Are female or male Ball Pythons more aggressive? Neither female nor male Ball Pythons are aggressive. There are subtle differences between the sexes, however…
Contrary to popular belief, female Ball Pythons are not more aggressive than males. Both sexes make docile, hardy pets if you provide the correct husbandry. That said, there are slight differences between the sexes. These differences are more to do with their attitudes towards food and each other than us.
Are Ball Pythons friendly pets?
Ball Pythons are friendly pets in the sense that they are incredibly docile, and some even like to come out and explore with you from time to time.
In my experience, highly strung ball pythons are incredibly rare. It has to be said, however, that genetic variation both on an individual and the morph-based scale does play a role. Many hobbyists say that the Spotnose, Puzzle, Confusion and Acid morphs are jumpier than most others.
In fact, the Pastel Spotnose Clown in the photo below was indeed quite defensive when I got him. So, on this point, I would have to agree. He calmed down within a few weeks thanks to gentle handling though and it is now dog-tame.
When handling my animals, you can definitely see that the Acid morphs tend to move a little faster. Some of the Acid babies are also a little jumpier. I still wouldn’t say that they are in any way aggressive, though. They calm down just as well as any other Ball Python morph with time.
In any case, it’s rare for Ball Pythons to bite once over a month or two old. Even if they do, what we are really seeing with nippy babies is defensiveness. They still haven’t decided whether you’re going to eat them or not, so they either roll into a defensive ball or strike out.
There probably is no such thing as a truly “aggressive” Ball Python. That’s why I always prefer to say “defensive” instead.
As adults, defensive ball pythons are very rare. If an adult of either sex is being defensive it is usually either because it is shedding, sick or never been handled – not because it’s male or female.
Are female or male Ball Pythons more aggressive?
As we’ve just discussed, Ball Pythons aren’t aggressive. Furthermore, I find that both sexes are equally docile when faced with humans. That’s not to say they’re the same, however.
Each sex has certain behaviours and activity patterns that are typically male or female. This comes down the fact that they each have slightly different priorities. For females, the main priority is often getting enough food to produce a healthy clutch of eggs. For males, the priority is copulating with as many females as possible, and chasing away other males.
Let’s look at two examples from my snakes, and a short list of their particular habits.
Example 1, Maisey, displays what I would call very female character traits, while Example 2, Ruben, is a typical breeding male. Both were around 8 years old at the time of writing, and in full health.
Example 1: Maisey
- Quite shy but very calm, tolerates handling well. Nonetheless, she doesn’t like to be held too high above the ground.
- Very occasionally decides she doesn’t want to go back in her enclosure and gives you a wrestling match.
- When very hungry, springs out of her tub and strikes wildly. This is generally during early winter when she’s building follicles.
Example 2: Ruben
- Docile most of the year but restless if handled during breeding season.
- Great feeder but goes through fast once a year if breeding.
- Gets restless during breeding season and tries to get to the females constantly.
Are female Ball Pythons ever aggressive?
Ball Pythons are wonderfully laid-back, docile animals. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have the incredible world-wide popularity that they enjoy. In fact, you can keep them and literally go years without being bitten, if at all.
Notwithstanding, there is one time when a female Ball Python will become excessively defensive, to the point of striking at you. This is of course when she is protecting her eggs.
Eggs are a protein-packed treat that many predators, from Monitor Lizards to small mammals go crazy for. It’s only natural for a female Ball Python to be jumpy when guarding a clutch of 6 or 7 of them.
If you decide to breed Ball Pythons, you should expect the occasional nip from a brooding female. Fortunately, these lite taps and are almost painless.
Do female Ball Pythons fight?
All in all, it’s true that male Ball Pythons like to fight each other more than females do. Notwithstanding, females will occasionally fight both other females and unwanted males that they want to kick out of the enclosure. Your best bet is to never attempt cohabitation with this species.
Fortunately, if a fight does occur – during breeding for example – it’s not physically dangerous to them. It is stressful, however. One of the most common outcomes from a fight is no physical harm, but a great deal of emotional harm. Often, the loser will go into a sulk and stop feeding for a while, depending on how sensitive it is.
With competitive species like the Ball Python, it doesn’t matter what sex you keep, they are all capable of fighting and should always be housed alone.
A note on fighting in reptiles…
There’s really only a few scenarios where reptiles will fight each other. In general, the most likely two are:
- To eat another species of reptile, or a young reptile of their own species
- When competing for territory and females
Ball Pythons don’t eat their own species, and rarely eat other reptiles either. So, when you see them fighting it almost always two males fighting for territory/females.
These fights are not exactly vicious – more like a moody wrestling match. Each snake tries to get up higher than the other and push it over. There’s also a lot of shoving, and sometimes these shoves can be quite strong.
What you won’t see though is two Ball Pythons biting each other. And there’s a good reason for this: very violent fighting causes injuries that lower survival rate.
In a nutshell, if a fight is too violent, the cost is greater than the reward. Think of it like this:
If cost in future survival due to injury > than reward in territory/mating rights – then fighting is counterproductive.
Some species of animal just have a more intelligent approach to violence than humans. They don’t fight to the death because because that would hurt their survival, and possibly the survival of the species as a whole.
This isn’t the rule in nature, but in reptiles it is common for combat to be non-lethal.
Table: behavioural differences between male and female Ball Pythons
As I mentioned earlier, there are slight differences between male and female BPs. These differences are subtle, and it can take time to notice them.
Overall, there isn’t any single major difference, it’s just little things you’ll notice when you keep both sexes for several years, and especially once they are sexually mature.
|Will fast if breeding
|Will fast when gravid
|Breeding season behaviour
|Do they fight?
|Are they ever defensive?
|– As hatchlings
– during shedding
|– As hatchlings
– during shedding
– when protecting eggs
What’s better, a male or female Ball Python?
Now you know neither sex is truly aggressive, and both are docile to humans. So, which is better? That depends on your long-term plans.
Personally, I have a very slight preference for female Ball Pythons. Really this is just because most of them tend to get a little bigger and chunkier than the males. But then again, the males can be a lot more active during the breeding season, which is a big plus if you want to observe them.
If, for example, you invested in a glass-fronted PVC enclosure rather than a tub, you might be better of with a male. I’m not saying females are always less active than males, but when breeding it certainly is the case. Some males will search for females for days on end. In fact, it’s probably the most activity you’ll ever see from this otherwise sluggish species.
On the other hand, if you plan on breeding Ball Pythons in the future, you’re better off buying a female to start with. Females of recessive morphs like Clown or Pied are more expensive, and a better investment. This is because they are the ones that lay eggs, and that’s what breeding is all about!
This also means that males are cheaper and generally easier to find, whatever their morph may be. If you have no plans to breed, but really like the Piebald morph, then why not save yourself some money and buy a male?
The truth is that asides from the slight behavioural differences I mentioned earlier, male, and female Ball Pythons behave almost exactly the same way towards humans. Your only considerations are whether you count on breeding and whether you would like a female in the hopes that she will grow a little larger.
Also on this topic:
- Ball Python body language
- How to handle Ball Pythons (for their safety, and yours!)
- Why is my Ball Python striking at me?
- Do Ball Pythons like to be held?
- Do Ball Pythons Bite?
- Is a Ball Python a good pet?
For more on Ball Python temperament in general:
Back to the Ball Python handling page