us. People. Because we can – and frequently do – kill them.
So what can you do to keep snakes away from you, your tent or your property? Just make sure you remove any potential food sources. Such as mice infestations. So if you are camping, keep a tidy campsite. If you’re at home, get the exterminator out. Also remove any good snake hiding spots, such as wood piles or trash mounds.
Things that HAVE been proven to deter snakes:
- Fear of humans
- Removal of food sources
- Removal of hiding areas, e.g. log and trash piles
That’s it. The three things you can do to deter snakes. They basically boil down to this: be a tidy human.
If you’ve got a little time on your hands, read this fascinating little university study on the efficiency of snake repellents.
Final Thoughts: Will Snakes Cross a Braided Rope?
You’ve made it this far. So you probably already know how to answer: will a snake cross a braided rope? The answer, of course, is: YES! They will. But to be honest, don’t worry about it. Unless you are very unlucky, snakes aren’t going to bother you. They have no desire to crawl into your tent with you unless you brought your pet mouse along on your camping trip.
Snakes have been getting pretty bad press ever since Eve stole that apple and looked to share the blame. Snakes are typically shy and unless provoked – or stood upon – they should leave you well enough alone. So unless you are planning on building a rope bridge or practising your lasso skills, just leave that rope at home.