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What is a Ball Python?

By Felicia Dye
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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The ball python is a snake formally known as Python regius. These reptiles have a natural home area that extends from West Africa to Central Africa. They are considered to be well mannered and for this reason are commonly kept as pets.

Ball pythons have muscular bodies, which are mostly covered with brown and tan camouflage designs. The shades of these colors and the patterns they form may vary. Despite these variances, all of the snakes generally have creamy white underbellies.

A ball python will generally range from three feet (.91 m) to five feet (1.52 m) long when it is full grown. The females tend to be larger than the males. They can grow up to six feet (1.82 m) long, but most of them do not exceed five feet (1.52 m). Their bodies are usually about six inches (15.2 cm) in diameter. If these snakes live in the wild without human intervention, they will generally survive for about 10 years. As pets, they are likely to have life spans ranging from 20 to 30 years.

The ball python needs the muscles in its body because it is a constricting snake. It kills its prey by wrapping around it and squeezing it to death. Its tendency to wrap up is also a defense mechanism that contributes to the name “ball python.” Instead of attempting to strike, in most instances, when this snake feels threatened, it will roll itself into a ball and tuck its head beneath its body.

In their natural habitats in Africa, ball pythons usually live in forests and in savannas. There are three things generally required to make a good home for these snakes: cover, water, and heat. When compared with many other species of snakes, a ball python is not considered to be very active. Most of ball pythons’ movement is done at dawn or dusk. Meanwhile, these snakes like to spend a lot of time underground or concealed by covering such as brush and thick grasses.

The areas where these snakes live often have temperatures of around 100 degrees F (38 degrees C). This motivates the snakes to stay close to water sources so they can cool themselves. Those who keep ball pythons as pets should remember these factors when creating the snake's living environment. If a person is planning to have more than one, it should not be a problem because they are known to generally burrow peacefully together.

Pet owners who purchase wild-caught specimens may experience a problem getting the snakes to eat. This sometimes happens and should not cause a great deal of concern if there is no evidence the snake is in poor health. People who want these snakes as pets, however, are advised to buy domestic bred ball pythons. Not only are they less likely to be loaded with parasites, they also have been found to make better pets.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Ball Python?

A Ball Python, also known as Python regius, is a non-venomous constrictor snake native to West and Central Africa. They are named for their defensive behavior of curling into a tight ball when threatened. Ball Pythons are popular in the pet trade due to their docile nature and relatively small size, typically growing to 4-5 feet in length.

How long do Ball Pythons live?

Ball Pythons have a notable lifespan, especially in captivity where they can live for 20 to 30 years with proper care. According to the Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, the oldest recorded Ball Python lived over 47 years in captivity, highlighting the commitment required when keeping them as pets.

What do Ball Pythons eat?

In the wild, Ball Pythons prey on small mammals and birds. In captivity, they are typically fed a diet of appropriately sized rodents, such as mice or rats. It's important to feed them pre-killed prey to avoid injury to the snake. Feeding frequency varies with age, with juveniles eating more frequently than adults.

Are Ball Pythons good pets for beginners?

Ball Pythons are often recommended for beginner snake owners due to their manageable size, docile temperament, and relatively simple care requirements. However, potential owners should educate themselves on the specific needs of these reptiles, including habitat setup, temperature regulation, and feeding practices to ensure they can provide a healthy environment.

How do you properly care for a Ball Python?

Proper care for a Ball Python includes providing a secure enclosure with adequate space, maintaining a temperature gradient of 75-90°F, and ensuring high humidity levels around 50-60%. A hide box for shelter and a water bowl large enough for soaking are essential. Regular handling can help keep them tame, but always with gentle respect for the animal's comfort.

Can Ball Pythons be handled safely?

Yes, Ball Pythons can be handled safely. They are known for their calm disposition and are less likely to bite compared to other snake species. Handling should be done gently and infrequently to avoid stress. Always support their body and avoid sudden movements. It's advisable to wash hands before and after handling to prevent the spread of salmonella.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon116991 — On Oct 08, 2010

I didn't know that there was a such a thing as a ball python. that is really cool. my mom don't like snakes.

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