Ball pythons are constantly in the spotlight for being one of the most popular pet snake breeds. But just because you may have heard a lot about these beloved creatures doesn’t mean you know everything there is to know about them. If ball pythons aren’t already one of your favorite snakes, we’ve got 20 interesting facts about ball pythons that will have you joining their throngs of fans.
Brief Overview of Ball Pythons
These stunning snakes hail from West and Central Africa and have become iconic in the reptile world and of the exotic pet industry as a whole. They’re one of the smallest of the python family and have the disposition to match. Renowned for being well-tempered and extraordinarily tolerant of handling, ball pythons are a delightful pet option for both beginners and experienced hobbyists.
20 Interesting Facts About Ball Pythons
- The scientific name for the ball python is based in history (Hint: They used to be a favorite of royalty!)
The Latin name for ball pythons, Python regius, translates to “royal python”. Why? This snake is believed to be a favorite of African royalty who frequently wore live ball pythons as jewelry. The names can be used interchangeably as the ball python and royal python are the same snake.
- Their common name is tied to their defense mechanism
So where does the “ball” part of their name come from? You won’t have to wait long to find out. When these snakes feel threatened, their natural instinct is to tightly curl up into themselves. These non-aggressive snakes are lovers, not fighters.
- Ball pythons are sacred to a tribe in Nigeria
The Igbo (sometimes referred to as Ibo) religion believes ball pythons to be messengers of a soil goddess. These animals are still revered today and to come across one is considered to be a good omen. Accidentally killing one, however, is considered bad luck as well as a punishable offense.
- Female ball pythons are typically larger than the males
On average, ball pythons have an average length of around 4 feet. Females tend to be larger between 4 and 5 feet long, while the males rarely exceed 4 feet. Sex-based size differences within a species is called sexual dimorphism and is very common in the animal world.
- They sometimes reproduce asexually
A ball python recently made headlines when she laid a clutch of eggs after 15 years of isolation and no contact with a male. Parthenogenesis, asexual reproduction by a species that normally is sexually reproducing) is a rare anomaly that has only been documented in four types of animals: sharks, birds, lizards, and snakes. The eggs laid from these circumstances don’t always hatch, but in the instances that they do, they are genetically identical to the mother but always males.
- Pregnant snakes don’t eat
Talk about a dedicated mom. While snakes aren’t known for being the most attentive parents, female ball pythons will stay coiled around her eggs, keeping them warm as well as safe from predators. It takes between 55 to 70 days for ball python eggs to hatch and during this period the mother snake will not hunt or eat at all. It’s not uncommon for a mother ball python to lose almost half her body weight, and can take several months to regain. This is extremely taxing and why ball pythons only breed once every few years.
- They can lay almost twice as many eggs as an average clutch
Ball pythons have been known to lay up to 12 eggs in a single clutch. The average number of eggs for snakes is only 6. But, this is balanced out by the fact that the females only breed once every 2-3 years. They usually do so in a narrow time frame of late December or January.
- There are over 50 ball python morphs
If you are looking for a customizable pet, look no further. The ball python has the most morphs of any other popular pet snake species. There are formally recognized morphs, but enthusiastic breeders have expanded the total number to be in the thousands.
- No two ball pythons have the same pattern
Just as no two humans have the same fingerprint, no two ball pythons have the exact same pattern. The one exception, however, is in the rare occurrence of baby python twins.
- They don’t have fangs, they have teeth (and over 100 of them)
As a nonvenomous snake, ball pythons don’t have fangs. Instead, that can have up to 100 needle-like teeth that point backward. In the wild, this would help prevent their live prey from escaping. Despite how fearsome this may sound, ball python bites are remarkably mild and rarely ever painful.
- Ball pythons have poor eyesight
Like most other species of snake, ball pythons have very poor eyesight in comparison to their other senses. It is believed that they can see general shapes, just not specific details. Scientists believe this is due to their ancestors who were burrows and constantly lived in low-light conditions.
- They find prey using their mouths
Instead of relying on their eyes to scope out their prey, these ambush predators have heat-sensing pits below their nostrils. Ball pythons have four on each side of their mouth, which allows them to identify and track their prey’s heat signature.
- Ball pythons are nocturnal
Night-hunting species like these little guys have special lenses in their eyes that allow more ultraviolet light. In addition to their heat-sensing mouth, their eyes are very helpful for hunting in the dark – quite a handy feature to have for a nocturnal snake. Ball pythons may also be crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk.
- Rural communities use them as pest control
Ball pythons feed on rodents, making them a natural solution for pest control issues. Wild ball pythons play a vital role in controlling rodent populations, which in turn can prevent structural damage or farm infestations.
- Ball pythons are one of the most docile of all snake species
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that ball pythons are one of the most well-tempered snakes you could own. Calm and non-aggressive in nature, these snakes are very tolerant of being handled. Even when they are scared or agitated, their first instinct is to curl up into a ball rather than to lash out. For this reason, ball pythons are a great snake option for households with children.
- Ball pythons have hind legs…sort of
On the underside of a ball python’s belly are the remnants of their hind legs. These small vestigial limbs are called anal spurs which are located near the vent below the pelvic girdle. Both males and females have them although they don’t serve a purpose anymore except during breeding.
- They can live for up to 45 years in captivity
The average lifespan for a captive ball python is between 20 and 30 years, but there are numerous accounts of these charming serpents living even longer. The same ball python that asexually reproduced in the St. Louis Zoo is 62, making it the oldest ball python that’s ever been recorded. The previous owner of that title was a 47-year-old ball python at the Philadelphia zoo.
- Their eyes turn blue when they’re about to shed
One of the most noticeable indicators that a ball python is about to undergo the shedding process is that its eyes will seemingly change color to a milky or grayish-blue. This is actually due to a buildup of fluid between layers of scales. Since snakes have no eyelids, they instead have a special type of scale called an ‘eye cap’ that protects their eyes from irritants. Being a scale, it is routine shed and the bluish appearance is merely dead skin pulling away from new skin.
- They only defecate about once a week
Adult ball pythons eat infrequently, once every week or two. As such, the defecate at an equally seldom rate. Most owners find this quite convenient as it makes for easier, less frequent, clean up. Juveniles, on the other hand, will need to eat more often – about once every 5-6 days.
- They are the most popular snake kept as pets
Last but not least, ball pythons are considered a darling amongst the reptile community and are widely regarded as one of the best pet snake options. For this reason, they’re widely considered to be the most popular snake breed in North America and Europe. These sweet serpents have been prolific in the exotic pet trade and can be found almost anywhere that reptiles are sold.
Ball Pythons: A Dream Pet for Reptile Lovers
We may have listed 20 interesting facts about ball pythons, but we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what makes these creatures such wonderful pets. To truly appreciate what makes ball pythons special, we always recommend getting one yourself. They make for low-maintenance companions that can offer decades of entertainment and a lifetime of fascination. Even though ball pythons are beginner-friendly snakes, they’re fun to own and a worthwhile experience for both new and veteran reptile-lovers alike. Explore our selection of baby ball pythons featuring some of the most beautiful and popular ball python morphs.