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10 cool things about the brown house snake

The brown house snake (Boaedon capensis) is a common African snake, spanning from southern Africa up to the west and east of the African continent. Belonging to the genus Boaedon, there are about seven different species of house snakes with the brown house snake being the largest of them all.

Brown house snakes, like their other reptilian relatives, are ectothermic. This means they cannot regulate their body temperatures on their own and rely on their environment to do so. That’s why it is also essential for pet snakes to have a ‘heating rock’ in their tank so they can warm themselves. Without it, a snake’s body temperature could drop too low and potentially cause him to die.

During the day, brown house snakes stay out
of sight and will only come out at night to hunt for rodents. Larger snakes will even eat small vertebrates such as lizards, bats, birds as well as eggs, while a medium-sized house snake will be able to kill and swallow an animal of about the size of a fully-grown sewer rat. They secure and constrict these rodents with their sharp teeth, suffocating the prey before consuming it. It’s said they have the ability to devour an entire rodent family in one season!

Brown house snakes have their own list of predators. These include larger snakes and birds of prey such as owls, who hunt them when they are out at night. Sometimes, if they don’t attack first, these clever snakes will fake death in order to get away.

Brown house snakes are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs to reproduce. In summer, a female will lay between eight and 18 eggs among
compost, vegetable debris or other decaying matter. Hatchlings of around 20cm emerge two to three months later, and like all other snakes, these little snakelets don’t require any parental care. Able to fend for themselves straight away, they feed on small insects before moving on to bigger prey.

Brown house snakes are drawn to urban areas and can often be found close to houses, in compost heaps, tool sheds or outbuildings (hence the name ‘house snakes’). They are non- venomous and docile, though they will bite when provoked. Still, because of their small size, they can’t do much damage and with patient handling, they calm down soon enough.


Did you know that the brown house snake looks similar to a young Egyptian cobra? With two silvery, cream streaks on the sides of his head that stretch from his nose to his eyes, fading into the brown colour of his body, the brown house snake can easily be mistaken for the young Egyptian cobra.

These slithering creatures have a light brown to reddish colour, while their bellies vary from off-white to a yellowish colour. While rare, albino and piebald colours have also been found. They are also very iridescent with their smooth scales giving off an oily sheen in certain light. Larger snakes are usually a bit darker, almost black. They are 60cm to 90cm in length, however some snakes from KwaZulu-Natal have been found to reach up to 1.5m.

While wild house snakes are often nervous and prone to biting, hand-reared brown house snakes are said to make good pets – especially for first-time snake owners. In South Africa, pet snakes require permits, so make sure you do your homework before getting your own.


Interestingly enough, while brown housesnakes are not an endangered species, they are listed under the Western Cape Nature Conservation Act as a protected species.


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