Heading down I-35 South from Austin into New Braunfels, you've probably seen the big red and white sign visible from the highway touting the Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo. The Snake Farm, as it's generally known among Texans, has been a beloved roadside attraction capturing the imaginations of travelers since 1967.
You may have visited it as a kid or never heard of it, but either way, it's worth checking out so you can have your own personal experience. Here are ten facts about the Texas Snake Farm you'll be interested to learn.
1. It has been in business for almost 50 years.
The Snake Farm was opened in 1967 by Mack McClung, who placed the establishment strategically to catch travelers to the 1968 Worlds Fair in San Antonio. McClung opened the establishment with three pythons and the help of his nieces.
2. It's under new management.
Since the mid-2000s, the favorite Texas roadside attraction was acquired by Dallasite Dr. Eric Trager (not pictured), who immediately set about obtaining proper zoo accreditation for the site, which he received in 2011.
3. It's no longer called the Snake Farm.
Since its acquisition by Dr. Trager, the Snake Farm has expanded to include other exotic animals and to reflect that, Trager changed the name to Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo.
4. There are more than just snakes.
As is implied by its new name, the Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo not only has plenty of snakes (including a Burmese python) in their reptile house, it also has spiders, gators, llamas, a zebra, monkeys, peacocks, ring-tailed lemurs, and a petting zoo. And don't forget to stop by the gift shop.
5. It was featured on Mike Rowe's Dirty Jobs show.
Taking care of snakes and alligators is not only dirty, but it's also downright dangerous. Director Jarrod Forthman lost part of his thumb getting up close while taking care of the predatory animals.
6. They have big plans for the farm.
Dr. Trager has been steadily making improvements to the park, including improving the animals' cages and living conditions and has plans to add nature trails, a water recycling program, and eventually hopes for a full zoo in the 20 acres behind the original facility.
7. It was visited by the band The Ramones.
8. Ray Wylie Hubbard wrote a song about it.
9. It's not a cover business for a brothel.
Despite rumors to the contrary, "snake farm" is not a euphemism for something lewd. There are truly lots and lots of actual snakes there, including dangerous and venomous snakes.
10. They're big into conservation.
What started as a simple roadside attraction has become a conservation effort led by the new owner Dr. Eric Trager. Trager told Culturemap Austin in a 2012 interview, "This is a labor of love. I was always the guy that picked up the stray dog, took it to the vet, put the posters up. I donated money to shelters and to save the sea turtles. Even as a doctor, I treat a lot of people for free. When I saw Snake Farm and saw that it was so run down, I knew I could turn it around and make a difference. I didn't know it would cost so much in terms of time or money, but I'm happy to do it, and I'm not going to stop."
This post was originally published on April 13, 2016.