african house snake, (afrikanische) hausschlange, brown house snake

11 Surprising Facts About African House Snakes

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The African house snake (Lamprophis fuliginosus) is a fascinating yet little-known snake species found throughout sub-Saharan Africa. With their docile temperaments and manageable sizes, these nonvenomous snakes make excellent pets for beginner and intermediate herpetology enthusiasts.

Get ready to dive into some intriguing facts about the African house snake that may surprise even seasoned snake lovers! We will explore everything from their misleading name and variable appearances to their unique defensive behaviors and their importance in African culture.

Facts About African House Snakes

african house snake, (afrikanische) hausschlange, brown house snake
african house snake, (afrikanische) hausschlange, brown house snake by Brendan O’Loughlin is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 .
  1. They are not actually native to housesDespite their common name implying they live in human dwellings, African house snakes are actually found in a wide variety of natural habitats across Africa including scrublands, savannas, woodlands, and grasslands. The name likely comes from their tendency to shelter in barns, outbuildings, woodpiles, and thatched roofs.
  2. African house snakes display incredible color variationsWhile most individuals have brown or black base colors, others may show vibrant orange, yellow, or even dark green. Some have stripes, spots, blotches, or bands in an array of contrasting colors and patterns. This diversity helps them camouflage into their surroundings.
  3. They have heat-sensing pits for locating preyLike their viper relatives, African house snakes have loreal pits on their heads which allow them to detect infrared radiation given off by small mammal prey like rodents, birds, lizards, and frogs. This gives them an effective night hunting ability.
  4. When threatened, they may mimic deadly cobrasBy flattening their heads and necks, hissing loudly, and striking, African house snakes can briefly fool predators into thinking they are the highly venomous Egyptian cobra. This defensive display, along with the release of a foul musk, often startles predators long enough for the snake to escape.
  5. African house snakes are oviparousUnlike viviparous snakes that give birth to live young, the African house snake lays clutches of 4-12 eggs in hidden locations with suitable temperatures and humidity. Once hatched, the baby snakes are immediately independent.
  6. They have a rapid growth rateReaching over 3 feet long within their first year, the African house snake grows quicker than many colubrid species. Their growth rate slows once maturity is reached, but some may ultimately extend past 4 feet in length.
  7. Certain African cultures revere house snakesSome West African ethnic groups believe house snakes bring good fortune, wealth, and protection from evil spirits. Their presence is seen as a blessing, so killing them is considered taboo. House snakes are occasionally featured in traditional myths and folklore.
  8. They have a long lifespan for snakesCompared to other snakes that may only live around 5 years in the wild, African house snakes frequently exceed 15 years in captivity with proper husbandry. The current record is over 22 years.
  9. African house snakes are harmless to humansWith small, rear-facing teeth and no venom, African house snakes cannot seriously injure humans. Their first line of defense is to flee from threats. If cornered, they may strike out or mimic cobras, but this is mostly bluffing behavior.
  10. They are popular exotic petsDue to their typically calm demeanors, modest space requirements, and hardiness, African house snakes are increasing in popularity in the exotic pet trade internationally. Their wide range of color morphs also appeals to keepers.
  11. Strict regulations apply to owning themIn locations where African house snakes are legal to own, permits, paperwork, microchipping, and other restrictions often apply. Release into the wild is illegal and irresponsible due to risks of introducing parasites, disease, and disrupting ecosystems.


From their deceptive name to their feisty bluffing behaviors, African house snakes have much to fascinate reptile enthusiasts and scientists alike. As one of Africa’s most widespread snake species, they play integral ecological roles across an array of habitats while capturing our imaginations through local folklore. We have only just scratched the surface of understanding these captivating snakes.

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