Dudley Duplex

No one knew it at the time, but the arrival of the Zoo’s first two-headed snake in 1953 would turn out to be a double-header in terms of success.
  • 1950s

Dubbed Dudley Duplex, this two-headed California king snake had been found by a local property owner and donated to the Zoo’s collection. According to the snake’s size—about one foot in length—Dudley was estimated to have hatched earlier that year. Two-headed snakes were (and are) rare, but not unheard of. The best available information at the time indicated such serpents only lived for about a year in zoos, but less in the wild—with two heads, there are significant challenges in which direction to travel, which head decides to hunt for food, and which head will swallow the prey.

At the Zoo, however, keepers could make sure conflict was minimal and feeding was effective. Dudley Duplex went on to celebrate many birthdays at the Reptile House, setting a longevity record of 6.5 years and bringing the Zoo a great deal of media attention. He even appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson along with Joan Embery. Of course, as an article in ZOONOOZ reported at the time, “All the publicity…failed to turn either head.”

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