Does Horsehair Rope Keep Snakes Away?

When I’m camping, I don’t mind the occasional creepy crawly – I mean if you don't have a few bugs in your tent are you really camping?

But I must admit that snakes scare me and I definitely don't want them getting into my tent or sleeping bag or being anywhere near our campsite. I had heard the old myth that horsehair rope keeps snakes away – but is there actually any truth to this? 

Horsehair rope does NOT keep snakes away and using it as a snake deterrent is an urban myth that has been disproven by scientific studies. Snakes don’t associate horsehair rope with horses and view it as any other rope-like obstacle (eg. twigs) they may encounter in the wild and they will pass right over it without any issue.

The old urban myth that snakes somehow associate horsehair ropes with horses and they will stay away from it because they are scared of horses is completely untrue.

It would be great it it worked, but unfortunately it doesn't deter or repel snakes at all.

If you don’t want snakes at your campsite, it’s good to understand what snake repellents work and which ones don’t. 

Why Doesn’t Horsehair Rope Keep Snakes Away? 

Image Source: MythBusters

Horsehair rope doesn’t keep snakes away because scientific studies and controlled experiments have proven that snakes can easily cross various types of rope, including horsehair rope.

“A length of sisal rope was placed across the floor of the test chamber on the grid. The snakes were not stopped or slowed down by this material”. 

Gary J. San Julian

If anything, horsehair rope makes it easy for snakes to climb over because it has a rough and textured surface with loose fibers sticking out. This gives the snake something to grab onto and enough traction to cross it effortlessly. 

Horsehair rope also isn't big enough to deter snakes as snakes can climb over almost anything that is lower than their own body length. A rope of the ground is similar to a stick, and we know snakes easily pass over these.

Horsehair rope keeping snakes away is an urban myth that originated in 1800s America when cowboys would sleep in the wild. They thought that snakes were scared of horses and would associate horsehair rope with them. 

Snakes aren’t necessarily frightened of horses but, as reclusive creatures, will avoid them because they know that such a large and powerful animal can easily trample them to death.  

If you need visual proof that snakes have no issues crossing horsehair rope, check out this YouTube video showing a rattlesnake doing just that: 

How Do I Keep Snakes Away When Camping?

If you want to keep snakes away while camping or sleeping on the ground, don’t use horsehair or any other kind or rope. Rather use an effective snake deterrent method like one of the following: 

  • Citronella. Snakes hate the smell of citronella (which incidentally also repels mosquitos and flies). You can burn citronella candles or oil in a lamp or essential oil burner and dot them around your campsite. 
  • Vinegar. With its strong acidic smell, vinegar also repels snakes. Consider bringing a plastic spray bottle of neat vinegar with you when camping and spray the surrounding vegetation to keep snakes away. 
  • Essential oils. If you’re not keen on using a commercial product or chemical, essential oils are your best bet for keeping snakes out of your campsite. Cloves, cinnamon and peppermint oils are examples of oils that snakes can’t stand and are in common snake repellent sprays like Exterminator’s Choice Snake Spray from Amazon. It will get the job done and is also non-toxic and safe for kids and pets.
Exterminators Choice - Snake Defense Spray Repellent (32 oz)
$23.99 ($23.99 / Count)

Works great on most common types of snakes such as Garter Snakes, Rattlesnakes, Copperheads, and many more. Features all-natural ingredients and no harmful chemicals, so it is safe to use around your pets and kids. Ingredients include clove, cinnamon, and peppermint oil.

To use the spray bottle, just a few spritzes using the included spray nozzle onto the designated area

Buy Now at Amazon
03/06/2024 09:32 pm GMT
  • Ammonia. If you don’t mind smelling ammonia while camping, use it to deter snakes. Instead of bringing a bottle with you, soak an old rag in ammonia and place it in a ziplock bag (which you can open when you arrive at your campsite).
  • Ready-made snake repellent product. If you don’t feel like using a home remedy, there are many excellent commercial snake repellents on the market that are effective and safe for the surrounding wildlife. 

Snake B Gone granules from Amazon don't have an unpleasant smell and you can sprinkle the granules wherever you need them, including around your campsite.

Ortho Snake B Gon - Snake Repellent Granules (2 Pack)
$24.99 ($0.39 / Ounce)

This ready-to-use formula can cover approximately 1,440 sq. ft. per bottle and acts as a snake repellent to prevent them entering the area, nesting and foraging. Has a 'no-stink' formula and is long lasting up to 30 days.

Buy Now at Amazon
03/06/2024 09:27 pm GMT

You can also take additional measures, such as keeping your tent and sleeping bag closed and sleeping with a mosquito net on.