Snake Man of La Perouse

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Snake Man of La Perouse
Family watching snake man.jpg
Snake Man performance, January 2007
FormationEarly 1900s
TypeTheatre group
PurposeReptile show
Notable members
"Professor" Fred Fox
George Cann, Sr.
George Cann, Jr.
John Cann

The Snake Man is the common name for a reptile show at La Perouse, a suburb of Sydney, Australia.[1] Also known as 'the snake pit', an occasional Sunday afternoon visit to the Snake Man was a tradition for generations of Sydney families.


The show was held on the same site in La Perouse since the early 20th century.[2]

The original Snake Man was "Professor" Frederick Fox,[3] also known as the "Snake King",[4] who was proud of the immunity to snake venom that he had developed. However, like other such showmen, he did have his own special antidote. In 1913 Fox travelled to India to sell his antidote. Another local, Herbert See, took over the La Perouse show but he was bitten by a tiger snake and died in hospital.[5] While demonstrating his antidote in Calcutta in 1914 Fox was bitten several times by a krait. He treated himself but overlooked one bite and died after a few hours.[6]

George Cann took on the show in the 1920s and the Cann family ran the show thereafter.[7] Snake bites were an ongoing hazard.[8]

John Cann was awarded an OAM in 1992 for service to the community, conservation and the environment.[9] The area surrounding the snake pit has been named Cann Park.[10] The last snake man, John Cann, indicated in 2010 that he was soon to retire.[11][12] His last show was held on 18 April 2010.[13] The 7.30 Report broadcast a story on Cann on 13 April 2010.[14]

Since John Cann's retirement in 2010, the Hawkesbury Herpetological Society has been conducting the shows every weekend.[15][16][17][18] John Cann is still an active member of the Hawkesbury Herpetological Society, of which he is the patron.[19]

In November 2012 it was announced that the La Perouse Museum would include a permanent exhibition to recognise the Cann family.[20]

In 2014 the snake pit was damaged by vandals,[21]


The Snake Man performed in a 13 m x 7 m area of grass defined by a metre-high corrugated steel fence. He stood in the 'pit' and removed reptiles one by one from canvas bags to show them to people lining the fence. He held a snake by the tail as he talked about it, or he may have walked around the perimeter of the pit with the reptile just centimetres from the onlookers.

Often he allowed a harmless reptile, such as an Australian water dragon, to roam the pit for the duration of the show.

At the conclusion of each half-hour show 'the hat' was passed around for a small donation. The show was usually at 1.30 pm on Sundays.


  1. ^ "John Cann Snakeman". Retrieved 8 March 2010.
  2. ^ "Snakes!". Taranaki Herald. 12 June 1909. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  3. ^ F.C.H. (2 February 1910). "Proof against snake poison". The Sydney Mail. Retrieved 9 March 2010.[dead link]
  4. ^ "A Snake Hunt at Kurnell". Evening Post. 21 January 1911. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  5. ^ "Snake-charmers killed". Evening Post. 26 December 1913. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  6. ^ "Fox Dies from the Bite of a Poisonous Snake". The Miami News. 11 March 1914. Retrieved 10 March 2010.
  7. ^ "La Perouse Tram Terminus, The Loop, Snake Pit". Archived from the original on 20 June 2010. Retrieved 8 March 2010.
  8. ^ "Handler survives tiger snake-bite". The Sydney Morning Herald. 5 June 1967. Retrieved 10 March 2010.
  9. ^ "John Cann OAM". 26 January 1992. Retrieved 10 March 2010.
  10. ^ "Cann Park, Anzac Parade, La Perouse". Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 10 March 2010.
  11. ^ Elliott, Tim (23 January 2010). "Time to say goodbye to some not so cuddly friends". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 March 2010.
  12. ^ Moncrieff-Hill, Nick (11 January 2010). "Snake man's tail end". Retrieved 8 March 2010.
  13. ^ Cormack, Briget (1 April 2010). "Snake Show's Over". Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  14. ^ Sims, Geoff (13 April 2010). "Snake man calls it a day". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  15. ^ Bliss, Raylene (21 March 2014). "Are we doing enough to preserve the history of La Perouse's snakeman?". The Daily Telegraph. Australia. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  16. ^ Horin, Adele (19 April 2010). "No Cann do any more as snake man farewells family tradition". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  17. ^ "END OF THE CANN FAMILY SNAKE SHOWS". Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  18. ^ No Author (30 April 2014). "The century long Cann family tradition of snake shows at La Perouse continues". Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  19. ^ "Hawkesbury Herpetological Society – About Us – Our Patron". Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  20. ^ Power, Julie (8 November 2012). "Honour for snake man with a passion for turtles". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 November 2012.
  21. ^ Suckling, Laura (24 March 2014). "The historic Snake Pit at La Perouse has been vandalised". Southern Courier. Retrieved 26 March 2014.


Coordinates: 33°59′17″S 151°14′02″E / 33.9881°S 151.2339°E / -33.9881; 151.2339