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Can Snakes Bite Through Leather Cowboy Boots? Let’s Find Out

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The folklore surrounding cowboy boots is that they were designed to protect a cowboy’s legs and feet from snake bites. I’ve accepted this truism without thought, but I’ve gotten more skeptical as I’ve aged, and now I wonder if a snake can bite through leather cowboy boots.

Whether a snake could bite through leather cowboy boots depends on the type of snake and the thickness of the leather boots. Snakes have strong jaws with sharp teeth that puncture and tear through skin, and it’s likely they could bite through a typical pair of cowboy boots. However, most snakes can’t bite through thick leather.

If you live, hunt, or work in an area with snakes, it’s best to wear boots designed to protect your lower legs and feet from bites. Here are boots specifically made to protect your feet from snakes.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

I recently went hiking with a friend wearing a pair of Tuff Shins Snake Leggings. He loved that they were less restricting than heavy boots and gave them a high recommendation, so I thought I would mention them here.

Cowboy Boots and Snake Bites

Can snakes bite through cowboy boots? That’s a question that many people have wondered about, and it’s one that we’re going to explore.

We’ll take a look at the different types of snakes found in North America and discuss the various ways you can protect yourself from snake bites.

Most snakes native to the United States can’t bite through leather cowboy boots. However, when it comes to safety and snakes, I believe in overkill; that is why I wear boots designed to protect my lower extremities in case I run across a snake.

People are bitten by poisonous snakes in the United States every year, and even when snake bites aren’t fatal, they still cause a lot of damage. So, it’s important to dress appropriately any time you are in an area that is a habitat for snakes.

The most critical portion of your body to protect is your legs and feet. Reports of snakebite incidents show that about half were to the lower extremity, and of those bitten, 27% of patients were not wearing shoes.

Be careful in an area where snakes may live, and wear a pair of cowboy boots with a high shaft of heavy leather. Also, wear heavy denim or canvas pants that reach your foot.

There are commercially made snake-proof leggings, chaps, and boots for even better protection; if you’re interested in checking Amazon for pricing on snake-proof clothing, click here.

Picture of Ariat workhog cowboy boots.
Ariat Workhogs

Are Cowboy boots designed to protect against snakebites?

From watching old westerns, I picked up that cowboy boots have tall leather shafts to protect the cowboy’s legs from snake bites. I often wondered if this was true, so I researched the issue.

Cowboy boots were initially designed for horseback riding and not to protect against snake bites. The tall shaft is made to hold the boot in place without laces and protects the rider’s lower legs from rubbing the saddle.

Because cowboy boots don’t have laces, they can pull off a rider’s foot if a rider falls from his horse and his foot gets caught in the stirrup. Protecting against snake bites is an additional bonus.

Cowboy boots, prominent heels, and smooth soles were made for use with the stirrup of a saddle. Heavy leather cowboy boots, like the Ariat Workhogs, provide adequate protection against snake bites.

But for even better protection, there are hunting boots specifically designed to protect your legs and feet from snake bites. Click here to check prices on snake-proof hunting boots.

picture of a snake coiled up,

North American snakes have a powerful bite.

Did you know that North American snakes have a powerful bite? In fact, their venom can cause serious damage to humans. While most snakes are not aggressive and try to avoid confrontation, it is important to be aware of their dangers.

There are two main types of snakes found in North America: venomous and non-venomous. The majority of snakes are non-venomous; however, there are a few species that can cause serious harm to humans.

Venomous snakes have special teeth called fangs that they use to inject their venom into their prey. This venom can cause tissue damage, paralysis, and even death. Non-venomous snakes do not have fangs, but they can still bite and cause infection or allergic reactions.

Some snakes native to North America have enough bite force to pierce leather boots. The following is a list of the different types of venomous snakes found in North America:

Pit Vipers: Rattlesnakes, Copperheads, and Cottonmouths

I didn’t find any scientific studies confirming pit vipers’ bite force, but one veterinarian estimated that a large rattlesnake has a bite force of 150 psi, which converts to 149.9 pounds of force.

There are three pit vipers native to North America, the rattlesnake, cottonmouth, and water moccasin. These snakes are responsible for the majority of snakebites in North America.

In 2017 the National Snakebite Registry noted 4071 pit viper attacks. Copperheads accounted for 2035; 753 were rattlesnake bites, 255 were from cottonmouths, and 1,028 were unknown crotalid bites.

Only two instances resulted in death, one from a rattlesnake and one from an unknown pit viper. The cottonmouth bites occurred in 242 seen at healthcare facilities with no fatalities.

picture of a rattle snake ready to strike,

Rattlesnakes

Rattlesnakes are members of the Viperidae (viper) family. In North America, rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and copperheads are the most common dangerous snakes.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, rattlesnakes can grow to eight feet, depending on the species; the big one is the eastern diamondback. These snakes are thick-bodied with ridged scales in various colors and patterns.

Most species have dark diamonds, rhombuses, or hexagons patterns on a light background. The rattlesnake’s most distinguishing feature is the rattle at the end of the tail.

The rattle is made of keratinous rings, which create a unique sound when vibrated as a defensive warning. Other physical characteristics include facial pits, hinged fangs, and live births.

The rattlesnake’s second most distinctive physical feature is its triangular head and vertical pupils, like a cat’s eyes. Adolescent rattlesnakes that haven’t yet grown their rattles are just as dangerous as adult snakes.

Rattlesnakes feed on small warm-blooded animals such as mice and rats. Some larger snakes occasionally eat mammals as big as a rabbit. They typically will lie in wait and then strike at speeds of five-tenths of a second when they attack their victim.

picture of a copper head, one of the most dangerous snakes,

Copper heads

Copperheads’ are another dangerous member of the viper snake family. They are typically 20-37 inches long though they can grow over four feet long.

A copperhead snake has a thick body that is pale tan to pinkish-tan with pale crossbands and dark brown spots. The crossbands are light tan to pinkish tan and darker on the outside edges. Their heads are broad with symmetrical plates.

Young copperhead snakes use their yellow-tipped tails to lure small reptiles such as frogs and lizards. Copperheads are most commonly found in forests and wetlands and eat small mammals and insects.

picture of a cottonmouth snake crawling through grass,

Cottonmouth snake

Cottonmouth and water moccasins are the same snakes; they are pit vipers that can bite in the water or on land. They are typically found in the Southeastern United States and East Texas.

These are the snake I see most often around our house. They get the name cottonmouth from the white-colored membranes in their mouth.   Like the other North American pit vipers, they have elliptical pupils, triangular-shaped heads, and heat-sensing pits.

Water moccasins have thick bodies and often grow to 4 feet. They often sit quietly and wait for prey to approach. They have dark stripes by each nostril, pale snouts, and a large, triangular head.

Water moccasins also have distinct necks, unlike many other snakes. Their color goes from dark brown or black to olive, banded brown or yellow, and their bellies are paler in color than their backs.

Cottonmouths eat fish, turtles, and small mammals. Cottonmouths are aggressive and will strike when disturbed. They generally do not back down when upset. These are dangerous snakes.

Picture of a horse in a stall with a barn fan blowing.

Snakes are common around horse barns.

If you keep horses, you’re likely to see snakes around the barn. Snakes are attracted to the warmth and moisture of a horse barn, and they’re also drawn to the rodents that live there.

While most snakes aren’t harmful, it’s important to be aware of their presence and take steps to reduce the risk of snakebites.

You can do a few things to deter snakes from your property. First, remove any sources of food that might attract them. This means keeping your barn free of rodents and other small animals. You can also eliminate potential hiding spots by keeping the area around your barn clean and free of debris.

However, encounters with snakes are common when you work around horse barns or ride in the woods. It’s essential to your health and safety to be familiar with the snakes native to an area and know what to do when you encounter one.

Snakes are the most active between April and October; the warmer weather brings them out to mate. Snakes typically strike only when they are startled or feel threatened.

These are precautions you can take to reduce the risk of being bit by a snake:

  • Don’t pick up a snake.
  • When you see a snake, move away slowly; and note that a snake’s striking distance is typically half its length.
  • Don’t reach into holes.
  • Wear leather gloves when you work with debris, logs, rocks, and other objects where a snake might be lying.
  • Wear boots with high shafts or gaiters and a thick pair of pants when working or walking in grassy or wooded areas.

Call 911 if a snake bites someone.

What you need to do if someone is bitten by a snake

  • Call emergency personnel right away, dial 911, and notify the operator of the situation. A bite from a poisonous snake is very dangerous, and antivenom needs to be administered as soon as possible.
  • Try to identify the snake. Note the color, shape of its head, and size; the more details you can provide, the easier it is to identify. This information may be crucial for treatment.
  • Try to keep the person who was bitten calm. A racing heart will spread the venom faster than a slow, steady heart rate.
  • Position the person such that the bite location is below the heart.
  • Keep the person still
  • Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing 
  • To learn more about snake bites, visit the website for the National Snakebite Registry here.

Below is a YouTube video that talks about cowboy boots’ and stopping snake bites.

FAQ

How do you break in cowboy boots?

Wearing your boots is the best way to break them in. But if they are difficult to get on and are extremely uncomfortable, hold them over a pot of boiling water, let the steam rise into the shaft, put the boots on, and walk around in them.

Are leather cowboy boots waterproof?

No, leather cowboy boots aren’t waterproof, but they are water-resistant. Excessive moisture causes untreated leather boots to dry and crack. If you intend to wear cowboy boots in water, treat them first with a product to protect the leather.