Bull Snake vs. Blow Snake vs. Chicken Snake: A Comparative Guide!

Bull Snake, Blow Snake, and Chicken Snake are three popular snakes found (among others) in North America. At first glance, they may share similarities. However, they are very different species.

Bull Snakes, Blow Snakes, and Chicken Snakes are diurnal, non-venomous snakes found mainly in North and Central America. Bull and Chicken Snakes are larger compared to Blow Snakes. Their size affects their different diets. The Chicken Snake is the most aggressive when responding to threats.

Read on for in-depth explanations of the key differences between Bull Snake, Blow Snake, and Chicken Snake.

Key Differences Between Bull Snakes, Blow Snakes, and Chicken Snakes

Bull Snakes, Blow Snakes, and Chicken Snakes have several striking differences. ‘Blow Snake’ is a term associated with some different snake subspecies. Below, I will refer to two of the most common ones: Western Hognose Snake (WHS) and Eastern Hognose Snake (EHS).

Here is a table that summarizes the primary differences between Bull Snakes, Blow Snakes, and Chicken Snakes:

Type of SnakeBull SnakeBlow SnakeChicken Snake
Scientific NamePituophis Catenifer Heterodon Nasicus or WHS (Western Hognose Snake) and Heterodon Platirhinos or EHS (Eastern Hognose Snake)Spilotes Pullatus
SizeLarge species Up to 8 ft (2.5 m)Smaller speciesWHS- About 20 inches (0.5 m)EHS- Up to 3.4 ft (1.05 m)Large speciesUp to 8 ft (2.5 m)
ColorsYellow-Dark BrownWHS- light brown, light and dark olive greenEHS- light brown, red, yellow, dark gray, blackBlack and yellow crossbands or diagonals
Geographic DistributionNorth America, Central AmericaWHS- Canada, North America, MexicoEHS- North America North America, Central America, South America
BehaviorLive mostly underground
Defensive behavior under threat
WHS- diurnal, defensive behavior when feeling threatened 
EHS- defensive behavior when feeling threatened 
More aggressive 
DietBirds, birds’ eggs, lizards, rodentsWHS- Frogs, amphibians, and lizardsEHS- Frogs, fish, birds, lizards, small mammalsRodents, bats, birds, small mammals
Venom ToxicityNot a threat to humansWHS- Not a threat to humansEHS- Mildly venomous, but not a threat to humansNot a threat to humans
Average Lifespan in the Wild12 years WHS- 14 yearsEHS- 8 years15 years

Now, let’s discuss these differences in greater detail:

Scientific Name

Bull Snake, Blow Snake, and Chicken Snake belong to different species. 

Bull Snake (Pituophis Catenifer) is also referred to as Gopher Snake. However, in some studies, Bull Snake is considered a subspecies of Gopher Snake. 

As mentioned above, the term ‘Blow Snake’ includes several subspecies. However, the most common ones include Western Hognose Snake (Heterodon Nasicus) and Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon Platirhinos).

The chicken Snake’s scientific name is Spilotes Pullatus, a large species, including five snake subspecies. 


Bull Snake represents a large snake species. Bull Snakes can be up to 8 ft (2.5 m) long. Chicken Snakes are also a large species, being one of the largest in North and South America. They have an average length of 8 ft (2.5 m). However, some of these snakes can be even longer.

On the other hand, Blow Snakes are smaller. The average length of a Western Hognose Snake is 20 inches (0.5 m), while the maximum length of an Eastern Hognose Snake is 3.4 ft (1.05 m).


Even though snakes of the same species may differ in appearance, each category has its signature colors. For instance, Bull Snakes are distinguished by their yellow and dark-brown combination. 

Blow Snakes are distinguished by their light brown signature color. However, Western Hognose Snakes combine it with light and dark olive green. On the other hand, Eastern Hognose Snakes feature stronger colors, like red, yellow, and black.

Chicken Snakes are considered some of the most beautiful snake species in the Americas. They are predominantly black and yellow, forming diagonals and crossbands throughout their length. 

Geographic Distribution

All these types of snakes are found in North America (including the US and Canada) and Central America (especially Mexico). Eastern Hognose Snake, a Blow Snake subspecies, is a North American native found mainly on the US East coast. On the other hand, Chicken Snake is also found in South America. 


Bull Snakes, Blow Snakes, and Chicken Snakes are diurnal animals; they hunt and are more active during the daytime. However, these snakes have noticeable differences concerning their behavior. 

Bull Snakes are known to live mostly underground. However, they can easily climb trees to provide food. They are not considered to have an aggressive attitude. Yet, they are defensive when perceiving a threat. In these cases, they hiss and shake their tail. 

Blow Snakes (both Eastern and Western Hognose Snakes) are known for their unaggressive behavior. Their defensive behavior, when threatened, includes hissing and flattening necks. They usually do not bite when feeling threatened. Instead, they prefer playing dead until the threat is not present anymore. 

Chicken Snakes are more solitary animals, known as territorial snakes. They may become aggressive when feeling threatened. They flatten their neck, rattle their tail, and may also bite. 


Like all snakes, these three species also swallow their prey whole using their flexible jaws.

Despite their size, Bull Snakes tend to hunt for smaller animals, like small birds and their eggs, lizards, small rodents, and the young of other snakes. 

Blow Snakes’ diet consists of different animals depending on the subspecies. Since Western Hognose Snakes are small-sized, their diet is limited to frogs, small amphibians, and small lizards. Eastern Hognose Snakes, on the other hand, being about double in size as Western Hognose Snakes, include in their diet fish, birds, and even small mammals. 

Chicken Snakes use the advantage of their body size to enjoy a rich diet, including rodents, bats, birds, and small mammals.

Venom Toxicity

These three snake species are not venomous. Even though, when feeling threatened, they can bite, their bite does not pose a risk to a human’s life or health. Due to their size and power, Bull Snake and Chicken Snake bites may be painful to humans. However, they are not venomous. 

On the other hand, Eastern Hognose Snakes (a subspecies of Blowsnakes) are mildly venomous to small mammals. However, their venom does not affect human health. 

Average Lifespan in the Wild

Bull Snakes, Blow Snakes, and Chicken Snakes have different lifespans in the wild. Chicken Snakes live the longest, with an average lifespan of 15 years, followed by Bull Snakes (12 years). 

Blow Snakes’ longevity depends on the subspecies. For instance, Western Hognose Snakes may live for about 14 years in the wild, whereas Eastern Hognose Snakes live for an average of 8 years. 

It should be noted, however, that their lifespan in captivity is much longer. Most of the time is about three to five years longer than the lifespan in the wild. 

Final Thoughts 

Bull Snake, Blow Snake, and Chicken Snake are snake species that live (among others) in North and Central America. They all are diurnal, non-venomous snakes. However, they have striking differences. 

Bull Snakes and Chicken Snakes are larger species than Blow Snakes, a much smaller one. Each of these species features its different signature colors. They react differently when exposed to threats, with Chicken Snake being more aggressive. 

They have different lifespans, which vary according to the species and whether they are in the wild or captivity. 

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