Wondering if your snake is a boy or a girl? This guide is for you!
The reproductive organs of snakes are not as easily visible as those of most animals.
While it is easy to tell the gender of a cat, dog, cow, or horse by just looking at their physical anatomy, it is not so easy to physically determine whether a snake is male or female.
If you know what to look for, however, you can tell the sex of a snake. There are several methods you can employ to achieve this. The most common ones are checking the tail, probing, popping, and ultrasound.
The first three methods are purely physical, while the third requires some advanced skills to carry out. Probing and popping are invasive and need to be carried out with care.
It’s crucial that you go about examining your snake for sexual characteristics gently.
Bear in mind that snakes don’t like being mishandled. So avoid twisting and turning the vent as you carry out the examination.
If you find the process a bit tough for your taste, don’t hesitate to ask your vet for guidance. Expert vets are trained to do a thorough and complete sex analysis of your pet.
How Can I Tell the Sex of My Snake?
Since the genitalia of a snake is not projected outwards, it can be difficult to tell whether it is a boy or a girl.
Although some female snakes are longer than their male counterparts, they generally have the same physical characteristics.
Some snakes are also quite misleading when young because it is almost impossible to determine how they’ll turn out as adults.
This is your cue to examine the snake closely, even when the breeder reveals the gender to you. It could be that the breeder is wrong, and you may have to discover this when the snake is all grown.
Be confident enough to handle the snakes by yourself. But, of course, this is possible only if you have acquainted yourself with the correct information on what to look out for.
As you go about the physical examination, be careful how you handle the pet. All snakes – regardless of how docile they are – can bite.
Here are some techniques you can use to check your snake’s gender:
Examine the Physical Features of the Tail
In most snakes, the female tends to be longer than the male.
However, this may not be a very reliable way of determining gender unless you have two snakes of the same species but different gender.
Most people use the length of the tail to determine the gender of their snakes. However, experts contend that this method cannot be entirely relied on.
If the tail is short and stout, the snake is believed to be a female. However, if it is long and thick, it is a male snake.
The number of scales from the vent to the tip of the tail can also give you a good idea about the sex of the snake.
For example, if the scales are between 30 and 35, from the vent to the tip of the tail, this snake is likely to be female.
It is male if the tail has 40 or more scales from the cloaca to the tip.
Although checking for the characteristics of the tail is not 100% accurate, it is pretty fast. Also, this method is less intrusive than other physical exams.
It is thus most suitable for most snakes as they don’t like to be handled for too long.
Examine the Anal Spurs
Again, this method is not 100% accurate. However, it provides you with an educated guess if you are looking to determine the sex of your sex fast and effortlessly.
Checking for the sex of your snake using anal spurs is only applicable to snakes that have the little spurs created by vestigial hind legs.
These include boa and python species.
Anal spurs are two thorn-like protrusions on either side of the vent. The spurs on the female snake are smaller, while those on her male counterpart are larger.
The males use their larger spurs during fights with other males. They also come in handy as they help the male to grip more firmly onto the female during mating.
Most snakes don’t have anal spurs. This is because they have evolved to the extent of discarding these bony remnants of what were once hind legs.
Although this method of determining a snake’s sex is not foolproof, it is fast and hassle-free. Use it to get an educated guess before you purchase a snake.
However, do not rely solely on this method if you are seriously looking for a particular gender of a snake.
Using the Probing Technique
This method is 100% accurate and will tell you whether your snake is a boy or a girl.
To carry out the probing technique, you need the right probing tools inserted inside the snake’s vent.
These include a hand sanitizer or alcohol, a water-based lubricant, and a smooth probing stick.
Because of the intrusive nature of this technique, you should have someone with you to help handle the snake.
Some snakes dislike this probing and may turn hostile to dissuade you from carrying it out. Others will attempt to run away if they are not well secured.
However, this may not be necessary if your snake is well-trained and docile.
Here are the simple steps to carry out this technique:
- Have the tools ready
- Ensure the probing stick is smooth and of the right size
- Secure the snake. If need be, have someone assist you with this
- Find the snake’s cloaca and gently insert the probing stick inside
- Slide the probing stick gently; don’t push anything too hard
- If you feel any resistance. Don’t insert the probe any further
- Mark the probing stick at the vent opening
- Gently take out the probing stick from inside the snake
- Line the probe with your snake’s tail
- Going by how far the probe had slid into the snake, count the scales from the vent (use the mark you had made earlier on the probe)
- If you count 8 or more scaled, your snake is male
- If the scales are 1 – 3, the snake is female
- If you count 4 – 7 scales, the gender of your snake is still unknown.
During this process, sperm plugs may come out of the snake, clearly confirming that the snake is male. Also, the hemipenes pocket may come out, further confirming the snake’s male gender.
Using the Popping Technique
This technique is not always easy for a beginner, as it can injure your snake if done incorrectly.
If you have never used the popping technique on any other snake, have someone more experienced guide you through the process.
The popping technique involves pushing the hemipenes to pop out from the snake. You do this by gently pushing the upper and lower part of the cloaca against each other.
Be gentle about this because you don’t want to forcefully get the hemipenes out. This technique allows the male reproductive organ to come outside the vent for better viewing.
Because of the delicate nature of this activity, many people find it rather hard to execute it correctly. However, if done correctly, the hemipenes will pop out.
Females don’t have hemipenes.
Carry out this technique only if the snake is well-rested. Imposing it on your snake will likely cause undue stress to the animal.
Use of Ultrasound
This is the most effective way of telling your snake’s gender. However, it’s not likely that any keeper without the requisite skills can do it.
You may have to seek help from a qualified professional to run the ultrasound tests.
Ultrasound is used by wildlife conservancies that handle many snakes and other reptiles. It is the most effective method if you are looking for a male or female snake for breeding.
On the downside, the ultrasound technique can be quite expensive and over the top for the average pet owner.
Ultrasound tells much more than just the snake’s gender. For example, it indicates whether the male snake’s hemipenes are correctly positioned and healthy.
It can also detect if the female snake has well-developed egg follicles and how deep inside the body they are.
If you are an aspiring breeder, you can purchase a small ultrasound machine and have an expert teach you to use it.
This will help you to easily classify breeding snakes and babies for online and live markets.
Can All Snakes Be Sexed?
Almost all snakes in the world need to be sexed to bring forth young ones.
The only exception to this rule is the Brahminy Blind Snake, which can lay eggs and produce young ones without needing a male partner.
This is the only species of a female snake without a male counterpart.
Some snakes are very hostile and don’t take kindly to the process of sexing. To determine the sex of a member of the viper or cobra family, for example, you need the support of an expert to help you long.
To make matters worse, these snakes are highly venomous, and one bite can turn fatal. Therefore, you may have to recruit the help of a professional snake handler to effectively carry out the process.
Some of the more hostile snakes have to be sedated to ensure that the probing or popping goes on without any incidences.
Some snakes are not venomous, as such, but they are vicious biters nonetheless. Take the Green Tree Python, for example.
This constrictor is known for fighting off any attempts to restrain it. It will not lie there are you probe and prod around its vent.
Also, the very small snakes have special considerations during this process. For example, you can’t use relatively big probes on small snakes like Mexican Milk Snakes, Kenyan Sand Boas, Western Hognoses, and African Egg-Eating Snakes.
Using a small probe on these snakes as a big one will definitely hurt them.
Does the Behavior of Male and Female Snakes Differ?
The male and the female snake tend to behave more or less the same way. Therefore, neither is harder or easier to keep than the other.
Apart from their biological differences, males and females can be mistaken for one gender. However, a trained eye best notes the small external characteristics between these two snakes.
Studies have shown that apart from the reaction to reproduction, male and female snakes are essentially the same.
They behave in the same way and are likely to have similar temperaments. How a snake behaves does not depend on whether it is male or female.
Instead, young snakes seem to take the temperament of their parents. This is not surprising, considering snakes of the same species tend to behave more or less similarly.
Female snakes with bound eggs are broodier than usual, and you should allow them to keep to themselves.
If you notice this problem with your female snake, take it to the vet so the eggs can be manually extracted.
Also, there are slight differences between wild snakes and tamed ones. For example, snakes bred at home take better handling than their wild counterparts.
Acclimated snakes behave more predictably around human beings and other pets. But, again, this is because of conditioned learning.
They no longer associate people and certain house animals with threats.
At the same time, baby and juvenile snakes tend to be more unpredictable and erratic than grownups.
This is probably because they are still learning their way around the world. So you need to be patient with these young ones as they embrace who they are and their place in your home.
The differences between some male and female snakes are so small that not everyone can tell them apart.
When handling these snakes, you need the support of someone with a trained eye to help you spot the differences.
However, in most cases, it is fairly simple to tell these snakes apart by close observation.
The physical exam of a snake is not in itself conclusive enough to determine the sex of your snake. However, a physical examination provides an educated guess to know what to expect as you proceed.
Among the physical methods used worldwide include studying the characteristics of the tail, prodding, and popping.
Using ultrasound is more reliable as it is a scientifically sound method.