Boa Constrictor vs. Python

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between boa constrictors and pythons? In this lesson we'll explore the differences and similarities between these two types of snakes.

Compare and Contrast

Think about different types of snakes. The first thing that you thought of might have been venomous versus non-venomous snakes, but what about different types of non-venomous snakes? One of the most well-known categories is the constrictors. These snakes grab their prey and squeeze them until the prey suffocates. Then the snake can leisurely swallow its prey whole.

Within the constrictor group, there are two main types of snakes that are often confused: boa constrictors and pythons. These two snakes do share many similarities, such as their method of catching and eating prey, but they have significant differences as well. Some differences include reproduction and geographic location, as well as a few physical differences.

Boas (left) and pythons (right) have some significant differences
Boa vs python

Where in the World

Boas and pythons live in a variety of habitats. They can be found in anything from forests to swamps to deserts and grasslands. However, one major difference between the two groups is geographic location.

Boa constrictors can be found throughout much of the world, including the Americas (North, Central, and South), as well as in Africa, Asia, and Australia. The different boa species are widespread.

Pythons, on the other hand, are Old World snakes. They can only be found in Africa, Asia, and Australia.

(Note: Pythons can be found in Florida. However, these are invasive, non-native, snakes that were released in Florida by humans. Therefore the United States is still not included as part of the native python range.)

Babies versus Eggs

Perhaps the most notable difference between boas and pythons is their method of reproduction.

Pythons lay eggs. The mother python will remain wrapped around her eggs until they hatch, at which point the babies are on their own.

The majority of boa constrictors give birth to live young, and the babies are on their own as soon as they are born. There are some species of boa that lay eggs (such as the Round Island boa), but most give live birth. For all of these species, once the babies are out in the world they are left to their own devices.

Most boa constrictors give birth to live young
Boa constrictor

Physical Features

Pythons and boa constrictors share some unique physical features. They are considered 'primitive' snakes because they have two lungs, whereas most snakes only have one. In addition, they have vestigial, or left-over, leg bones from when their predecessors used to have legs. These can only be seen when looking at the skeleton, not by looking at the outside of a snake.

Boa constrictors have fewer bones in their head than pythons, and fewer teeth as well. That's right; even though constrictors squeeze their prey and swallow it whole, they still have teeth!


Together, boa constrictors and pythons comprise the largest species of snakes in the world. The anaconda, which is a boa constrictor, can grow to be 30 feet long. Reticulated pythons can top that, reaching 33 feet. That's more than twice as long as a full-size sedan!

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