Reptile and Exotic Pet Magazine

House Snakes and Their Mutations. (Part 2) By Rolf Dennison

Almost everyone that has kept snakes has heard of the House Snake. These African colubrids have always been seen as a fairly common and plain snake but times are changing and House Snakes are starting to make a big name for themselves in the reptile industry with a large and increasing variety of different coloured locality species and the most amazing and striking colour mutations and combo mutations becoming available. Like we have seen with the ever-increasing mutations of the Corn Snakes, King Snakes and Milk Snakes the House Snake is at the beginning stages of this same trend and in this article, we are going to show you the incredible colour varieties and mutations of the various House Snake species we are working with.

House snakes for a long time have been a favourite amongst many snake enthusiasts and reptile keepers and without a doubt they have been one of our biggest passions at Ultimate Exotics Reptile Breeding Facility in South Africa. It all started when I was only 9 years old and caught a wild House Snake in our swimming pool which was floating in my toy boat. My parents who always had a passion for animals saw my excitement and fascination with the House Snake and allowed me to keep it. This was the beginning of my passion for reptiles and the start of an incredible journey with the House Snake.

We still see there is a bit of confusion with the naming of many species of House Snakes so before we look at mutations, let’s have a look at the different House Snake species that fall under two different genus’s Boaedon and Lamprophis.

Here is the list of Boaedon species.

  • Brown House Snake, Boaedon capensis
  • Zambian Green House Snake, Boaedon fuliginosus
  • Tanzanian Striped House Snake, Boaedon lineatus
  • Dotted House Snake, Boaedon maculatus
  • Namibian House Snake, Boaedon mentalis
  • Sooty House Snake, Boaedon olivaceus
  • Radford House Snake, Boaedon radford
  • Boaedon upembae
  • Halliwell’s House Snake, Boaedon virgatus

Here is the list of House Snakes from the genus Lamprophis. These are:

  • Olive House Snakes, Lamprophis inornatus
  • Aurora House Snakes, Lamprophis aurora
  • Spotted House Snakes, Lamprophis guttatus
  • Fisk’s House Snakes, Lamprophis fiskii
  • Abyssinian House Snake, Lamprophis abyssinicus
  • Ethiopian House Snake, Lamprophis erlangeri
  • Yellow-bellied House Snake (Near threatened), Lamprophis fuscus
  • Seychelles House Snake, Lamprophis geometricus

So, as you can see there are a lot of House Snakes; many of these species are still not established in captivity and some of them are very rare even in their natural habitats.

Due to our fascination of mutations in the reptile hobby, and the reason for the mutations being rare and of higher value, it sparks interest in many breeders and keepers of snakes. There will of course always be the other snake keepers who prefer the wild type of any species and are not a fan of mutations. That being said, those of us with the fascination of mutations must never forget the natural beauty of the ‘wild type’ but at the same time we can also appreciate a colour mutation, which we can then selectively breed out in order to produce more of that mutation. A good example of this is the American Corn Snake, which now has 100’s of different morphs and new morphs being developed and bred all the time.

Over the last couple of years, we have seen a number of new morphs being bred out of our House Snakes, and it shows there is a lot of potential for some exciting new colour mutations to be developed in our House Snakes, and it seems we are only at the tip of the iceberg.

Let us go through the mutations and colour varieties that are currently being bred; what I have noticed is that with each mutation there can be quite a variety of different pattern and colour variation out of one clutch. This can confuse some breeders if they are unsure of the adult’s genetics. Below we will run through the mutations. These may not be all the existing mutations, but these are most of the known mutations, which we have been working with in South Africa and have bred.

Mutations in Boaedon capensis

Albino – the colloquially name for Amelanistic

There are two different types of albino mutation in Brown House Snakes. The T – Albino and the T+ Albino.

T+(Positive) Albino

T+ Albino is a recessive trait. The “T” in T+ Albino represents tyrosinase, an enzyme required in the synthesis of melanin (dark pigment). T+ Albinos have functional tyrosinase enzymes required to synthesize melanin, but they lack a subsequent enzyme required to complete the melanin-synthesis process. Simply put, T+ Albinos generally exhibits darker pigments, of yellow and orange and most importantly have a black pupil. After dealing with the T+ Albino for a few years it is also important to point out that as babies their pupil is a dark ruby red colour and as they mature their pupil darkens until it is black. We also see this with the T+Hybinos and the Hypo T+Butter babies.

T-(Negative) Albino

T- Albino is also a recessive trait, and this is the classical albino we all know which has no tyrosine and has no dark pigment (melanin). This results in a House Snake, showing a yellow, orange and white colouring and their pupil is red. House Snake being nocturnal have a vertical pupil, which only appears as a tiny vertical slit during the day, this makes it hard to see the colour of the pupil. In a dark room or at night you will see the pupil is dilated and will clearly be red. Depending on locality of the snakes the orange and yellow can vary greatly with the different shades of brown in the wild types. On the redder varieties the orange can be very bright almost going towards pink.

Hypomelanistic

This mutation started out being called a Ghost House Snake or a Blue House Snake, due to its greyish/brown appearance. This mutation was originally thought by some people to be a Anerythristic mutation. With the proof of breeding results, this mutation is proved out to be a Hypomelanistic mutation. We say this because when we bred this recessive mutation into our Green House Snakes (which took over four years to do) it resulted in a diluted Green House Snake (the result of hypomelanism), which we have called a Hypo Green House Snake (as can been seen in the pictures). If it were an Anerythristic mutation we would expect to see a light grey house snake with no green colour coming through.

This mutation results in a lack of the pigment cells producing melanin, which results in a paler, more dilute animal. This mutation has been proven to be a recessive mutation and has been bred with T+Albino and more recently Green House Snakes as described above.

T+Hybino

A double recessive mutation. Hypomelanistic T+ Albino (T+ Hybino). Results in a diluted T+ Albino.

Blue-eyed

This recessive mutation was recently established in captivity and came from a wild caught animal in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. This mutation was first called a Blue-eyed Leucistic as the adults look very similar to other Leucistic mutations that we see in other colubrids. Since more of this mutation has been bred, breeders have notices the babies hatch out like a very light hypo house snake and as they grow and shed they get whiter and whiter. Even as adults they never go a pure white colour and you can still see their faded patterns like you can see in the picture. If this was a true Blue-eyed Leucistic mutation you would expect the babies to hatch out pure white with no pattern and blue eyes and look the same as they grow into adults.

T- Albino Blue-eyed

A double recessive mutation. Results in a white and pink snake with pink eyes.

Mutations in Boaedon fuliginosus

T-Butter

The T-Butter House Snakes were first produced by us at Ultimate Exotics in 2012. The T-Butter results in a snake showing an intense yellow or orange colouring with ideally almost no pattern whatsoever with red pupils. It is effectively a T-Albino Zambian Green House Snake. We now have selectively bred lines of Yellow and Orange T- Butter House Snakes.

T+Butter

The T+ Butter House Snake results in a snake showing an intense yellow or mustard yellow colouring with ideally no pattern whatsoever with a black pupil.

Hypo Green

Hypomelanistic Green House Snake. This was produced for the first time in 2013 at Ultimate Exotics and has resulted in a dilute green house snake with almost no pattern. This is a Hypo Zambian Green House Snake.

Hypo T+ Butter

Hypo T+ Butter House Snake. This was produced for the first time by Ultimate Exotics and has resulted in a dilute T+ Butter house snake with almost no pattern. This was created by breeding Hypo Greens to T+ Butters and then breeding the Zambian Green House Snake Double het babies back to each other.

Colour Varieties

There are a number of different colour varieties of house snakes and this generally comes down to locality and species. Most are just different shades of brown, but there are some that are distinct colour variations and they are being bred at the moment.

Colour variations in Boaedon capensis

Red House Snakes

These House Snakes are found in South Africa in parts where the soil is very red, hence the adaption of the red colouring in order to blend in with their natural habitat. I have seen pictures of T-Albinos mutations of this colour variety which are very orange and even pinkish with very little pattern.

Colour variations in Boaedon fuliginosus

Zambian Green House Snakes

These House Snakes are said to come from Zambia, and have distinct Olive-Green colours with hints of brown. They have almost no pattern with an eye stripe on each side of their head. The green colour can vary in individuals as you can see in the pictures above and depending on how close the animal is to shed. Babies are also born very dark and as they grow their green colour gets brighter.

Black House Snakes

These House Snakes are said to come from central Africa and further North, and have a distinct black colouring to them. Some may be black with hints of brown coming through and others may be black with hints of dark green coming through. They have no pattern.

Mutations yet to be established

Scaleless House Snake

We saw pictures of Scaleless House Snakes on one of our local groups. We are not sure who has this animal, it looks to be the same recessive ‘scaleless’ mutation that we see in Corn Snakes.

‘Pied’ House Snake

This Pied House Snake was a wild caught animal. More breeding will prove how this Pied mutation will work and hopefully we will see a House Snake with a lot of white patches on it’s body which will look impressive!

Granite House Snake

This unusual house snake we recently required and pictures barely do it any justice. It is a beautiful coffee brown colour with black speckling all over it’s body. We hope we can prove this morph to be genetic.

As you can see with this ever-growing list of mutations and colour variations there is currently a lot to work with and there are still many combo mutations that haven’t been bred yet.

House Snakes have developed a bit of a bad reputation of being extremely prolific egg layers, giving people the impression that they just lay and lay throughout the year producing hundreds of babies. This false reputation devalues them as people think that a new mutation can quickly be bred in large quantities bringing down the price fast. We have found that this is not the case, although some House Snakes (mainly wild type) may be very good breeders we have found that many of the mutations lay smaller, fewer clutches and good care needs to be taken to ensure fertile healthy eggs.

We hope this article has helped to spark some interest in House Snakes as they really are one of the best colubrids to work with in the reptile world. With the availably of these new mutations increasing over the next few years I really hope to see House Snakes make a big name for themselves in the reptile industry world wide. Although the babies can be a bit jumpy the adults are incredibly tame and make excellent pets. Another appealing aspect is House Snakes are easy to care for and can be kept the same way as other colubrids such as Corn Snakes. When handling them and working with them they remind me in many ways of a miniature python and they have been one of our favourite species to work with over the many years of keeping snakes.

 

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