By Stephen D. Bowling
The long and storied history of Breathitt County is filled with strange and unusual events. Some occurrences can be explained, but others remain a mystery. The killing of a “calliker” and the appearance of the fabled “white dog” are two examples of unexplained natural occurrences. There are many others, but one nature anomaly garnered national attention in 1877.
Newspapers across the country ran a story that first appeared in the Mt. Sterling Democrat. The small article gave a full description of one of the strangest creatures ever documented in Breathitt County.
The short article appeared in at least 21 newspapers including The Holton (Kansas) Recorder. On page 7 of the Recorder, editors printed the news of the Breathitt County oddity without a headline in a long column of “strange” news from around the country.
A large rattlesnake was killed in Breathitt County a few days ago that proved to be quite a curiosity. It was perfectly formed, save it had two well-developed necks and heads.
The prongs of the necks were about four inches long, and the snake used both heads at the same time, striking with both and thrusting out its tongues in a spiteful manner, and had the appearance of two snakes—so much so that the parties who killed it did not discover the deformity until after his snakeship was dead.
We give Judge E. C. Strong of Breathitt as authority for the above, and he says it can be substantiated by a dozen good witness. – Mt. Sterling (Ky.) Democrat
Oddly enough, there are other reports of two-headed snakes similar to the one from Breathitt County as late as 2019. One of the most recent and more famous was the discovery of “Double Dave” by two herpetologists.
Breathitt County’s double-headed oddity did not make it to a safe sanctuary like Dave. Mountain farmers don’t usually appreciate the finer niceties of our slithering neighbors. Sadly, there are no photos of Breathitt’s poisonous belly crawler. Without the brief article in the Mt. Sterling Democrat and its subsequent republication across the country, the story of Breathitt County’s two-headed rattlesnake would have been lost to history.
© 2022 Stephen D. Bowling