11 Cool Facts About Pied Ball Pythons

Ball Pythons are one of the most docile snakes, because of this nature they are highly sought after as pets. But the Pied Ball Python is just a little bit more special. Why? This and more will be covered below in these 11 Cool facts about pied ball pythons.

1- Pied Ball Pythons have Piebaldism

Pied is a slang term for piebald. Another term you may hear is pied-sided. All three mean the same thing and refer to the condition piebaldism. The different terms can be confusing, but don’t worry too much about it. It isn’t referring to food at all, just to genetic patterns in animals.

Piebaldism is a condition that affects multiple animals including humans. This issue is caused by the lack of a cell called melanocytes in certain places in the body. In humans, this can appear in hair follicles or patches of the skin.

Melanocytes produce the pigment melanin which contributes to the color of eyes, hair, skin, and scales. Because of this absence of melanocytes, and subsequently, melanin, patches of skin hair, scales, etc. are lighter than they normally should be.  This appears most evidently in darker skinned people, and most prevalently at the center of the hairline.

For ball pythons, it appears throughout the body of the snake. Large patches of their skin or scales appearing as patches of white separated by their usual color. This gives the pied ball python a really exotic and cool looking color as the sides of the snake are these bands of color and no color.

Some of these snakes are almost completely white which makes for an impressive sight. But if it is almost completely white, be sure you don’t mix it up with another morph of ball python, the blue-eyed leucistic morph (BEL pythons). BEL pythons are also completely white, but they have blue eyes, not black ones, and will have no other spots of color on their body. If you want to learn more about the blue-eyed leucistic morph, read more here.

2- The Pied Ball Python is Famous

Few snakes get the notoriety that pied ball pythons have received since their discovery in 1960’s. Snake collectors have been obsessed with figuring out how these snakes came to be and if the trait is something that can be bred.

These snakes are so famous that the original two were sold for $5,000 and $10,000. Prices of these snakes can still reach up to $1,000 in price. Back in 2012, there were only a recorded 18 pied ball pythons within the US, though this number has increased since then significantly.

The pied ball python and the reason for its unnatural coloring was a debate for a long time in the snake owner and breeder communities. As pied ball pythons were finally prevalent enough to breed it was found that piebaldism is a recessive trait in these snakes, and that is a trait that is based on genetics. This means that the trait can be passed on if paired with another piebald recessive gene.

This has served as a large increase in the number of pied ball pythons, as they were soon bred together to create more and more pied ball python kids. Interestingly, each ball python child has a new and random form of their white patches.

This shows that there is no control over this genetic morph.

This hints towards the development of snakes, and creatures overall, in the embryonic stage of development.

3- Pied Ball Pythons are Highly Docile Creatures

Ball pythons rank among the best snakes to have as a pet and this comes from their docile natures. Sometimes they need to adjust to human socialization, but once they do they are perfectly happy to be handled by and hanging out with humans.

With the exception of a shedding or protective mother, a ball python will generally allow itself to be handled without much conflict between it and the person trying to hold it. They are much more comfortable with humans than many other snakes. This has lead to several rumors about the snake, even leading to the name it is called in the UK which is the royal python.

The story goes that Cleopatra in Egypt and other African leaders would supposedly wear these snakes on their arms as bracelets. With their stunning patterns and calm personalities, they made impressive jewelry. And because of this, they are called the royal python. This is reflected in the name of the ball pythons genus which is python regius, or translated in Latin, means royal python. I don’t know about you, but if I saw someone wearing a snake as jewelry, they would seem pretty boss. No wonder Cleopatra was so famous.

While this story is a bit of a stretch, it clearly shows the how docile these snakes are perceived to be as they are seen as docile enough to allow you to wear them as jewelry. That’s pretty docile.

In a more relatable context for today, pied ball pythons make great pets for children. They are large enough to keep track of but small enough to hold easily. And because of their docility, children can enjoy handling the ball python with little worry of it biting them. Keep the python happy, and it will keep you and your kids happy. Simple as that.

4- Ball Pythons Receive Their US Name Because of a Natural Defense Mechanism

There is, unfortunately, no historical evidence for the name ball python. The reason that ball pythons are so named within the US is due to their tendency to wrap themselves up into a ball with their head resting in the center of their balled coils.

This coil is said to be so strong that you could roll a ball python in their naturally defensive form and they would remain unharmed through their tumble.

This is one of the reasons that the ball python comes off as docile as instead of lashing out with a bite, hiss, or unpleasant smell. They are more likely to recede into their naturally defensive ball form. This ball form also leads some minor credibility of the concept of these snakes being worn as jewelry.

Some people may think this is a cute characteristic. The photos of ball pythons in their curled up position certainly tug at the heartstrings a bit, but remember that this is a defensive position, not an attempt to be a snake model. When a ball python does this, it is scared, so leave it alone. Bothering a python when it is scared will only aggravate it and make it worse.

Despite their docile natures, ball pythons are animals and will defend themselves if they feel threatened enough. Give the snake enough time to calm down and acclimate to your presence, otherwise, you might have a bite to clean up. 

Another thing to remember is that ball pythons curl into a ball because they don’t want to attack. They just want to keep themselves safe. Their instinct isn’t likely to be an immediate attack, so as long as you don’t aggravate them further, they should calm down just fine. 

5- They Are Africa’s Smallest Python

Pied Ball Pythons were first found in Ghana. Several have been moved from Ghana to America through snake dealers. But in Africa, they pale in size to their other python neighbors.

Adult males are about 3 to 4 feet in length whereas adult females are 4 to 4.5 feet in length. In contrast, the largest African python, the African rock python, is about 10 to 12 feet on average.

Ball Python females are larger than males. While this may seem a little weird from our perspective as humans, it is actually pretty common among snakes to have the female larger than the male. In fact, a male that is bigger than the females is definitely in the minority. 

This is most prevalent in snakes that lay eggs within their bodies as those female snakes have to have extra size for their eggs. The eggs incubate and in the mother and come out of her body alive and wiggling. Ball pythons, while not a form of snake that will lay eggs inside their bodies, are still among the snakes with females longer than males. This is likely because they do lay eggs, but they don’t incubate and hatch them internally. More on this in the next section. We recently wrote an article about how long a ball python can get. We talk about the length they can grow to, and also how long this takes! Find the article here.

6- Mother Ball Pythons Incubate Their Young

While generally docile, female ball pythons do become violent as they protect their young. While this is abnormal for the ball pythons usual behavior, it is something that most animals have built into them. They are natural defenders of their next generation. A lot of people know this as the mama bear instinct. 

Before we start calling this the mama snake instinct instead, remember that this is an incredibly interesting characteristic for a snake, as snakes rarely take care of their young. Many will abandon their eggs once they are laid, and some snakes that come across their young later in life may eat them because they don’t recognize them as their own children.

Snakes generally fall into two categories. Those who lay their eggs, and those who carry their eggs inside them. A third, less common way of birth is live birth (viviparous), which is similar to how humans give birth. The name of a snake carrying their eggs inside them is ovoviviparous. This protects the eggs within the body of the mother who will then release the eggs as the snakes are hatching. This allows for the mother to continue her daily routine while protecting their eggs. Only 30% of snakes do this.

Laying eggs is the more common form of reproducing in snakes. However, mother snakes are notorious for not caring about their kids. Often as soon as those eggs are laid those snakes are gone. On top of that, the king cobra is the only known snake to build a nest for their eggs. Surprising, considering that king cobras also eat other snakes. So even further in the minority of snake mother’s are those that incubate their eggs.

Ball pythons, however, do just this. They will warm themselves in the sun and then wrap themselves around their eggs to keep them warm. This incubation process takes anywhere from 80 to 105 days. During this time, the mother will often forgo usual meals and throw off their sleep schedules to continue protecting their eggs. Nothing like a mother’s love, right?

To hear more about this topic, check out another Snake Owner’s post about how many eggs a Ball Python lays! We also talk about how many of those eggs usually survive.

7- Ball Pythons Will Lay Eggs Without Breeding… But Not Like You Think

Certain animals, most famously chickens, will lay unfertilized eggs. Those are the eggs that you are used to eating for breakfast every morning. Certain snakes can do similar things and while Ball Pythons can do this, they can also do something much much cooler.

There are two types of non-mating births for ball pythons:

Slugs: Slugs are the terms for snake eggs that are like those eggs you ate for breakfast this morning. They are rare but there is a potential for a snake to lay an unfertilized egg that does nothing more than just sit there. There is no need for concern about these eggs. It is a completely natural process but it will not result in any baby snakes. I don’t recommend eating these eggs for breakfast though. Stick with those chicken eggs.

Virgin Births: In ball pythons, it is possible to produce fertile offspring without the need of a mate. As in, literally never had a mate in her life. This process is called parthenogenesis but is better known as virgin births.

This process is incredibly rare, much rarer than the production of slugs even. This process is often confused by something else the ball python female can do, which is to hold a mate’s sperm for later fertilization at a more convenient time. Sometimes a girl just isn’t ready for kids.

So instead of being fertilized right away, the female ball python will hold onto the sperm of a mate for later use. Because of this, the female will seem to get pregnant out of nowhere, and a lot of people have confused this with a virgin birth. It is not the same thing though. If your snake has ever had a mate, the kids are probably his. Several other reptiles have proven capable of doing this including the Burmese python, bearded dragon, and Komodo dragon.

8- Ball Pythons Hunt Using Constriction

Snakes have a variety of ways to hunt animals, and one of the most common ways is to use constriction. Most famous among these types of snakes are the aptly named boa constrictor. The concept is the same for each snake, though they will either actively hunt or set up a trap to catch their prey. For the ball python in the wild, that’s a rodent or small lizard. In captivity, you might not see a lot of constriction because it is recommended that you feed your snake pre-killed mice.

The action of wrapping themselves around their prey is a slow process.  Each breath the smaller animal takes results in a tighter and tighter wrap around the creature.

Many believe the myth that the goal of the snake wrapping themselves around their prey is to suffocate them. This is not correct. The actual goal of the snake is to restrict blood flow to the brain of the creature. As soon as the brain is not receiving blood, the prey is dead and the ball python moves to eat. If the myth of constriction didn’t sound bad enough, the reality probably just made it seem a lot worse.

Like most snakes, the ball python’s lower jaw is not connected to the rest of its skull, so they are able to stretch their mouths equal to the size of the thickest part of their body. Anything bigger and the python will have a hard time digesting. This is how the ball python manages to eat rodents that are larger than its mouth by increasing the size of its mouth. Ball pythons will swallow their prey whole and headfirst to keep the limbs going the right way.

9- Ball Pythons Show Evidence of Legs

Legs? On a snake? Don’t worry, you did read that right. A long time ago, like 120 million years (give or take a million), snakes had an ancestor that roamed the Earth on arms and legs. As the snake-creature evolved to better fit the burrowing environment that snakes adapted to live in, they abandoned the use of these limbs as they served as more of a hindrance than a benefit.

But certain snakes that have lingering close evolutionary attachments to these ancient ancestors have signs that snakes used to have limbs. Ball pythons are one of these snakes closely connected to these limbed snake ancestors.

On pied ball pythons, you should be able to find what are called anal spurs which are basically malformed claws on the body of the snake. Like snakes needed more defense mechanisms. Certain snakes are able to move these claws a little but never much. These organs are called vestigial organs, which are organs that used to be used by the evolutionary ancestors of the modern animals but have since been abandoned. Sometimes these spurs are also used to help with mating, but only in some snakes.

There are several examples of these organs in humans. They include wisdom teeth, the grasping reflex, and tailbone. So just as we have no real purpose for these vestigial organs, neither do the ball pythons, but they show evidence of the evolutionary progression of snakes. To hear more about the evolution of snakes check out the article “Why Don’t Snakes Have Arms?”.

10- There Are Dozens of Ball Python Morphs

A morph is the genetic phenotype of the color of a snake. Ball pythons have dozens of morphs or dozens of different patterns and colors that they can appear as. This leads to a large variety of ball python colors and patterns that can be bred to make more varied morphs of ball python. Among these morphs is the morph for piebaldism.

What is interesting about piebaldism in ball pythons is that the morph is so frequent that you can take two pied ball pythons and you will have pied ball python kids. This is not the case in most creatures that have piebaldism. For instance, in humans, it is relatively unlikely that you will pass on piebaldism to your kids even if both you and your partner have piebaldism.

So it is really mysterious and mystifying to see these snakes that are able to pass on the trait so easily and frequently. Granted it was difficult to find the pied ball pythons initially and it is really only possible to produce more by breeding pied ball pythons together, so it is still an incredibly uncommon event.

Aside from pied ball pythons, some other popular morphs include:

  • Albino ball pythons – These are white AND yellow with pink eyes. Yep, they still have some color, but all the dark pigment is gone from their bodies. These are one of the most popular and well-known ball python morphs. 
  • Blue-eyed Leucistic ball pythons – These guys were already mentioned earlier, but they are pretty unique and deserve to be mentioned twice. These are sometimes confused with albino ball pythons because they are completely white. 
  • Spider ball pythons – The pattern on this morph consists of thinner black lines. Maybe they sometimes look like spider webs? This morph is one of the most controversial to breed, however, because of the head wobble that comes with this genetic mutation. Check out this controversy and more in this article about spider ball pythons.
  • Pinstripe ball pythons – These snakes have a pattern made of stripes instead of the typical ball python pattern.
  • Bumblebee ball pythons – As the name suggests, this morph is all black and yellow. It is a beautiful combination, so check out more about this morph here.

There are lots of other morphs, so if you want to find yourself a ball python morph, read more in this article that we wrote that includes descriptions and pictures.

11- Ball Pythons Have Been Removed in Troves From Their Home Environment

Because of the popularity of the ball python as a pet in western culture, there was a large amount of catching and removing of the creatures from their home in Africa. As a result, a lot of the environment changed due to the sudden decrease in ball pythons in the area.

As such, there were a lot of rodents, lizards, and other common prey of the ball python that began to increase in that environment while the predators of the ball python died out due to lack of food. The removal of this one animal from its native habitat has seriously upset the conditions of this environment.

It has been estimated that over 50,000 ball pythons have been removed from their home environment in Africa to serve as pets. However, this hasn’t seemed to majorly diminish their population any, as they are still well taken care of as pets.

It is important to note though that just because you want a pet doesn’t mean there will not be repercussions for the pet’s removal from their home environment. The long-term effects of this on the native biosphere are still playing out and could be more detrimental than we now think.

Since the ball python snakes were removed in such high numbers, their home environments suffered. This environmental terror only further increases as some of these pets snakes are released into the wild out here when families can no longer take care of them.

The result of that release is having an invasive species which succeeds in adapting while simultaneously destroying the environment of its new home. It’s a fine line to walk when moving animals around, so make sure you take care of them and don’t just catch or release animals without taking precautions beforehand.

Related Questions

Are pied ball pythons the same as albino ball pythons? No. Both piebaldism and albinism are caused due to the lack of melanin in part of the snake’s body, however, the lack of melanin is much stronger in the lacking part of piebaldism than they are in albinism. As such while pied ball snakes have patches of white or patches of color an Albino snake will be a consistently lighter color; often appearing as white, yellow, or a light tan. 

How long do pied ball pythons live? So a ball python can live for about 10 years in the wild a pied ball python is incredibly unlikely to even live this long in the wild as they have poor camouflage due to their skin pigment issues. However, in captivity it both normal and pied ball pythons can live upwards of 20 years. With reports of some ball pythons live for near 30 years. 

Are pied ball pythons endangered? Since pied ball pythons are a morph of ball pythons they as a morph cannot be endangered. While there are still relatively few of them in existence today they as a morph cannot be considered endangered. In regard to ball pythons in general, they are not considered endangered either. 

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