Coachwhip Snake vs Black Racer: Similarities and Differences

Knowing the difference between some types of snakes is a helpful skill. The black racer and the coachwhip snake are found in many of the same places, and they’re a lot alike. What are some of the similarities and differences when comparing a coachwhip snake vs a black racer?

Black racers have their name because of their speed and black coloring, while coachwhip snakes look like a whip used to drive horses for coaches a century or more ago. Both are relatively harmless, though they can bite in rare circumstances.

Let’s examine the similarities and differences between these two snakes.

The Key Differences Between Coachwhip Snakes and Black Racers

Coachwhip snakes and black racers differ in appearance and the predators that hunt them.


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The key differences between coachwhip snakes and black racers are their appearance and predators.

Let’s explore these differences in detail.

Coachwhip Snake vs. Black Racer: Appearance

Close up of a southern black racer
Black racers have white chins and dark bodies.

Picture CreditPsychotic Nature/

Coachwhip snakes can grow up to 8 feet long and are quite slender for their size. Black racers are also slender but only grow to about 5 feet in length.

Coachwhip snakes have a scale pattern that looks like a braided whip which again harkens back to its namesake. They have a white tail and a dark head, and their coloration washes across their body into one smooth blending of color.

On the other hand, black racers have white chins and dark bodies. Black racers have a more even black coloration and are skinnier than coachwhips. Coachwhips have a tail that tapers at the end.

They both weigh about a pound, which is a distinctive feature when you consider their size differences. Coachwhip snakes are generally thinner than black racers of the same age.

Depending on the subspecies of coachwhip snakes, their fading coloration may be pink, red, or tan. They’re also known for their big eyes and small heads. Black racers also have big eyes, but they’re almost always solid black with white chins. Coachwhips are reliably the same color as the foliage and ground that make up their main habitat.

Coachwhip Snake vs. Black Racer: Predators

Because coachwhip snakes are so big, great horned owls and coyotes are their only predators. Black racers are more vulnerable due to their size, but they put up a good fight. Large birds, other snakes, and mammals have black racers on their menu. There is even a recorded incident of a black racer and a great horned owl killing each other in a predatory struggle.

Both the coachwhip snake and the black racer must be mindful of their eggs as they easily become a snack for foxes, raccoons, and other mammals if given a chance.

The Similarities Between Coachwhip Snakes and Black Racers

Coachwhip snakes and black racers are similar in threat, speed, diet, habitat, the time of day they come out, and being of least concern.

Let’s explore these similarities in detail.

Coachwhip Snake vs. Black Racer: Venom and Threat

Eastern coachwhip snake
Coachwhips are nonvenomous and not aggressive.

Picture CreditMatt Jeppson/

Coachwhip snakes are nonvenomous and very common. They’re considered by most to be harmless. They bite if cornered, and this can cause swelling and pain. If the wound is kept clean, it generally resolves itself quickly. Black racers are also nonvenomous and generally try to flee high-stress situations. They also bite when cornered.

Black racers and coachwhip snakes are more beneficial to humans than harmful. These snake populations are not out of control, and having a healthy population in the ecosystem, even where humans overlap, is a good idea. They control pest populations not only in yards but in fields, parks, and riverways.

There is a myth that coachwhips chase humans and lash them with their tails, which isn’t true. Like black racers, they will try to flee but become aggressive if cornered.

Coachwhip Snake vs. Black Racer: Speed

A black racer and a coachwhip snake can move about 4 miles per hour. That’s because they’re closely related snakes with similar body compositions. Both are very agile swimmers and climbers, which helps them escape predators and helps them stalk their prey.

Coachwhip Snake vs. Black Racer: Diet

Both the coachwhip snake and the black racer are carnivorous, and they eat rodents, birds, lizards, amphibians, and insects. Their diets do not differ much from each other.

Where the snakes have overlapping territory, most notably in Florida, similar feeding habits affect the size of black racers while coachwhips remain unaffected. Black racers tend to be smaller, which suggests that the coachwhips access prey first due to their larger size.

Coachwhip Snake vs. Black Racer: Are They Nocturnal?

southern black racer slithering through brush
Black racers are always out during the warmest parts of the day.

Neither coachwhip snakes nor black racer snakes are nocturnal. It’s common to run into black racers when doing yard work or moving outdoor objects, but they aren’t a nuisance. They help control rat and mouse populations.

Coachwhip snakes and black racers are always out and about during the warmest parts of the day and hide in burrows they’ve made beneath objects or underground when it’s cool out. They hibernate in the winter for energy conservation.

Coachwhip Snake vs. Black Racer: Where Do They Live?

Coachwhip snakes and black racers generally like the same habitats, such as sandy areas, fields, and suburbs.

Coachwhips live in the southern USA from coast to coast and in southern Mexico. It has been observed that they do not populate areas around the Mississippi River. This range contains all six subspecies, each with a smaller territory within the coachwhip’s range.

Like the coachwhip snake, the black racer is a common snake found throughout its territory. It is also an umbrella term for a few black racer types. The southern black racer lives in the southern United States and as far north as Maine. It lives as far south as Guatemala.

Coachwhip Snake vs. Black Racer: Are They Endangered?

The human population is the biggest threat to both the black racer and the coachwhip snake. Their habitat is often developed, and they’re killed at a high rate in suburban environments. They also end up as roadkill.

While some dangers exist for these snakes, it hasn’t been enough to hurt their overall success.

Coachwhip snakes are not endangered except in the state of Illinois. They still have substantial numbers in Arizona, Texas, and Florida. The IUCN Red List lists these coachwhips as least concern. Like coachwhips, black racers are also considered a matter of least concern.

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