Hognose snakes are relatively small colubrids that are native to North America. They have upturned snouts which they use for digging burrows in sandy soil. Western hognose snakes are a favorite in the pet trade, and there are some stunning color morphs.
Albino hognose snakes have no brown or black pigment. They are cream-colored with orange-red markings. Axanthic hognoses are light grey with darker grey markings. There are also some beautiful pattern morphs, such as the superconda, which is patternless except for a striped head.
We’ll let you know some cool facts about hognose snakes. We’ll then show you the best hognose snake color morphs. We’ll describe what each one looks like, and let you know the cost.
What Are Hognose Snakes?
Hognose snakes (Heterodon) are native to the United States and Mexico. They are often found in sandy habitats, and feed on amphibians, such as frogs and toads.
They’re famed for their upturned snout, which is where they get their name. They use this for digging tunnels in the ground to search for prey.
Hognose snakes are also known for their impressive defensive display. When they feel threatened, hognose snakes puff out their necks to resemble cobras. If this doesn’t deter the attacker, they’ll roll onto their backs and play dead.
There are many species of hognose snake, but only the Western hognose is commonly kept as a pet. This is because the western hognose can be trained to eat rodents, whereas other species can’t.
Hognose snakes are quite small and stout, rarely reaching 3 feet in length. According to Toxicon, hognoses are technically venomous. However, their venom is so weak that they are not considered dangerous to humans. Also, they seldom bite their owners.
The normal hognose snake coloration resembles a Prairie rattlesnake. They are light brown, with medium to dark brown saddles along their backs, and spots on their sides. They have dark stripes on their face.
Captive-bred western hognose snakes are usually very comfortable around humans. They are quite docile, and easy to handle. If they do become defensive, they will only ever bluff-strike with their mouths closed.
Best Hognose Snake Morphs
Normal Western hognose snakes are beautiful in and of themselves. They also tend to be the cheapest to buy, at around $100 each.
However, hognose breeders have also developed over 50 different hognose snake color morphs. They do this by selectively breeding hognoses that have natural color or pattern variations. Eventually, they form a whole new genetic line of snakes that have a distinct appearance.
Here are the most popular hognose snake morphs:
|Hognose Snake Morph||Description||Cost|
|Albino:||Cream with orange-red saddles and spots. Red eyes.||$150|
|Axanthic:||White to light grey with dark grey spots and saddles.||$175|
|Snow:||White with pale pinkish-white markings and red eyes.||$450|
|Evans Hypo:||Cream with light brown markings. Sometimes a hint of red.||$300|
|Superconda:||Tan with dark brown facial stripes, a patternless body, and black belly.||$200|
|Toffee Belly:||Pale tan with toffee brown markings and toffee-colored belly.||$250|
|Lemon Ghost:||Mustard yellow with yellowish-brown markings.||$300|
|Caramel:||Cream with pale caramel color markings.||$400|
|Lavender:||Pale grey with lavender-grey markings and a pinkish undertone.||$800|
Let’s now describe each morph in a bit more detail. We’ll also discuss their price range, and how common or rare they are to find for sale.
1) Albino Hognose Snake
Albino is one of the simplest hognose snake color variations. Albino snakes are some of the most popular pet snakes across all species, due to their pale and unique coloration.
Albinism is a genetic defect that is caused by a lack of melanin production. Melanin is the dark pigment which gives snakes black and brown markings.
Albino hognoses are cream in color. Their spots and saddles are orangey-red rather than brown. Because albinism also affects the eyes, albino hognoses have red eyes.
Breeders have also created distinct lines of albino hognose, which have distinctly different appearances. Extreme red albinos, for example, have very vivid blood red markings.
Albino hognoses are some of the more common morphs, and are readily available. Normal albino hognose snakes typically sell for around $150.
Designer lines, or albinos with additional traits, will cost extra.
2) Axanthic Hognose Snake
Axanthic hognose snakes are almost the opposite of albinos. Where the albino gene removes the brown-black pigment melanin, the axanthic gene removes yellow and red pigment instead.
The result is that axanthic hognose snakes are entirely greyscaled. If you took a black-and-white photo of a normal hognose snake, it would look axanthic. Axanthic hognoses have none of the warm brown or yellowish tones that you’d find on a normal hognose.
Axanthics have a base color of white to light grey, and their markings are dark grey. They have black eyes.
Despite the lack of bright colors, axanthic is one of the most beautiful and sought-after hognose morphs.
They’re also quite common, which means they aren’t too expensive, compared to other colors. Expect to pay around $175 for an axanthic hognose snake.
3) Snow Hognose Snake
What do you get if you cross an albino hognose (no brown-black pigment), with an axanthic hognose (no red-yellow pigment)?
Because they have both the albino and axanthic genes, snow hognoses are devoid of almost all color. As their name suggests, they’re pure white all over, as if trapped in a snowstorm.
Their patterns are still visible, though pale. As babies, their saddles and spots have a pinkish hue. As they grow older, the markings lose their pink tinge and become off-white. They have pink eyes.
As they grow into adults, snow hognose snakes occasionally take on a slight yellow tinge to their scales. However, it isn’t anywhere near as pronounced as in some other breeds.
Although albino and axanthic hognoses are quite common, snow hognoses are rarer. They’re also more sought-after, which drives the price up. Snow hognose snakes usually cost around $450 each.
4) Evans Hypo Hognose Snake
The “Evans hypo” mutation was discovered by one of the earliest hognose breeders, Richard Evans. It is also sometimes called “Dutch hypo.”
The term “hypo” is short for hypomelanistic. Where albinism removes all melanin from a snake, hypomelanism removes only some of it. The result is a snake which is lighter in color than a “normal,” though still not as pale as an albino.
Breeders now suspect that the Evans “hypo” gene is not hypomelanism, but rather a form of T+ (tyrosinase positive) albinism. This gives albinos pigmentation which can make them look like hypos.
Evans hypo hognoses are grey to pale tan in color. Their saddles and spots can range from golden-brown to reddish. They have pink and white bellies. Evans hypo hognose snakes cost $300 each.
5) Superconda Hognose Snake
The superconda hognose snake is not a color morph. Instead, it is a pattern morph, and it’s quite spectacular.
Anaconda (or “conda”) hognose snakes are quite common. They’re hognose snakes that have a reduced pattern. Their large saddles are reduced to small spots.
Condas are quite beautiful in themselves. However, when you breed two condas together, there’s a chance that a superconda will be created. Supercondas have no pattern at all, apart from the stripes on their face.
They are pale brown, occasionally with a hint of darker brown along the spine. Their dark brown facial stripes are still present, and they have black bellies.
It’s possible to breed different colors of superconda, such as albino supercondas. A normal-colored superconda costs around $200.
6) Toffee Belly Hognose Snake
Toffee belly hognose snakes, also called toffee hognoses, are one of the more popular hognose morphs.
They are similar to wild-type or “normal” hognoses, but their colors are more saturated. They are pale tan with yellow undertones, and their markings are the color of burnt caramel sauce.
The key to identifying a toffee belly hognose is, as you might guess, its belly. Normal hognoses have mostly black bellies, with some patches of bright yellow. Toffee hognose bellies are varying shades of toffee color, with no black.
The toffee belly gene is recessive. It’s thought to be another type of T+ albinism, though nobody is quite sure.
Toffee belly hognose snakes usually sell for around $250 each.
7) Lemon Ghost Hognose Snake
Lemon ghost hognose snakes are the most brightly-colored morph that we’ve seen. They are created by selectively breeding the most yellow-toned hognoses.
The “ghost” part of the name refers to a hypo gene. This reduces the amount of melanin, and the contrast between the base color and the patterns.
Lemon ghost hognoses have a striking lemon-yellow body color, which can verge on mustard. Their saddles, spots and facial stripes are yellowish-brown in color.
Some of the most striking specimens carry the anaconda gene too. This reduces the size of their markings, allowing more of the lemon color to shine through.
Lemon ghost hognose snakes usually sell for around $300 each.
8) Caramel Hognose Snake
Caramel hognose snakes are also known as “caramel albinos.” The recessive gene which gives them their caramel coloration is actually a type of T+ albinism.
If you’re a fan of pale, low-contrast snake morphs, caramel might be the one for you. These beautiful snakes are cream-colored, with the slightest hint of gold.
They have light caramel saddles and spots, which fade toward the tail. Their eyes are a gorgeous toffee hue, and their bellies are pure white.
Currently, caramel albino hognose snakes are selling for around $400.
9) Lavender Hognose Snake
Lavender is quite an unusual color to find in reptiles. We’ve saved this one for last, as it’s definitely of the most intriguing snake morphs.
Rather than being some variation of brown or yellow, lavender hognoses have a pale grey base color, with a pinkish tint. Their saddles and spots are a stunning purplish-grey.
Some individuals can have more of a purple hue than others. However, they’re all striking.
The lavender gene is quite rare in hognoses, and highly sought after. It’s also recessive, meaning both parents need to be lavender to create lavender babies.
Lavender hognose snakes usually sell for around $800 each.
How to Care for a Hognose Snake
Western hognose snakes are good beginner pets, popular with beginners and experienced snake owners alike. They don’t grow particularly large, and captive-bred specimens are usually very friendly. No matter which morph(s) you choose, they all require the same care.
When purchasing a vivarium for your hognose, choose one which is slightly longer than your snake. Glass, plastic or wooden enclosures are all excellent choices.
Because wild Western hognoses live in semi-arid regions, they don’t require much humidity. Around 30-50% is sufficient, which is roughly the same humidity level as the average American home. If it’s too moist, this could lead to problems such as scale rot.
Hognoses need a basking spot of 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which is achievable with a heat lamp or heat mat. The cool end of the vivarium should be between 75 and 80 degrees. There should be a hide on each end, and a water dish big enough to bathe in.
Use a dry substrate, such as aspen shavings. Aspen can also hold its shape, so it’s ideal for hognoses to burrow in. Give them at least two inches of substrate so that they can dig tunnels.
Hognoses do well on a diet of frozen mice, which have been gently thawed in warm water. You should feed your hognose roughly once every 7 to 10 days. Very young snakes may need to eat more often.
Only purchase a snake which has eaten at least three or four meals on its own. Visit the snake in person if you can, so that you can check that your snake is in good health.