Hilarious Ending of Rattlesnakes' 'Combat Dance' Caught in Viral Video

Most people would likely flee upon encountering a rattlesnake (or two) on a trail. But one brave hiker, finding two rattlesnakes engaged in a combat dance, decided to film the rare scene—resulting in a stunning video, found here. The footage, originally filmed by Justin Harris of White Blaze Outdoors and reposted by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR), has since gone viral on social media, racking up over 100,000 views in a matter of days.

"It was really a stroke of luck to be there at that site the very day that some female snakes were releasing pheromones, suggesting to males in the area that they were receptive for breeding," Harris said to Newsweek.

Rattlesnakes are just one of 30 snake species found in Virginia and one of three that are venomous. Identified easily by the rattle on their tales, the state's rattlesnakes can reach up to 67 inches in length. While they do have a scary reputation, the reptiles "would rather flee than bite" because "using venom for defense is [a] last resort for snakes," explained the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

Seen across different species of snakes, the "combat dance" serves as an important part of the mating process. According to the Virginia DWR, the combat dance is a "highly ritualized competition" between two male snakes.

"The objective of the behavior is to determine which of the two is the dominant male, with the winner usually mating with a nearby female," explained the agency in their post. "Males will face each other with their heads and forward part of their bodies raised. Intertwining their necks, each snake will try to push the other to the ground to establish superiority."

They added that the behavior is seen "in all three of Virginia's venomous snakes—copperhead, cottonmouth and timber rattlesnake."

Timber Rattlesnake
A pair of male rattlesnakes have gone viral after their "combat dance" was filmed by wildlife officials in Virginia. A timber rattlesnake being held in Squire, West Virginia, 2018. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

In the nearly two-minute-long clip, the snakes are raised into a near-vertical position. They appear to wrestle with one another, each attempting to wrap their neck around the other. As the standoff escalates, the snakes move out from their secluded nook and toward the cliff's rocky edge. Eventually, one snake prevails: the winner uses its body to shove the loser off the side of the mountain.

The footage was filmed in Washington County, Virginia, in the southwest section of the state.

"The combat lasted for a little over two minutes before one of the snakes was moved off of a rock ledge," said Harris. "I did try to descend down and discover the fate of the snake that went over the ledge, but did not ever locate it. I assume it probably survived the ordeal unless it hit its head hard on a rock."

According to Harris, who "[has] documented and photographed over 300 Timber Rattlers within the past four years," rattlesnakes are "actually very curious and peaceful snakes."

The footage, which captures the combat dance up-close, is somewhat of a rarity. "Observing behavior like this is not unheard of, but it is rarely captured on video," said John Kleopfer, State Herpetologist at the Virginia DWR, in statement to Newsweek.

"If you notice, there is no biting involved," he added, noting that it "wouldn't be a very efficient method of survival for your species if you're killing each other."

"Usually the ritual ends with the smaller snake submitting to the larger one and crawling away. Once dominance has been established, the victor will turn his attention to the female nearby and courtship will begin."

The clip—and its ending—has been a hit with viewers, resulting in hundreds of reactions and comments.

"I would not care to be a referee in that match," joked one commenter.

Another wrote that the snakes looked like they were "thumb wrestling" with each other.

The rattlesnakes' combat dance is not the only snake-related encounter to make recent headlines.

Last week, it was reported that an eight-foot-long pet boa constrictor was on the loose after escaping from its owner's home in East Haddam, Connecticut.

Meanwhile, in Australia, a woman returned to her home to find a mess in her living room. The culprit? A red-bellied snake, which she spotted sitting on top of her TV.