Blood pythons (Python curtus or Python brongersmai) are snake species from southeast Asia. They are beautiful to look at. They are known especially for their blood-red color, which is what initially drew people to owning them. Their color is how they get their name.
Blood pythons are known for being nippy, hissing, and getting cage aggressive. They musk easily when handled. Their bite reflex is very strong, and their jaws are strong too. However, their reputation comes from wild-caught specimens. Captive-bred blood pythons aren’t anywhere close to as defensive or dangerous.
Negative reactions mainly occur when handling blood pythons. That’s when they musk and get most defensive. The worst thing is their bite, which is much more painful than that of other snakes.
Temperament of a Blood Python
One of the main reasons why blood pythons aren’t more popular is their temperament. Other pythons are renowned for their patient nature and ease of handling.
Ask most snake owners if they’re aware of the species. They’ll tell you that blood pythons are difficult to care for. They get defensive, and may attack when you’ve done nothing to provoke them. They musk, they hiss, and they’re known to be nippy.
Their temperament is far worse than that of common pet snakes. Ball pythons are the best, and widest-known example. Given that they’re both originally imported species, you may think blood pythons are as patient and easy to care for. But they aren’t.
However, this reputation isn’t a fair reflection of blood pythons. Today’s specimens are captive-bred. They have been socialized from the moment they hatched. They are far less defensive and nippy.
They’re also renowned for not eating frozen and thawed food. Again, that’s due to being wild-caught. They have spent their entire life eating live, or freshly-killed prey. They don’t recognize dead prey as food. But this applies to any snake, not just blood pythons.
Why Do Blood Pythons Have Bad Temperament?
Their reputation comes from most specimens being wild-caught, not captive bred. Wild-caught snakes don’t like people, and see humans as a threat. That’s because they’ve lived in the wild, where predators and threats could kill them at any moment.
As much as owners treat their pets well, the people who catch them often don’t. They will catch the snake and travel with them in unsafe, improper conditions. They may then keep the snake with other snakes, and it may catch an infestation or an infection.
According to the Wiley Online Library, most wild-caught snakes have parasites. This study found that 88% of snakes caught in a random sample had endoparasites, i.e., parasites inside their body.
When the snake is shipped to the U.S., it won’t be happy. It will be sent in a package that is jostled and hit by other packages along the way. The snake may be too cold, especially if it’s shipped in the cargo of a plane.
All of this contributes to a high rate of snakes dying before they reach their destination. It’s little wonder that they are tetchy and nippy after such an experience. None of this, though, applies to captive-bred snakes.
Are Blood Pythons Good for Beginners?
A wild-caught blood python is not a good beginner pet. They may become cage aggressive, hissing, and striking. This makes it difficult to feed and care for them. You may need to use a snake hook to move them around.
Also, handling blood pythons is difficult. Wild-caught specimens see people as a threat, so think you’re going to attack them when you handle them. Also, they’re heavy and thick for their size. This makes them awkward to handle from a physical perspective.
This is all compounded by the fact that a blood python’s bite is painful. If you make a mistake when handling them, they’re liable to get defensive. While a corn snake or ball python will give you a nip, a blood python can bite much harder.
Do Blood Pythons Bite?
All snakes bite if they feel the need to. The first reason is to feed. Every snake needs to bite to feed, except for egg-eating snakes. This biting response is triggered by hunger and the presence of food, as you could imagine.
Snakes also bite in self-defense. These bites are different from feeding response bites. When a python bites prey, it bites and holds on. But self-defense bites are typically bite-and-release. The idea is to give you a shock.
Snakes will typically try to scare you away before fully biting. They will do so by bumping you with their nose. They will strike at you quickly, as if they’re going to bite, but not open their mouth.
Blood pythons bite in each of these ways. They feed on live mammals and birds in the wild, and need to bite in order to constrict. Their feeding reflex is surprisingly fast for their size, and catches people out. Aggressive specimens may bite and refuse to let go.
To prise the snake loose, try pouring a small amount of alcohol or water into their mouth. Avoid pouring it into their glottis. If this doesn’t work, hold the snake behind the head and push down to release their fangs from your skin.
Do Blood Pythons Have Fangs?
Blood pythons do have fangs, as do all pythons. You may not see them as they’re hidden by gums. You may spot what look like tiny teeth poking out. The teeth are longer than that, and you may see them through their translucent gums.
The purpose of the fangs is to hold onto prey and prevent it from escaping. Without fangs, the prey could wriggle free before constriction starts. Blood pythons have lots of teeth along the sides of their mouth, not two big fangs.
Pythons, strictly speaking, have four rows of teeth. One row is along the bottom left, with another along the bottom right. One is along the top left, with another along the top right.
The point of this configuration is so that they can separate their jaws. It’s not just the top and bottom jaws that separate to accommodate big prey. It’s the left and right sides of each jaw, too.
Are Blood Pythons Venomous?
Blood pythons aren’t venomous. They’re a kind of constrictor, as all pythons are. Rather than use venom to kill their prey, they wrap around it. They squeeze it until its heart stops.
They cannot even produce venom. Venomous snakes have venom glands, or at least a venomous saliva-producing Duvernoy’s gland. They have venom ducts to connect the glands to their fangs, and hollow or grooved fangs to deliver the venom.
Blood pythons (and all pythons) lack all of these things. They have no venom glands, and therefore no venom ducts. They lack long and hollow fangs, and instead have short, backward-pointing teeth to grip onto prey.
So, even if they wanted to hurt you, a blood python can’t do so with venom.
Does a Blood Python Bite Hurt?
Although they’re not venomous, a blood python bite still hurts. Their teeth are sharp and pointy, and will create a series of small puncture wounds along with the bite. Their bite hurts much more than that of, say, ball pythons or corn snakes.
Because they’re so tenacious, and frequently don’t let go of their bite, they can cause real damage. But what makes their bites especially painful is their biting reflex. Every species’ biting reflex differs, with some striking faster than others.
Blood pythons are ambush hunters, which means they sit still and wait for prey to come to them. They have to strike quickly, and they can, even though they’re large. Coupled with their size, they pack a more powerful bite than other species.
The bigger the blood python, the more painful the bite. And because of their aggression, the snake may decide not to let go. This is how the bite becomes even more painful. In the ensuing struggle, they may leave some of their teeth in your skin.
If this occurs, head to a hospital to have the wound treated by a professional. You may also need antibiotics and painkillers.
Are Blood Pythons Cage Aggressive?
Another aspect of their temperament is their cage aggressive nature. This is where the snake is defensive when you move to reach in their cage.
This occurs because the snake feels cornered, and that they need to fight you off. A snake in the wild, stuck in a hollow log or a burrow, would have to fight off any threat that’s near the entrance. If they didn’t, they’d eventually be eaten.
As blood pythons are generally aggressive, cage aggression is not unusual either. You can avoid cage aggression by lifting the snake from their enclosure with a sturdy snake hook. You’ll need an exceptionally sturdy one for a heavy blood python.
Do Blood Pythons Musk?
Blood pythons musk when handled, which is another reason they don’t make a good beginner pet. Musk is a foul-smelling fluid expelled from the cloaca. The active ingredient is a scent produced by the cloacal scent gland.
When the snake needs to musk, it will start producing this scent. It will then force a mix of the scent, urine, and feces from its cloaca all at once. This sticky mixture covers both the snake and the person handling them.
Aside from their aggression, this is another reason why handling a blood python is unpleasant. They will almost always musk when handled, even if captive-bred. It’s something you have to get used to if you want to handle one.
Why Do Blood Pythons Musk?
Musking is a response to threats. The purpose is to deter predators from wanting to eat the snake, because it smells and tastes foul. Many snake species use musk, blood pythons included.
They will musk, especially when encountering a low-level threat. If they don’t feel frightened enough to try self-defense, they will start by musking, and perhaps getting aggressive. The predator won’t want to eat them because they are covered in feces, urine, and a separate disgusting scent.
All of the above is the blood python’s reputation. This reputation has developed over decades. However, their reputation is based solely on wild-caught specimens. Captive-bred specimens have a different temperament.
Captive-bred blood pythons are little different from other pet snake species. They have been socialized from early on to be comfortable with people. This helps avoid:
- Cage aggression
- Excessive musking
- Difficulty feeding
- Striking without reason
You still have to be careful to avoid the blood python’s bite. Whether captive-bred or not, the snake still possesses powerful jaws. But captive-bred snakes can be treated the same as any other pet snake. For handling and feeding guides, see the rest of our site.