Boa Constrictor Vs Ball Python: 8 Differences

Ā If you are considering a new pet snake, you may be torn between a ball python (Python regius) and a boa constrictor (Boa constrictor). Here are some differences to help you learn more about these non-venomous snakes:

1. Location


While both snakes are common in captivity, they live in very different natural habitats.

Ball pythons are Old World snakes found in Africa in scrublands and forests.

They are known for staying in abandoned burrows during the day and waiting in ambush for prey at night. Adult females are primarily terrestrial, while juveniles and males are semi-arboreal.

Boa constrictors are New World snakes found in many habitats but prefer rainforests.

They are found throughout Central and South America, with a number of subspecies that are native to different areas.

The exact habits of the snakes will depend on what prey is available in their region and the time of year.Ā 

2. Subspecies

Ball pythons are currently considered to only have one species. Any ball python is pretty similar to other ball pythons. Boa constrictors have a number of subspecies.

These subspecies have their own maximum size, preferred diet, and specific care needs. You need to know which subspecies your snake is.

If your boa is a hybrid, then you need to prepare for the larger option in case it takes after one parent more than the other.Ā 

3. Reproduction

handling a baby python regius

Ball pythons are pythons. Like all pythons, they lay eggs.

The typical clutch size is 1-11 eggs. The female will then care for the eggs until they hatch. Baby ball pythons are 9 to 16 inches at hatching.

Boa constrictors are very different like most boas. They give birth to live young after a gestation period of 5-8 months.

Litter size can vary from 10-60 babies with 24 being the average. The size of the babies will depend on the subspecies, but it can be up to 20 inches.

4. Size

reptile owner handling an adult male boa constrictor

Ball pythons are smaller snakes. While they are fairly thick comparatively, they rarely exceed 6 feet in length. This means that it is much easier to fit an appropriately sized enclosure for a ball python in most homes.

Some subspecies of boa constrictor do stay under 6 feet, but many of the South American subspecies will reach over 8 feet in length.

Some large females have been known to exceed 12 feet in length. This means that housing them can be much more challenging.Ā 

5. Prey Size and Type

Your average ball python will eat either mice or rats their whole life. Since pythons are only fed prey that is no thicker than the widest part of the snakeā€™s body, they rarely eat much larger than an adult rat.

Wild ball pythons eat small rodents. Large females eat primarily terrestrial rodents, while males and juveniles eat birds and arboreal mammals.

Ball pythons are notorious for being picky eaters in captivity and regularly go off their meals. Smaller boa subspecies will eat a similar size of rat as an adult.

However, a large female will need prey that is about 10% of her body weight.

Finding a rat that weighs enough can be hard. You may need to feed multiple rats in one feeding. However, shifting up to larger prey animals can be a perfect idea.

Many large boas eat chickens, quails, or even young rabbits. Larger prey can be harder to find whole, so it can be difficult to source food for large boas.

Wild boa diet depends on their native range. Some island populations eat primarily birds. Some subspecies will only eat lizards as juveniles.

Most subspecies eat terrestrial mammals or reptiles. Some subspecies will be semi-arboreal and eat birds or bats when they have the chance. Boas are not known for being picky on prey type in captivity or in the wild.Ā 

6. Behavior

handling a young boa constrictor

Ball pythons earned their common name from their common defensive behavior. A stressed-out ball python will curl up into a ball and try to hide the vulnerable head within the loops of the body.

Ball pythons rarely bite when stressed out and prefer to flee or hide when confronted.

If a ball python wants to be left alone, most will not show many signs until the animal is incredibly stressed out. They may try to flee or hiss, but will rarely strike.

Boa constrictors will try to flee if they can, and will bite if they cannot. An upset boa will bite you if it feels threatened. If a boa doesnā€™t want to be interacted with, you will know! Boas are much more upfront when they are upset with you.Ā 

7. Skulls and Teeth

healthy ball python head closeup

If you look at the skeletons of each species, you will notice some major differences. Boas like boa constrictors tend to have few bones in the skull.

Ball pythons have more bones in the skull including separate upper jaws. Ball pythons also have more teeth. While both boas and pythons are considered to be primitive snakes, they are separate lineages that have a number of skeletal differences.Ā Ā 

8. Captive Differences

adult boa constrictor

Captive ball pythons are fairly small and docile animals. You can find them in a huge variety of colors or patterns from captive breeders.

They are abundant in the pet trade and a ball python with the wild coloration can be acquired for cheap. It is easy to find the right size enclosure for a ball python since they are common snakes.

They can be picky eaters depending on the time of the year. They tend to tolerate handling well and have a curious personality in most snakes.

Ball pythons tend to enjoy exploring and are very good at escaping if you do not have a secure enclosure. Boa constrictors are very good feeders, but some animals just do not tolerate much handling.

They can be large snakes that need more space. They do feed less frequently but may need larger prey. Boas tend to have more attitude than a ball python. You will need help to handle or feed boas that are larger than 6 feet in length.


Both snakes make great pets, but ball pythons are much smaller snakes that tend to tolerate handling well. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

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