When threatened the snake will raise up to one third of it's body off the ground, stretch the flaps on it's neck wide,much like a cobra, and make a loud hissing sound. If this does not frighten it's perceived foe away it will strike several times very swiftly, often landing it's bites on the body or head of the victim. One bite is said to contain enough venom to kill up to 20 grown men.
Experts say this is the worlds most dangerous snake. But like most snakes it tries to avoid confrontation, it's only when it's cornered and can't escape that it resorts to attack.
What got me thinking of these snakes was reading a short story by Herman Charles Bosman. In the *Withaak's Shade.
I told my story over several times before the lorry came with our letters, and although the dozen odd men present didn't say much while I was talking, I could see they listened to me in the same way that the listened when Krisjan Lemmer talked. And everyone knew Krisjan Lemmer was the biggest liar in the Bushveld.
To make matters worse, Krisjan Lemmer was there too, and when I got to the part where the leopard lay down beside me, Krisjan Lemmer winked at me. You know that kind of wink. It was to let me understand that there was now a new understanding between us, and we could speak in future as one Marico liar to another.
I didn't like that.
"*Kerrels," I said in the end, "I know just what you are thinking. You don't believe me, and you don't want to say so."
"But we do believe you," Krisjan Lemmer interrupted me, "very interesting things happen in the Bushveld. I once had a twenty-foot mamba that I named Hans. This snake was so attached to me that I couldn't go anywhere without him. He would even follow me to church on Sunday, and because he didn't care much for some of the sermons, he would wait for me under a tree. Not that Hans was irreligious. But he had a sensitive nature, and the strong line that the *predikant took against the serpent in the Garden of Eden always made Hans feel awkward. Yet he didn't go and look for a withaak to lie under, like your leopard. He wasn't stand-offish in that way. An ordinary thorn-tree's shade was good enough for Hans. He knew he was only a mamba, and he didn't try to give himself airs."
*Withaak, a species of thorn-tree with hook like thorns.
*Kerrels, men, or guys.