Ball Python VS Boa Constrictor: Which Makes a Better Pet?

Seventy million years ago, boas and pythons shared a common ancestor, which explains why the two snakes look remarkably alike.

However, the two species have drifted further apart with the passing millennia, becoming the two distinct species we know today.

The main difference between ball pythons and boa constrictors are their size, how they reproduce, and their temperament.

In captivity, boa constrictors can grow ten feet long, while ball pythons are typically only six feet long. Boas give birth to live young, while pythons lay eggs. And while both are docile snakes, each has its quirks, such as boas being less picky eaters and pythons preferring to stay on the ground instead of hanging on trees.

Boa Constrictor VS. Ball Python Quick Comparison

Boa ConstrictorBall Python
Size6-10 feet4-6 feet
AppearanceShades of brown, gray, black, and tan. 
The pattern appears lighter toward the head and darker / more concentrated toward the tail.
Dark base color with light-colored, round, evenly-spaced splotches.
Teeth and JawHave about 100 teethHave a premaxilla (upper jawbone) and about 150 teeth
Lifespan in Captivity20-30 years30-40 years
Temperament and CareEasy to feed, slightly more docile and active than ball python. Enjoys spending time in trees and branches. Can be a picky eater. Prefers staying on the ground than in trees.
Enclosure Requirements40-60 gallon tank40-60 gallon tank
DistributionCentral and South AmericaWest and Central Africa
Natural HabitatTropical rainforests, woodlands, savannas, desertsGrasslands and open forests
Breeding SeasonApril to AugustSeptember to November
Process of Giving BirthOvoviviparous (incubates internally and gives birth to live young)Oviparous (lay eggs and incubate externally)

Crucial Differences Between Boa Constrictors and Ball Pythons

ball python vs boa constrictor

Being ancestrally linked, visually telling apart a boa constrictor from a ball python can be tricky!

A careful observer can note differences in size and appearance. Pet boa constrictors are ten feet long and have a pattern of splotches that grows darker and more concentrated toward their tail. Ball pythons are shorter, rarely reaching six feet long(female ball pythons have more length compared to male), and have more evenly-spaced splotches throughout their body.

Another crucial difference is in their anatomy. If you are brave enough to peer into their mouths, you’ll observe that ball pythons have upper jawbones (premaxilla) and more teeth than a boa constrictor.

If you can watch either of these snakes give birth to young, you’ll notice another significant variation. Ball pythons are oviparous animals that lay eggs and incubate them externally. Boa constrictors are ovoviviparous species that incubate their eggs inside their bodies and give birth to live young.

Lastly, there are differences in their behavior. Boa constrictors are arboreal and prefer spending time hanging in trees and branches. Ball pythons are only semi-arboreal and will spend more time on the ground.

Additionally, ball pythons are known to be more picky eaters than boa constrictors are!

A Closer Look At Boa Constrictor and Ball Python Differences and Similarities

Boa constrictors and ball pythons were once closely related. Today, they are grouped into their own families, with boa constrictors classified as Boidae and ball pythons as Pythonidae.  

Though they are genetically further apart, evidence remains of their shared ancestry. Both snakes

  • Are nocturnal.
  • They are constrictors that suffocate their prey by wrapping them tightly with their bodies. 
  • Have two lungs. Most other snake species only have one.
  • Have a pelvic girdle or a hip bone for supporting the rear legs.
  • Have vestigial limbs called spurs, which are also remnants of limbs.

How have they changed over the millennia? Read on to learn about their differences.


In the wild, pythons are typically much longer than boas. Wild pythons grow to be about twenty feet long on average, while boas rarely reach twelve feet.

However, since ball pythons are one of the smallest python subspecies, the reverse becomes true when comparing pet snakes. 

Boa constrictors are usually between six to ten feet long, while ball pythons only grow between four to six feet.


close up image of boa constrictor

Boa constrictors and ball pythons are similar in color and splotch pattern. Both generally come in shades of brown, gray, black, and tan, with some variations depending on subspecies and morph.

The difference between the two is in their uneven markings and colorings. A ball python’s markings are usually evenly spaced throughout its entire body, while a boa’s dark splotches grow more extensive and prominent as it moves toward its tail.

The boa constrictor’s darker tail area sometimes appears reddish, garnering the snake the nickname “Red tail boa.”

Despite this general description, remember that each snake has thousands of variations–you could have a solid-colored ball python or a green-and-white boa constrictor!

Editor’s Note
Since they are such popular pets, there are over 7,500 available morphs of ball pythons!

Teeth and Jaw

close up of ball python mouth and jaw

Pythons have upper jawbones (premaxilla), which boas do not.

Aside from having a few more bones, ball pythons have more teeth than boa constrictors. In particular, ball pythons can boast 150 teeth in their mouth, while boa constrictors only have a hundred. Even with the extra teeth, ball pythons rarely bite their owners because of their docile nature.

However, the two snakes share the same teeth shape. Both species have teeth that curve backward, making it harder for prey to wiggle themselves free.

Lifespan in Captivity

ball python in enclosure

Both snakes live very long lives and will be a companion to their owners for many decades.

Between the two species, though, ball pythons live slightly longer. The average lifespan of a ball python in captivity is between 30-40 years, while boa constrictors live between 20-30 years, while the corn snakes only live 15-20 years.

Temperament and Care

While each snake has its preferences, there are observable traits characteristic of each species.

Boa constrictors are less picky about their food and need to eat less often because of their slower metabolism. Ball pythons can get picky at times and refuse food.

Both snakes like to hide, but boa constrictors enjoy hanging out in trees and branches more than ball pythons do, a fact related to each snake’s natural habitat.

Lastly, boa constrictors are more active than ball pythons and more docile, and can tolerate being held.

Therefore, the boa constrictor is for owners looking to own a pet snake they can enjoy watching slithering around.

Enclosure Requirements

Boa constrictors and ball pythons have similar captivity requirements.

Generally, a pet snake’s enclosure must always be big enough to stretch out fully. Adult boa constrictors and ball pythons can usually fit comfortably in 40- to 60-gallon enclosures, though larger snakes may require more significant areas.

Both snakes thrive in a tank with 60 to 70% humidity and a temperature range of 80 to 90 °F.


Boa constrictors and ball pythons live in different parts of the world, which partially explains how they evolved to be different.

Boa constrictors hail from Central and South America, while the ball python comes from West and Central Africa.

Neither species is native to North America, where they are now popular pets.

Natural Habitat

In the wild, ball pythons are comfortable in grasslands and open forests. Boa constrictors, meanwhile, prefer living in tropical rainforests and woodlands, though some also live in open savannas or deserts.

Evidence of this difference is seen in their behavior.

Ball pythons are generally not arboreal animals and prefer staying on the ground instead of climbing trees. Boa constrictors, on the other hand, love to climb and wind their way up trees, branches, and vines!

Editor’s Note
How much a boa constrictor enjoys climbing depends on age. Younger boys enjoy their time in trees, while older adults spend more time on the terrain.

Breeding Season

If you are looking to breed your pet snake, you should take note of each species’ breeding schedule.

Boa constrictors breed between April to August, and ball pythons seek their mates between September and November.

Process of Giving Birth

ball python giving birth

One of the most significant differences between boa constrictors and ball pythons is how they give birth to their young.

While both species lay eggs, they incubate them differently.

Ball pythons are oviparous, which means that they lay eggs and incubate them externally.

Boa constrictors lay eggs, incubate them inside their bodies, then give birth to live offspring. Animals who birth this way are called ovoviviparous.


Both boa constrictors and ball pythons are non-venomous. If they weren’t, they would be much more difficult to obtain and keep as pets!

Therefore, a bite from either of them should never be a cause for alarm, but always remember to clean the wound thoroughly to avoid an infection.

Editor’s Note
You must obtain specific permits and licenses to keep a venomous snake as a pet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Snake Is Better For A Beginner?

Ball pythons are a better option for a beginner pet snake owner between the two species primarily because of their size. These snakes are smaller and will be easier to manage than boa constrictors. 

However, if you have the space and are willing to do some heavy lifting, boa constrictors are also very easy to care for!

What Are The Differences In Cost Between The Two Snakes?

Both boa constrictors and ball pythons are easily bought from pet stores and breeders for as little as $50. Additionally, both have a similar carnivorous diet of mice and rats, which is relatively to maintain.

Make sure to purchase only quality rodents from a reliable source!


Both boa constrictors and ball pythons are docile snakes and great for aspiring reptile owners. Though they are two distinctly different snake species, they share many similarities and look nearly identical.

Ultimately, deciding between the two comes down to how much size you have available in your home. 

Harry Potter fans may have reason to pick a boa constrictor over a ball python, though–this was the snake Harry released very early on in the series from the zoo!

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