what makes a butter ball python?

What Is a Butter Ball Python?

Butter ball pythons were first bred and imported in 2001 by Reptile Industries/ReptMart. They then put them through a breeding program to prove that the butter ball’s appearance is hereditary.

A butter ball python is a co-dominant morph that has yellow markings and a caramel-brown background. Their genetics make their dark colors lighter than normal. They can be bred with others to create designer morphs. Examples include butter Enchis, butter albinos, and blue-eyed Lucy’s. Prices vary based on the relative scarcity.

Aside from the coloration, butter balls are exactly the same as other ball pythons. Males will reach 2-4 feet and weigh between 1300 and 1700g. Females are bigger, between 4 and 5 feet long, and weighing 1400-1900g. The female snakes are larger due to sexual dimorphism.

Butter Ball Python Characteristics

The most obvious physical characteristic of a butter ball python is its color. A ‘normal’ has a deep brown color as a background. Butter balls can be identified in the following way:

  • A softer brown, closer to caramel in color.
  • Their pattern is also lighter. It’s a mix of tan and gold. Its pattern has white and black rings around it. It may also have isolated spots of dark background color on its interior.
  • It has extensive blushing. Blushing is where certain parts of the snake’s pattern have a color that fades into another color. It’s most frequently seen in the spots or stripes on its side.
  • Its light pattern is a gold that merges into a darker tan color. Its background colors also fades from caramel through tan, through gold, and into white from top to bottom.
are butter and lesser ball pythons the same?

Butter Ball Python Genetics

Ball pythons can have 3 different kinds of genes:

  • Dominant
  • Co-dominant
  • Recessive

Each animal has thousands of different genes, some of each kind. The terms refer to how the genes interact. According to Understanding Genetics, a dominant gene will ‘win’ against a recessive gene. So, if an animal inherits a recessive eye color gene from its mother, and a dominant eye color gene from its father, then the dominant gene will be ‘expressed’.

This difference determines what the animal looks like. It also determines how likely the animal’s offspring will look like it. Base morphs (those caught in the wild) have natural mutations. Designer morphs are the result of breeding two base morphs together.

Is the Butter Gene Dominant, Co-Dominant or Recessive?

The butter gene is co-dominant. Co-dominant means that it can appear alongside other genes. Skin color is co-dominant.

The same applies to the genes that give the butter ball python its unique appearance. When you breed it with other morphs, both the butter gene and the other gene are expressed. That applies to co-dominant, recessive, and dominant morph genes.

This makes butters a good snake to breed with others. When you do, you mix the butter ball appearance with the appearance of other morphs. This is what makes interesting designer morphs.

Are Butter and Lesser Ball Pythons the Same?

Most people believe they are different lines of the same morph. That’s because their color and pattern are similar. And when you breed designer morphs using these morphs, the result is usually the same.

So, why are there two ‘morphs’ that are the same? They were imported by different breeders at the same time. The butter was imported by Reptile Industries/ReptMart, while the lesser was imported by Ralph Davies Reptiles.

They look different for the same reason that any 2 ball pythons look different. Some normal snakes are darker, and some lighter than others. In the same way, butter and lesser ball pythons may look different because they’re different lines.

Breeding Butter Ball Pythons

Because they have co-dominant genes, butter ball pythons are simple to breed. All you need are two butter ball pythons. But if you breed them, you won’t just get 100% butter ball python offspring. Instead, your chances of different kinds of offspring are as follows:

  • 25% Normal ball pythons
  • 50% Butter ball pythons
  • 25% ‘Super butter’ ball pythons, i.e. Blue Eyed Leucistic ball pythons

This variance occurs because the butter gene is co-dominant. A butter ball python can only have one copy of the butter gene. If it had two, both would be expressed due to co-dominance, and the snake would be a BEL.

Every butter ball python also has a copy of the normal appearance gene. When you breed two butters together, there’s a 50% chance that each parent will pass on its normal gene, not the butter gene. The chance of both of them doing so is 25%.

In the same way, there’s a 25% chance that both parents will pass on the butter gene. This causes a BEL. There’s an overall 50% chance of one parent passing on the butter gene, and the other the normal gene.

You can also breed BELs with butters. This results in 50% butters and 50% BEL offspring. This is the better way to breed as you get more valuable snakes (BELs), and no normal.

Butter Ball Python Morphs

Because the butter ball python has been around since 2001, it has been bred into many designer morphs. Below is a table with examples of the kinds of designer morphs you can find. Afterwards, we will look at each in more depth.

NameDescription
Butter Pastel:Usually lighter brown with extensive blushing.
Butter Super Pastel:A snake with the bright yellow of the super pastel. It also has the deep mid-brown of the butter.
Butter Mojave:A pure white snake with traces of silvery pattern. It also has eyes that are an icy shade of blue-silver.
Butter Cinnamon (Lithium):A uniform medium brown color. These snakes also have the unique pattern of a cinnamon.
Butter Albino:Like an albino, but without the white background. Instead, they are two different shades of yellow-orange. They have red eyes like all albinos.
Black Pastel:A deep brown that fades into white, from top to bottom. Also have a different pattern, like cinnamons.
Butter Enchi:A deep orange and yellow snake with the Enchi pattern.

These aren’t the only morphs. You can breed a butter with any other morph you like, but these are the best-known varieties. 

Butter Pastel

Pastels are a popular morph to breed. That’s because the color and pattern of the morph they’re bred with are accentuated and made ‘cleaner’. They’re also popular because they’re more common.

That’s what you see with the butter pastel. Their colors may appear cleaner, i.e. more uniform. There may also be a slight color change. However, they are quite variable. With the butter pastel, you might see:

  • Lighter brown pattern
  • Extensive blushing
  • Lighter, cleaner yellow pattern

But, because they’re variable, the changes aren’t always noticeable. If you don’t have a regular butter to compare with, it’s difficult to tell them apart.

Butter Super Pastel

Super pastels have extreme yellows and a clean pattern. Their dark pattern is still dark like a normal. This creates a high-contrast pattern and appearance. They also have extensive blushing.

When combined with the butter, you get the super pastel’s yellow pattern. But the butter keeps its light brown pattern. The blushing of the super pastel is accentuated even more, because butters have blush too.

In some cases, the snake is exceptionally light-colored. They are almost yellow like a banana ball python, but still have some brown pattern on top. In other cases, the snake’s dark pattern borders on black.

Butter Mojave (Blue-Eyed Lucy)

When you breed a butter and a Mojave together, you’ll get a BEL (Blue-Eyed Lucy). This was one of the first highly desirable designer morphs because of its unique color.

The BEL is pure white. When people think of albinos, they think they’re pale and white. But in ball pythons, they aren’t. They have high contrast yellow and white scales, and red eyes.

BELs are what people imagine when you talk about albinos. They’re a pure white with a slight blue-silver tinge. They are a uniform white from head to tail tip. They may turn a faint yellow as they age.

The most interesting thing is their clear, sharp blue eyes. That’s where they get their name from. Their eyes range from a bright blue to a darker blue, to a dark blue surrounded by black. You can also get black-eyed leucistics.

butter ball python morphs

Butter Cinnamon (Lithium Ball Python)

The lithium ball python is bred from the butter and cinnamon morphs. Cinnamon, like butter, is co-dominant. Cinnamons have a browner background color, and their heads are browner too.

They also have a distinctive pattern. Ball pythons have a pattern that’s described as being like an ‘alien head’. This is where they have loops along their sides with two ‘eyes’ in each. The effect looks like a little green man’s head.

With cinnamons, these alien head loops may be squashed or smeared together in appearance. They may also have just one ‘eye’ instead of two. The head may also be heart-shaped rather than ‘head’ shaped.

The lithium ball python has each of these features. Their background black is a uniform brown. It may appear sandy brown in some cases. Their pattern changes too to look like the cinnamon.

Albino Butter

The albino butter ball python is a mixture of the recessive albino gene, and the butter gene. Because the butter gene is co-dominant, both genes can be expressed.

Like regular albinos, the albino butter has red eyes. This is common to any snake that shares the albino gene. They are a bright orange-yellow color.

But unlike regular albinos, they have no clear white background pattern. Instead, they are two different shades of orange-yellow. Their darker pattern is only slightly darker than the background.

They also have noticeable white outlines around their pattern. In all other ways, their pattern is the same as a normal ball python.

Black Pastel Butter

The black pastel is similar to cinnamon ball pythons in appearance. They are high-contrast, with a distinct dark black-brown background color. They have a golden or rust-colored light pattern. Like cinnamons, their pattern is different from a normal, too.

Black pastel butter ball pythons are gorgeous to look at. They have the same reduced pattern as black pastels, where their markings are striped, broken and/or reduced. They may also have a dorsal stripe, i.e. along their back.

But it’s their color that sets them apart. On the top of their back, they’re a deep dark brown. This fades into white as you move down their sides.

Butter Enchi

Butter Enchi ball pythons are a mix of butter and Enchi genes. Enchis are ball pythons that have accentuated yellow colors as part of their pattern. They are popular with breeders that want to create light-colored snakes.

Their dark pattern is lighter, closer to caramel than dark brown. Their background color is a uniform mid-orange rather than yellow-orange. Their dark pattern is surrounded by a thin outline of white.

The Enchi’s pattern also shows through in the butter Enchi. The pattern gives them a broken dorsal stripe in a lighter color. Their ‘alien head’ loops along their sides don’t have eyes.

Average Butter Ball Python Cost

Morphs cost more than normal snakes due to their relative scarcity. However, designer morphs are more expensive than basic morphs.

Basic morphs are those that are wild-occurring. Butter ball pythons fall under this category, so the more common specimens are relatively affordable. The other kinds are designer morphs, where 2 different morphs are bred together. These don’t occur naturally in the wild.

You can buy a butter ball python for between $50 and $500. However, designer morphs that are bred from butter ball pythons fetch up to $6,500.

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