Ball pythons might be one of the most popular pet reptiles in the world, but how much do you really know about them? Whether you’re looking to learn more about your new pet or just drop some random knowledge at your next social gathering, here are 30 fun and fascinating ball python facts that you should know!
The 30 Facts About Ball Pythons
Origins & Habitat
1. Ball pythons were once considered sacred.
Ball pythons originate from regions in central and western Africa. Some cultural traditions and religions also found in those areas, particularly in the country of Nigeria, believed ball pythons were sacred and never harmed them. They even performed funeral ceremonies for any snake who was killed by mistake.
2. They are also known as royal pythons.
Ball pythons are sometimes called royal pythons. This name arises from the belief that ancient royals once wore ball pythons as jewelry. Legend has it that Cleopatra often wore a ball python as a bracelet.
3. Their more common name comes from their defensive behavior.
The name ball python refers to how these snakes react when threatened. Rather than slithering away or striking out, they curl themselves into a tight ball to appear as small as possible. Frightened ball pythons also display this protective behavior.
4. They are grass-loving snakes.
In the wild, ball pythons prefer to live in savannas and grasslands, although they can live in open woods if they must.
5. They like water.
No matter if they inhabit grasslands or forests, ball pythons almost always live near a water source. They use the water both to drink and to keep cool in the hot climate of their African homeland.
Facts About the Ball Python’s Appearance
6. No two ball pythons look exactly the same.
Like fingerprints or snowflakes, every ball python’s pattern is just a little different! Their coloring and patterns are meant to help them blend into their surroundings but there can be quite a bit of variation among individual snakes.
7. They are one of the smallest pythons.
Ball pythons are the smallest python found on the African continent and one of the smallest python species in the world. They can reach up to 5 feet but average more like 2-4 feet in length. In contrast, reticulated pythons can be 23 feet long!
8. Females are larger than males.
Like many species of snake, adult ball python females are always larger than males. Males usually top out at 2-3 feet long while females can be 3-5 feet in length.
9. They have a lot of teeth!
Ball pythons are non-venomous snakes but that doesn’t mean they are toothless. Their mouths are lined with 100-150 small, pointed teeth, designed to grip and hold their prey.
10. They don’t see well.
Ball pythons have quite bad eyesight because they don’t use their vision when hunting. How do they find their prey you ask? More on that in later facts.
11. Their eyes turn blue before they shed their skin.
Ball pythons shed their skin every 5-7 weeks. About 1-2 weeks before they begin the shedding process, their eyes turn blue as their old skin loosens and fluid builds up between the two layers. After shedding, the eyes return to their normal dark color.
12. Morphs, morphs, and more morphs!
Thanks to a lot of dedicated and creative breeders, ball pythons are now available in thousands of different color and pattern combinations. Some popular ball python morphs include spider, pastel, champagne, and albino.
Hunting & Feeding
13. Ball pythons use “heat vision” to find their prey.
Like serpent superheroes, ball pythons have their own special hunting power. Because they hunt at night, ball pythons don’t rely on their poor eyesight to find their dinner. They have two heat-sensing pits on either side of their mouth to track and capture their prey. A ball python’s heat vision is so sensitive they can locate prey as far as several feet away.
14. Ball pythons are constrictors.
After locating and gripping their prey with their teeth, ball pythons slowly tighten their bodies around their unlucky meal, killing them by constriction. Once the animal is dead, the ball python swallows them whole.
15. Ball pythons know just how tight they need to squeeze.
As they constrict their prey, ball pythons can sense their victim’s heartbeat, applying just enough pressure to get the job done. As soon as they confirm the heart has stopped, they loosen their grip and move into eating mode.
16. They don’t eat often.
Adult ball pythons only eat once every week or so. It may take the snake up to 3 days to fully digest their meal, depending on the size of the animal consumed.
17. They don’t eliminate often either!
Since a snake has to eat before they can digest and eliminate, it is no surprise that ball pythons don’t defecate often either. Typically, a ball python will pass solid waste about a week after they eat.
18. Ball pythons can go months without eating.
During dry seasons when food is scarce, ball pythons can survive for up to months at a time without eating. They do this by lowering their metabolism levels, allowing their body to essentially run on empty.
19. Ball pythons can be picky eaters.
Both wild and pet ball pythons often go without eating simply because they can’t find a morsel that’s quite to their taste! Pet snakes may refuse to eat pre-killed prey while wild snakes may hold out for a certain rat or mouse.
20. They are hunted by other animals as well.
Ball pythons don’t live at the top of their local food chain. Their common predators include larger snakes, owls, and mammals.
Facts About Ball Python Reproduction
21. Pregnant ball pythons don’t eat.
A female ball python won’t eat at all or will eat just the bare minimum throughout the time they are carrying their eggs up until the eggs hatch. One reason for this is that they just don’t have room inside their bodies to fit both the eggs and a digesting meal!
22. Ball pythons lay eggs in borrowed homes.
When it’s time to lay eggs, female ball pythons will take over the abandoned burrows of other animals. Safely hidden away from predators, they lay up to 11 eggs at a time.
23. Mother ball pythons stay with their eggs.
Many snake species lay their eggs and then leave them to their own devices. Female ball pythons remain with their eggs until they hatch. They curl on top of the nest, guarding the eggs and helping them stay warm.
24. Baby ball pythons are super colorful.
When they hatch, baby ball pythons are more brightly colored than they will be as adults. Their colors slowly fade as they grow and go through the shedding process.
25. After they hatch, baby ball pythons are on their own.
Once her eggs hatch, the female ball python goes on about her business. The new hatchlings, about 14-17 inches when they emerge from their eggs, are left to take care of themselves. Baby ball pythons are especially vulnerable to predators during this time.
26. They live a long time in captivity.
Wild ball pythons usually aren’t so lucky, but in captivity, ball pythons may live up to 50 years with proper care.
Other Facts About Ball Pythons
27. They’re slow.
One reason ball pythons don’t try to escape threats by fleeing is that they probably won’t get very far. Ball pythons move quite slowly, reaching a top speed of only about 1 mile per hour. With tiny teeth and no chance of moving fast enough to escape, curling up in a ball and trying to hide is really the only chance they have!
28. Wild ball pythons might not be around forever.
Even though ball pythons currently aren’t considered endangered, that doesn’t mean they don’t face threats to their survival. Loss of habitat is a danger to wild ball pythons, as it is for many species of animals worldwide. Human activity also poses a threat to the ball pythons. Wild snakes may be captured for the pet trade or killed for their skins.
29. Pet ball pythons can become overweight.
While you might not think of a snake getting too heavy, it can happen. Wild ball pythons control their own eating habits, but pet snakes are at the mercy of their owners. Inexperienced python owners may feed their pets too often or too much, causing them to gain weight. Overweight ball pythons may suffer from health problems and not live as long.
30. They embrace the role of a pet.
Pet ball pythons, when properly tamed and socialized, are among the friendliest of reptiles. They tolerate handling well and even learn to enjoy being held or even draping across their owner’s neck. You too can have your own living snake jewelry, just like Cleopatra.
Ball pythons aren’t just amazing pets; they are amazing creatures—period! Hopefully, learning these 30 fascinating facts about ball pythons has given you a whole new appreciation for these beautiful reptiles. If you decide you want to get your own ball python, learn all you can about how to care for your new pet before you commit to bringing one into your life.
- Where Do Ball Pythons Come From?
- 7 Common Ball Python Health Problems, Illnesses & Diseases (Vet Answer)
Featured Image Credit: Jodi Erickso, Shutterstock