Do you want to find out the gender of your Ball Python?
Have you wondered if it’s even possible to determine the sex of your snake?
Even though male and female Ball Pythons look almost identical in appearance, there are several ways to find out the gender of your snake.
One of these ways is called “popping.”
Today, we’re going to show you how to pop a ball python, plus give you a little more insight into the Ball Python’s reproductive anatomy to determine the gender of your snake.
Popping a snake is a three-step process: First, place one thumb underneath the cloaca opening and one thumb above it. Second, press down firmly but gently with the lower thumb. Third, roll both thumbs forwards and down to pop out (or evert) the snake’s sex organs.
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Ball Python Reproductive Anatomy
Before we get into the step-by-step process on how to pop a ball python, it’s important first to understand the Ball Python’s reproductive anatomy.
Male and female Ball Pythons look practically identical from the outside, with few obvious external characteristics distinguishing them from the other gender.
While female ball pythons often grow longer and larger than male ball pythons and usually have a thinner tail than males, these are not always obvious characteristics, and if you don’t have another snake to compare with, it will be hard (if not impossible) to definitively determine the sex based on these external differences.
So how are male and female Ball Pythons different? Male and female Ball Pythons both have an anal vent or cloaca near the tip of their tail.
From the outside, male and female vents look almost identical.
However, what’s on the inside of the vent determines whether a snake is a male or a female.
Male Ball Pythons have two intromittent sex organs called hemipenes (the singular is hemipenis).
When they’re not in use, the hemipenes are stored inside the male Ball Python’s tail base, so apart from mating, the male sex organs are invisible to an observer.
When mating, male Ball Pythons evert one of these tube-shaped hemipenes, inserting it inside the female’s vent.
This allows the male to transfer sperm to the female for breeding.
Female Ball Pythons do not have hemipenes.
They do have two small pockets (or hemipenes homologs) attached to the inside of the cloacal vent wall.
What Does “Popping a Ball Python” Mean
Most snake owners are curious to find out the sex of their snake, but as we learned, male and female ball pythons look very similar, so sexing is difficult.
There are several methods used to determine a snake’s sex, however.
Popping (or manual eversion) is one of them.
Popping a snake involves applying pressure to a snake’s cloaca (vent) to evert the snake’s hemipenes (if present) manually.
If the hemipenes pop out, then you know the snake is a male.
Sometimes the popping technique is not performed right, or the snake may keep his hemipenes inside (usually only older snakes can do this), so the absence of everted hemipenes does not always mean the snake is a female.
When Should You Pop Your Ball Python
The popping technique is best performed on younger, smaller snakes since older males sometimes keep their hemipenes inside their bodies (despite your best popping efforts).
An amateur snake keeper should never attempt popping.
If done incorrectly, you could cause harm or stress to your snake, so if you are new to snake keeping and want to find out the sex of your Ball Python, ask an expert snake keeper or a vet to pop your ball python for you.
How to Pop a Ball Python
Now that we know what popping a snake is and how it’s used to determine the sex of a snake let’s learn how it’s done!
Once again, please do not attempt to pop your ball python unless you are an experienced snake keeper.
Popping incorrectly can cause damage to your snake, so it’s best to have an experienced keeper or veterinarian perform the technique.
Prepare Your Snake
First, your snake needs to be relaxed (especially in its tail region).
You may need to place it inside a tub or let it wrap around your arm.
Just make sure it’s comfortable and ensure you have a firm but gentle hold on its lower half.
Second, you’ll need to place one thumb below the cloaca (vent) opening, and the other thumb right above the vent.
Look closely at the scales underneath the cloaca opening, and place one thumb about two scales distance underneath the vent, and then lightly rest your other thumb about two scales distance above the vent.
Place your forefingers underneath the snake for support.
Finger placement is the most important step, so take your time and make sure you get it right.
Third, press down firmly but gently with the lower thumb (below the vent).
This should open the vent slightly.
Maintain this pressure on the lower portion as you move into the next step.
Fourth and finally, roll both thumbs in a forward and down motion.
This motion should make the hemipenes pop out (if your snake is a male).
If no hemipenes pop out and instead, you see two small whitish bumps in the vent opening; your snake is most likely a female.
Older ball pythons may keep the hemipenes from popping out, or you may not be performing the technique correctly, so the popping method is not always 100 percent accurate.
If you’ve been trying to find out the sex of your ball python or have unsuccessfully tried to pop your snake, we hope this step-by-step guide on how to pop a ball python was helpful.
Remember only to try this method if you are an experienced snake keeper, and keep in mind popping is not always a reliable way to determine your snake’s gender.