If you have held any interest in owning or breeding corn snakes (also known as red rat snakes), you are not alone. These snakes are among some of the most commonly kept reptiles in the world. This is because they are known to have great temperaments, and are easy to handle. They also have an awesome, unique, varied appearance that you likely aren’t clear on. After all, chances are that you have not seen two corn snakes that look the same. So, what does a corn snake look like?
There is a straightforward answer to this, and a slightly longer one. To put it simply, corn snakes are a smaller reptile that grow to be about 4 feet in length. They have a thinner physique, and sport a vibrant gradient of reds, oranges, and yellows with black banding. However, as you can likely guess, they can appear quite different in captivity.
Before we get into different corn snake morphs, however, let’s discuss why they sport that stunning appearance in the first place.
Why Do Corn Snakes Look Like That
When asking “what does a corn snake look like”, you are going to have to take a step back and take some environmental context into consideration. These snakes are native to the southeast region of the US. They inhabit a variety of environments, and play the essential role of a reptile predator in each of them. However, being relatively small and without a heavy defense mechanism such as venom, they are often vulnerable to larger predators.
This is why they have developed a survival strategy known as mimicry. This is where one animal develops the characteristics of a more dangerous one. In this case, the corn snake has evolved similar coloring to the deadly copperhead, which is of a similar size and does indeed have venom. One reliable way that you can tell the difference between the two is that copperheads have darker, more regular, hourglass shaped splotches on their side.
Corn Snake Morphs
When looking at corn snakes for sale, chances are that you are looking into various morphs and the differences between them. While there are an abundance of corn snake morphs that have been developed by fanciers and researchers over the decades (over 800), there are some that are especially popular for their appearance. To assist in that process, here are some descriptions of the more popular corn snake morphs out there.
The “hypo” in the name for this snake morph refers to the term “hypomelanism”. This essentially means that these snakes look rather like typical corn snakes. However, there is a notable absence of some darker colors.
Black corn snakes (as the name implies) have primarily black patterning overlapping a dark gray body color. The are also kwonw as an anery which is short for anerythristic meaning they lack red pigmentation.
As with any animal that has albinism, these snakes have no black pigment on them, leaving a beautiful collage of red and orange splotches on a white body. Naturally, they also have distinctive ruby-red eyes indicative of albinism.
Honey corn snakes sport a recessive gene that lightens a lot of pigmentation from their scales. This trades the typical orange and reds you see from this species to a softer palate of yellows.
Once again, this snake sports a recessive hypomelanistic gene. By first looking at it, you may notice that it looks somewhat similar to the original corn snake. However, it presents in this snake as deep reds and oranges with dense, squarish blotches.
Unlike most other corn snakes which have developed a stunning palette of reds, yellows, and oranges, these animals have had virtually all pigment bred out of them. This only leaves some shades of gray and black.
These are, essentially, the original coloring of the corn snake which sports the famous red-black-yellow patterning. When thinking about what corn snakes look like, this is likely what comes to mind. There is also the “reverse” okeetee corn snake, which has overall paler coloring and white rather than black banding.
Final Thoughts on What Corn Snakes Look Like
Whether you’re a breeder, seller, collector, or simply a fan of the snake, there are a wide variety of options available to you. No matter what morph suits your taste, it is important that you take health and temperament into consideration. Whatever you decide to go with, your journey into reptile keeping is bound to be rewarding. You may just decide to get several different types of corn snake before you know it!