How To Tell A Snake’s Gender: 4 Different Ways

Do you want to check the gender of your snake?

Why is sexing a snake so tricky?

Congratulations! You have a new pet snake. 

You might be curious whether it is male or female. 

It’s hard to tell unless you know what to look for or take a trip to the vet. 

We’re here to help with this short guide on how to tell a snake’s gender. 

While some snakes have slight visual differences between genders, this does not apply to all species. If you are a beginning snake handler, make sure to seek the expertise of a veterinarian or an experienced reptile keeper to sex your snake. Reliable methods of sexing include popping or probing, but these could injure your snake if done incorrectly.

how to tell a snake's gender

How Do I Sex A Snake Visually?

Experts agree it takes years of experience and practice to sex a snake based on visual characteristics. 

Many of the visible differences between sexes are so subtle they are barely noticeable to the average viewer. 

Visible differences also depend upon a snake’s species and age.

Depending on the species of snake you own, you may be able to sex them from birth, or you may have to wait until your snake has reached sexual maturity.

Do Snakes Have Sexual Dimorphism?

Sexual dimorphism refers to differences in size, color, and overall appearance between the sexes of an animal. 

While some snake species have slight visual differences between males and females, this does not apply to all species. 

These differences will also not be apparent until the snake has reached sexual maturity. 

The most common sexually distinctive characteristics between snakes include color and size variations. 

You may have to research the specific species you own to be able to tell differences. 

For example, if your pet is a ball python, a female will be slightly larger than a male snake. 

If you own a rat snake, however, a male will be slightly larger than a female.

Some vipers, including the European adder, have color variations between males and females. 

Female adders have red and brown coloring, while males tend towards gray, black, and white. 

Female European adders are also larger than males.

Boas and pythons may have visible anal spurs. 

These are vestigial remnants of legs near the cloaca and tail. In males, anal spurs are generally larger and more well-defined than they are in females. 

Male boas and pythons will use these spurs to hold on during mating and fighting with other male snakes. 

Since these are vestigial remnants, not all snake species have them. 

They have completely disappeared on colubrid snakes, for example. 

Therefore, searching for anal spurs is also not a universally reliable method.

The Tail Method

Though snakes have mostly internal reproductive organs, there is one way to tell visually whether your snake has one or the other: looking at their tails.

Male snakes have two penises, referred to as hemipenes. 

These usually stay inside a cavity behind their cloacas, emerging from the body for reproduction. 

When outside the body, the hemipenes look like little red tubes.

Since the hemipenes are located inside the tail end, male snakes generally have thicker and longer tails with more of a sudden taper. 

Female snakes have a more gradual taper, and their tails are generally smaller and thinner.

While this is a sound method, it is difficult to achieve unless you have a male and female snake of the same species or look at many comparative species pictures.

How Can I Be Sure Of My Snake’s Gender?

It is not easy to tell a snake’s gender for sure unless you know how to perform specific methods. 

These are the methods, however, which should be performed by a veterinarian or expert snake handler, not an amateur.

Probing

This procedure involves inserting a lubricated snake probe (a thin metal rod) into the cloacal vent while the snake is awake. 

The expert will then maneuver it toward the tip of the tail. 

Since male snakes have cavities behind their cloacas to store their hemipenes, the probe will drop farther, about nine to fifteen scales down, than it would with a female. 

If your snake is a female, the probe will only drop about one to three scales. 

You want an expert to handle this one, as the probe could easily cause injury to your snake if mishandled. 

You do not want to do this yourself if you are unsure how to perform this procedure safely.

Popping

Popping, or the process of temporarily pushing out hemipenes, so they are visible outside the body, should only be done on smaller and younger snakes.  

Popping may potentially cause trauma or injury if done incorrectly.

Do not perform this procedure yourself if you are not sure how to safely pop your snake’s hemipenes. 

Have your vet press firmly but gently with their finger below their cloacal vent on the snake’s belly. 

If done correctly, you will see a hemipenis if your snake is male. 

The popping will not have this result on a female, or if done incorrectly.

Ultrasounds

If you’re nervous about probing or popping, your vet can perform an ultrasound on your snake. 

This will also show you if your female snake is developing eggs or young within her body. 

Ultrasounds are not a method which could injure your snake if done incorrectly.

Conclusion

We hope this article has helped you figure out how to tell a snake’s gender. 

Though some snake species have sexual dimorphism, the truth is determining a snake’s sex visually takes practice and expertise. 

Many species of snakes have no visible differences between males and females. 

Comparing the tails of male and female snakes of the same species may provide some clarity, as males generally have thicker tails than females to store their hemipenes. 

However, the only sure methods of determining a snake’s gender, probing, popping, or ultrasounds, should be done by an expert.