Ball Python temperament

The Ball Python temperament is shy and docile. At first, some of them can be a little too shy, and have a tendancy to hide a lot or curl into a ball. With time and gentle handling, though, most Ball Pythons become very tame animals that tolerate 5-10 minutes of human interaction once or twice a week.

In this article, I’m going to quickly explain their disposition and cover the basics of handling them. After that, I’ll introduce you to a whole list of posts I’ve written that cover the topic in a lot more detail.

Ball Python handling

Handling Ball Pythons is easy. There are just four simple rules to follow:

  1. Handle them during the day when they’re sleepy, not during the night when they’re hungry.
  2. Pick them up by the body and support it. Not by the neck or the tail. Don’t copy the snake beaters on TV!
  3. Don’t touch their head. This makes them nervous, and really shy Ball Pythons will simply curl up into a ball if you do this.
  4. Handle them like a living thing, not like an object. If you handle them with respect, they will recognise you as non-threatening much sooner.
Ball Python temperament

This Pastel Bongo ball python is particularly shy. Sitting down and gently handling animals like this can slowly tame them.

ball python handling
A baby Piebald Ball Python

There is no particular method for handling ball pythons. Just make sure that they feel secure and that their body is supported. The Piebald ball python is much younger than the Bongo Pastel above, but unlike her, he is completely fearless. It just goes to show that their personalities do vary.

These snakes might hate being disturbed too often, but gentle handling once a week helps keep them tame and healthy. In the wild, these snakes are mainly ambushing predators but do regularly forage and climb as well. They also have to vacate burrows quickly when they flood, so they do get the odd bit of exercise. In captivity, using their climbing branches simulates this but climbing between your hands and exploring a (warm) living room is equally good for them. 

A Ball Python should be picked up gently by the body, and with two hands if an adult. When handling, the body should always be well supported and care should be taken not to touch the head, as this frightens them. 

Are Ball Pythons boring?

As I explained earlier, Ball Pythons are very shy, and often reclusive. This has started a long-term myth that they make boring pets.

In my opinion, which is admittedly extremely biased, Ball Python is not a boring pet. In fact, their personality is part of what makes them so popular. They have an incredibly gentle disposition, coupled with insatiable curiosity – something not often seen in reptiles. 

I have some that inspect their tub after I clean it, and one that even watches TV. So no, Ball Pythons aren’t boring, but they are shy and need a calm environment before they will show their personality.

Once settled in, I’d go as far as to say that a Ball Python will grow on the whole family. If you have friends or relatives who are nervous about meeting a snake – then the Ball Python is your best bet for winning them over! 

I actually have a few that I am happy to let small children handle, something best avoided with a lot of larger snakes, no matter how tame they seem.  Along with their temperament, these snakes have a range of behaviours that make them fascinating captives – just take a look at the following photos for starters!

ball python temperament
I’ve had Bobby (above) for over 13 years now. He is so docile that I would even let kids handle him.

Do Ball Pythons Bite?

Ball Pythons rarely bite, and when they do it doesn’t do a lot of damage. In fact, I would say that a tame adult Ball Python will be less likely to bite you than a family dog, for example. The only snappy Ball Pythons I’ve seen have been hatchlings or ones that have never had calm, gentle handling to tame them.

To this day I have only been bitten once by a Ball Python, and that was by accident because I fed it without using tongs. It resulted in a scratch, and of course, reminded me that these animals are in no way a threat to humans.

More on this subject:

Ball Python Care topics:

  1. Intro
  2. Enclosure guidelines
  3. Bedding and refugia
  4. Heat and Light
  5. Humidity, water, and shedding
  6. Ball Python Size
  7. Handling *You are here
  8. Diet
  9. Health and hygiene
  10. Breeding
  11. Eggs