26 Cool Facts About Ball Pythons

As I have been looking for a pet snake to raise in my home, I’ve been drawn to Ball Pythons by their beautiful patterns and calm nature. Here are 26 interesting facts that I’ve found along the way that I thought were too cool not to share.

1. Ball Pythons are also Known as Royal Pythons

Ball pythons are called Royal Pythons by Europeans. They are called “Royal” because it is said that African tribe leaders would wear the snakes like they were jewelry.  That’s one heck of a necklace.

There is also a rumor still in circulation today that Cleopatra used to wear a ball python around her wrist as a bracelet.

2. They Curl into Balls

Ball pythons got their American name because of the way they tense up and coil up. They do this as a defense mechanism when they are scared. Because a Ball Pythons does not usually go looking for a fight, it tries to become as small as possible, and tuck its head under its body.

They can also do this when they are upset. The ball they roll themselves into is so tightly wound that they could be rolled around on the ground.

Ball Pythons are widely known for this. Sometimes it is seen as cute and funny but most of the time when a snake of this breed curls up like this, it’s because they are stressed or frightened. 

3. No Two Snakes look Alike

That’s right. No two snakes have patterns that are exactly like another. There is a vast variety of colors and patterns, as well as size. Ball Snakes are typically brown or tan with darker circle-like shapes on their bodies.

There are also some lighter ball pythons with a more yellow tone as well as white with black marks. It really all does just depend on the individual snake but they all are really beautiful.

Ball pythons skin is usually dark and earthy toned to blend in with its surroundings. The variation in tone and spots are to reflect nature. These sneaky cuties are the snowflakes of the reptile family. 

4. Some Can Live to be 45 Years Old

The average life-span of a ball python is 30 years but it is not unheard of for one to live up to 45 years old as long as they are living in captivity. These snakes tend not to live as long in the wild because of the environment and dangers in having to fend for themselves. 

There is even talk of a ball python that has lived in captivity for over 50 years. Whether that is true or not, getting one of these fellas as a pet is a long-term commitment.

5. Babies are Called Hatchlings

Just like baby sheep are called lamb and dogs are called puppies, all python babies have special names too. They are called “Hatchlings.” They are named this, of course, because they come from eggs. 

Hatchlings are the most adorable creatures on the planet. They are small but mighty. Watch out! They like to nibble. 

As babies, in the wild, ball pythons eat insects, small birds or small mammals, (like mice). Babies have to eat more frequently than adults do too. 

6. They are Native to Northern and Central Africa

This breed was originally discovered in Africa because they like warm, grassy regions. They are, of course, related to other pythons but are typically much smaller. They have been able to adapt to live in different climates but prefer drier regions. 

Ball Pythons have since lived in houses around the world because of their relaxed nature and their small size. They are one of the most popular breeds of snakes to raise as a pet. 

7. They Like to be Held

This fact is definitely for pet snakes. Pet snakes that have matured are comfortable around humans. They like to be held around once a day and will curl around their owner’s arms or drape around necks.

Younger snakes are more easily startled and are known to be a bit more bite-y and dangerous than older snakes. Of course, these bites are not too dangerous because they are small and do not have venom. This issue also depends from snake to snake and how comfortable they are with their owners.

8. They Make Great Pets

Because of their docile nature, these pythons have become a favorite pet among reptile lovers. Ball Pythons love to relax, play hide-and-go-seek, and cuddle. They are not too big, either which is nice for owners who don’t have space for a huge enclosure. 

They are great pets because they only need to be fed once a week, or maybe just once every two weeks, depending. They are not very high maintenance. They also don’t need constant attention. As your pet, they are content if you let them be. Not to mention, they are beautiful. 

Another great reason they are great companions is that they are an inexpensive option. Their living is not expensive and their food does not cost much. Once you have a terrarium that’s heated, you’re nearly there. I have compiled a list of everything I know about ball python care, and I even mention how to find and choose the best terrarium for your ball python. Find it here.

9. They are Considered Sacred to a Tribe in Nigeria

A tribe in Nigeria, the Igbo People believed in their traditional religion that Ball Pythons were sacred and highly revered. If a Ball Python slithered into a village, it would be left to itself. If one was killed on accident, the members of the village would through a small funeral for it and bury it. Some of that tradition is still carried on to this day.  

10.  A Female Can Lay up to 11 Eggs at Once

A female typically lays 4 – 6 eggs each time she breeds but it is not uncommon for there to be many eggs from one female. Females usually only breed every 3 years. It’s very understandable to me why. Imagine having 11 kids at once. 

Before the eggs hatch, the mom will stay on top of its eggs, coiled in a ball. This usually takes 55 – 60 days. During this time, the mom will not leave the eggs and usually will not eat. When the eggs hatch in the wild, these hatchlings are left to fend for themselves because their mother leaves. 

Babies can be breed in captivity as well. 

11. They are the Smallest Breed of Pythons

The average size for a Ball Python is 2 – 3 feet. There are some snakes that are 4.5 feet long but that is usually the maximum. This is very small compared to Burmese Python that can reach up to 23 feet long and be 350 lbs. Ball Pythons are also related to Boa Constrictors which can be 10 feet in length.

Ball Pythons seem very cute and cuddly when they are compared to other members of their families. 

12. Babies are More Colorful

While a Ball Python is still a hatchling, the colors on the skin are vibrant. They are often still patterned. They can be yellow, red, orange or a ghostly white. They are really beautiful to look at. 

These colors fade with age and as the snake grows into an adult. The patterns and colors darken into the familiar brown and black patterns. 

13. Females are Bigger than Males

Though it is not by much, females are bigger than males. The females are usually half a foot bigger and thicker around than males are. Go female power!

14. They Like to Play in Water

Ball Pythons in the wild, like to live near water so they can have a drinking source. They also need to live by water so that they can cool off. In places that they are native, like Central Africa, it’s no wonder that they need to take a dip, it’s too hot. Snakes are cold-blooded and can’t regulate their body temperatures like humans can. 

When Ball Pythons are taken in as pets, it’s a good idea to have a bowl of water for them that is deep enough they can soak in. They will spend time in there to splash, cool off.

It is important that in enclosures that the water is not too deep and not too hard to get out of, especially for younger snakes. Snakes can swim but sometimes it’s hard for them to get out.

15. They are Non-Venomous

This is just another reason that Ball Pythons make great pets. Their bites are not lethal because they are non-venomous. In the wild, Ball Pythons constrict to kill their prey. That is how they hunt and also how they protect themselves. 

If you have one of these guys as a pet, make sure they don’t squeeze you too tight, because they can have a powerful grip when they choose to. 

16. They May Become “At-Risk”

Though this breed is not on the endangered list of species, there is a worry about the illegal hunting of Ball Pythons for their skin. 

Ball Pythons have such beautiful skin and have become popular for companies that make things like snake-skin boots. This is dangerous too because snake-skin cannot take the wear and tear that boots go through, so they are easily worn through and need replacement. 

Awareness and buying harm-free products are the easiest way to help ease this problem.

17. There are No Subspecies of Ball Pythons

This kind of snakes have variations called “morphs”. “Morphs” account for the different patterns and colors that are found within the Ball Pythons species. Breeders try to come up with new morphs to attract attention and raise costs to wild or more exotic looking Ball Pythons. There are thousands of “morphs” out there on the market at this point in time.

Though there are many different looking Ball Pythons out there, there are no recognized subspecies in the scientific community.

18. Sometimes, They’re Picky

Ball Pythons are one of the snake breeds out there that might fuss over its meals. They have been known to like to hunt their mice and may not like pre-killed. This is sometimes hard on owners because the risk of feeding your snake a live mouse is up there.

A live mouse might be able to hurt a Ball Python before it’s digested, which is why it’s always suggested to feed snakes pre-killed mice. If, as an owner, you are thinking of feeding your pet a live mouse, make sure you are paying close attention to your snake. Mice can fatally hurt your pet. 

In the wild, a Ball Python will go for weeks without waiting until it finds just what it’s looking for. 

19. They are Not at the Top of the Food Chain

To some, it may seem silly that a snake is danger of other animals but Ball Pythons do have predators. They can be hunted in the wild by:

  • Bigger Snakes
  • Large Frogs
  • Owls
  • Large Mammals

Younger Snakes or Hatchlings are at the biggest risk of being hunted down by a predator.

A big risk of Ball Pythons is actually humans. The overpopulation of this breed for pets, the hunting of them for skin and in some places where they eat snake all play into the risk for these creatures.

20. They Shed Regularly

On average, these pythons shed every 5 – 7 weeks. During the time in which they shed, they will become shut off, not hungry, and may be moody. They also might bite even though they usually do not.

When a snake is about to shed, its eyes become a blue-grey milky color and their skin will become pale. It takes about a week for the shedding to complete. Snakes are usually will not eat while they are in the process.

When a Ball Python is shedding, it’s best to let it be and not try to pick it up and hold it. Shedding also takes a lot of humidity to make sure everything goes smoothly.

21. They are Popular in Zoos

Many zoos and wildlife facilities have Ball Pythons. It’s probably because they are real crowd pleasures, exotic, and have a fun history. They are also found at zoos often because they have such a long life expectancy.

Of course, they are not as intimidating as a 20-foot long snake, they can still be scary enough to send a little chill down a child’s spine, and hopefully some curiosity as well.

22. They Have Flat Heads

Ball Pythons have flat, smooth heads that are square-like. Their noses are boxy. Because of its jaw muscles, this pythons eyes bulge slightly out from its head.

To make this snake even cooler, it can have over 100 teeth! Even if they are not venomous, a full bite from an adult snake would put a dent in your arm. 

23. They are Good Hunters

Ball Pythons make good hunters because of its skin. The camouflage helps it to move around and not be detected easily. It also helps that they are picky because they are willing to wait for prey that will keep them satisfied for weeks.

They also are good night hunters because they have heat sensing pits on its mouth. When they open their mouths they can sense the heat coming from their prey and which direction the prey is going. 

24. Ball Pythons are Nocturnal

During the daylight hours, your Ball Python may not want to come out and play. This is okay because they usually come out at night in the wild. This is why they are good at night hunting. 

Sometimes, it’s best to let the lying snake sleep. However, if you have a pet Ball Python, they might adjust to being awake during the day if they are kept in a room that doesn’t have a ton of natural light. They will stay awake some of the daytime usually anyway, especially if they are fed during the day.

Because they are nocturnal, they won’t bask much in the light of their enclosure but it is good to have about 14 hours of light to keep your buddy happy and healthy. 

25. Africa Exports Thousands of Ball Pythons a Year

I wasn’t lying when I said these guys were popular. There are thousands upon thousands of Ball Snakes taken from Africa and shipped to be pets or kept in zoos or studied every single year. 

A lot of the snakes that are available on the market to have in your home were born in the wild. Some could have come from Africa. These pets usually tend to either do really well or not well at all. When looking for a pet, be careful and pay close attention to make sure you get a healthy one. 

26. Ball Pythons can Suffer from Obesity

It’s so sad when a snake in captivity is overweight because it’s not its own fault. Owners are responsible for the kind of eating style it has. 

It is very important to make sure that if you have a pet snake, of any kind, to not overfeed it. Ball Pythons can be put at risk if they are fed too big of prey and/or fed too often. Overfeeding can lead to obesity which can lead to other and bigger problems. 

Ball Pythons need to be fed about every 1 – 2 weeks. It’s important to get to know your snake. The rule of thumb is to feed a snake a mouse only as big as the widest part of their body. This should keep the snake in good health. I have written an article that gives a step by step guide of how to feed a ball python successfully. It even includes the schedule you should use, and how much it will cost. Find it here.

Related Questions

Do Ball Pythons have good eyesight? They have poor eyesight. Because they don’t use their eyes for tracking, they don’t really need to have good eyesight. They use their heat pits to detect prey.

Are Ball Pythons Friendly? Because they are docile, Ball Pythons make good companions. They like to be held and don’t mind humans which makes them as friendly of a snake there can be. 

What Happens if a Ball Python bites you? If the bite was hard enough to break the skin, you will probably bleed from multiple spots. The best thing to do is wash the bite. The bite usually won’t be a powerful one, it’s more like a nibble. Ball Pythons are snakes that hardly bite. 

Sarah Merrill

Sarah Merrill is a full-time student at Brigham Young University - Idaho. She is pursuing a degree in English - Creative Writing. She will graduate in December of 2019. In her free time she writes, reads, hikes, walks her dog. She loves to go on road trips. Her goal is to publish picture books for kids with her husband, who is an artist.

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