Obscure Modern Monsters: Moreau’s Taxonomic Hydra

A short and quick entry for today’s interlude. It’s also reaaaallllllyyyy stretching the definition of “modern”, but this is a) not something I’d be giving a complete entry to, b) I’m not listing all the instances of creature usage in art, c) I wanted to share this with you regardless, and d) this is my website, YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO DAD.

Of course, as ABC readers you’re acquainted with Gustave Moreau’s 1876 masterpiece Hercules and the Lernaean Hydra.


But did you know that the hydra has the heads of actual snakes? As part of his research, Moreau consulted books by Bonnaterre, Cuvier, and Wagler at the Paris Natural History Museum’s library. He then used seven snakes for each of the hydra’s heads.

Going by his study below, the snakes are, clockwise from bottom left to bottom right: the neotropical rattlesnake, the puff adder, the European adder, the Egyptian cobra, the boomslang, the horned viper, and the Mexican anaconda.

hydra head taxonomy

Will ABC’s hydra entry use a similar true-to-life approach? Who can tell…


Lacambre, L. (1998) Gustave Moreau. Dossier de l’Art Hors-serie No. 51.