If you have ever wondered, why do ball pythons hiss? There is actually more to this action than first thought. Ball pythons hiss by inhaling a large amount of air before exhaling it with force. Within a ball pythons throat, it has something called a “glottis”. This is part of the larynx that contains vocal cords. The vocal cords have a very tiny space between them, just enough room to push air through. When the air passes through this space, the chords vibrate, producing sound, ie, hissing sounds. The faster the vocal cords vibrate, the higher the pitch of sound that escapes.
For a new or beginner snake owner, the sound of hiss can sometimes be quite scary, as it can actually be quite loud.
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Ball pythons are commonly a very docile species. So hissing is considered very rare. Hissing normally occurs when a ball python feel threatened. There are many snake species that are well prepared to defend themselves from predators. Some have venom to inject, some snakes spit, and some have rattles. Unfortunately for ball pythons, they are not equipped with any of these defence systems. They have to reply on the loudness of their hiss, and sometimes their strike force to defend themselves.
Another reason why a ball python may hiss is for territorial reasons. If there is an occupant within its territory that shouldn’t be there, then the ball python will let it know straight away. Hissing will usually scare off many animals and predators. Ball pythons can stay well hidden and hiss very loudly, so predators will usually misinterpret them for a much more dangerous snake.
Uncomfortable or Stressed
This last point is probably the most concerning for a ball python owner. A ball python may actually hiss if it is uncomfortable or stressed. It is common for a ball python to hiss in a new environment. So if you have recently purchased a ball python, and the vivarium is still fairly new to it, then this is fairly normal.
If the hissing continues then it could be a sign of distress. Maybe you have the wrong substrate for a ball python and it’s irritating their skin. If the hissing continues, contact your local veterinarian as soon as possible for professional advise.
If housed together
It’s not recommended to house two ball pythons together, but some people do. In the most common cases, ball pythons are housed together for breeding purposes. If this is the case, and they are both hissing at each other, then this is a concerning sign. Ball pythons aren’t social species. So hissing will more than likely be aggressive, and related to fighting. Most likely over territory.
If you see this in the wild, it’s best to leave them be. Ball pythons do fight in the wild. They use their constricting powers on each other. The bigger, stronger ball python will likely dominate the fight, causing a retreat from the smaller snake. Thats if it manages to get away.
Other Defensive Behaviours
Ball pythons get their name from another defensive method which has proved to be very successful, time and time again. This defensive method is completely unique to their species species and hasn’t yet been found in research for any other snake.
The word “Ball” come from the defensive position a ball python will take when it is being threatened or approached by a potential predator. When threatened a ball python will curl itself up into a tight ball, with its head protected at the centre. In this position they can literally be rolled, dragged and generally moved about completely unharmed.
Also, from this position a ball python will be able to create a great amount of strength with a strike, or bite. The “S” shape you can see when curled up into a ball, is purposely for its striking ability. The power exerted from this position would be so fast that most predators wouldn’t even be able to react fast enough to move out the way.
Once a ball python has its grip it will constrict its prey until death.
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