How to Identify a Snake's Gender

how to tell the sex of a snake

Snake owners frequently inquire about how to sex their pets. The difficulty is that determining whether a snake is male or female is more difficult than it is in many other creatures. Male and female snakes have similar appearances on the exterior. However, with a little practice, you can tell the difference between the two.

Only competent caretakers or veterinary experts should use the following ways of sexing snakes. If you're new to snakes and want to learn how to determine your snake's sex, locate an expert reptile keeper or doctor to show you how. If they are performed poorly, the snake may be injured.

Tail Characteristics

Male snakes have a pair of hemipenes (sex organs) that reside inside their bodies. They're essentially two little penises kept protected inside the snake's tail. Hemipenes are not present in female snakes.

The hemipenes are found on either side of the snake's midline, directly below the cloacal (vent) entrance and down the tail. These sex organs are hidden inside the male snake's body, so they may not be visible at first. However, there are apparent signs that they are present. The form and length of the tail might help you determine if your snake is male or female.

Males have a thicker and longer tail (the section of the snake that begins after the cloacal entrance) than females. It also has a unique taper, beginning thick and then suddenly tapering off towards the tip. Female snakes have a thinner, shorter tail that tapers smoothly to the tip than male snakes.

When comparing snakes side by side, the differences can be rather noticeable, but sexing a snake without a male and a female to compare is more challenging. This is why, rather of looking at tail traits, the following approaches are more usually employed to reliably determine a snake's sex.


While the snake is awake, a thin metal rod (called a snake probe) is inserted into the cloacal vent of the snake. Because males have hemipenis on both sides of the vent, this unique probe may be inserted further. The probe will descend into one of these slots pointing towards the tail's tip.

The probe will not go very far down into the vent when investigating a female snake. When you direct the probe towards the tip of the tail, there isn't enough room for it to go. Females have a limited number of scent gland spaces.

Imagine two lengthy stockings within a male snake's tail that open up at the snake's vent, and you have a rough idea of what hemipenes are. If the snake is a male, the lubricated probe will slip through the vent and into one of the hemipenes positioned on each side of the snake's tail.

  • If it is a female, the probe will only drop in an average of one to three scales.
  • If it is a male, it will drop in an average of nine to fifteen scales.

On the probe's scale, the difference between the sexes is quite dramatic. With larger snakes, the probe is actually dropped into more of a pocket.

Only probe a snake if you have someone to keep it still, the right size snake probes, and the courage to do it properly and correctly. You don't want to cause any harm to your snake. You should not undertake this process if you are unclear how to do it safely.

Popping Hemipenes

If you have no idea what it means to "pop" a hemipenis, the word could scare you. It entails temporarily reversing them such that they are visible outside the tail (this is what happens when ). To do so, apply hard but gentle pressure to the snake's vent, where the hemipenis would emerge, using a finger. A hemipenis will appear if everything is done correctly.

This approach is usually only used on tiny snakes like ball pythons, and if done poorly, it can inflict a lot of damage. Because it is difficult to perform, this is not the recommended method of detecting a snake's sex. You also don't know if you couldn't pop the hemipenes or if the snake doesn't have hemipenes (is female) to begin with.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.


"Probing Snakes to Identify Gender. Merck Veterinary Manual." ;