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  • Snakes and Sleeping Humans March 15, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite , trackback

    Beach has been wondering more about the legend of snakes as milk stealers: the satisfyingly bizarre idea that snakes suck milk both from nursing mother’s breasts and from cows’ and other ruminants’ udders. Beach has given examples of this belief and also speculated about the origins of this belief: was the idea Paleolithic or Neolithic or is it more recent? However, today, Beach found himself wondering what were the practicalities behind the way that snakes are cast as milk-stealers. First, though this should not be necessary, it is worth remembering that snakes drink (of course) but that they do not suck, and that there is no evidence that they drink milk. There is no way that snakes do what is claimed of them by tradition: they are not milk stealers. Is it possible though that snake habits could have got them this bad name?

    Beach recently visited an animal centre where his elder daughter handled a snake. The instructor explained that snakes enjoy warmth and so the snake travelled through elder daughter’s clothes and eventually wound its way up to her hair where it managed to get stuck: a tense minute followed and in the end the snake had to be cut from elder daughter’s hair.  But back to the task in hand… Is it possible that snakes so love warmth that they seek out, say, the warmth of sleeping humans, or sleeping cattle and are found their later by witnesses who come to their own conclusions?

    Beach didn’t have much luck looking for references to cows and snakes seeking warmth. But there are dozens of pages describing snakes cohabiting with sleeping people. Much of this is friend of a friend woke up with a rattlesnake in his sleeping bag: in other words, the kind of evidence that cannot be relied upon, the kind of thing that might even be urban legend. But there are some pages by zoologists and doctors that are more interesting. A mechanism suggested on this page is that snakes come to beds in the night because they sense warmth, but they then bite when the human occupant moves, sensing a flailing arm or leg as an attack. It seems credible enough. Does this stand up to examination: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com Is this the origin of the milk-stealing snake