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Aroura House Snake 1.JPG
Lamprophis aurora,
aurora house snake
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Lamprophiidae
Subfamily: Lamprophiinae
Genus: Lamprophis
Fitzinger, 1843

7 recognized species, see article.

Lamprophis is a genus of medium-sized, nonvenomous snakes commonly referred to as African house snakes.


Species of Lamprophis exhibit a wide variety of pattern variation, and may be spotted, striped, or solid in color. House snakes are sexually dimorphic, the females grow significantly larger, to about 120 cm (47 in) in some species, and some specimens have been recorded over 150 cm (59 in), the males only grow to around 75 cm (30 in). Albino variants of Lamprophis aurora have been found.


As of 2010, seven species in the genus Lamprophis are recognized:[1]

Nota bene: A binomial authority in parentheses indicates that the species was originally described in a genus other than Lamprophis.

The former Lamprophis capensis, brown or Cape house snake, has been assigned to the genus Boaedon, as Boaedon capensis.

Geographic range[edit]

House snakes are found throughout all of sub-Saharan Africa in a wide variety of habitats; some species are well adapted to living in underground burrows. They are named "house" snakes as they are frequently found around human dwellings, feeding on the rodents that congregate around human waste. They are extremely adaptable snakes, which are found in scrubland, woodland, savannah, and montane regions.

Behaviour and diet[edit]

Wild house snakes are often very nervous, but are not prone to biting. Their first defensive reaction is to flee. They are frequently found in and around human dwellings, where they consume rodents, small lizards, and even birds. House snakes are prolific breeders and lay clutches averaging eight to 12 eggs that hatch after around two months of incubation. Hatchlings are typically around 20 cm long.

In captivity[edit]

African house snakes are common in the exotic pet trade, the primary species available is L. capensis, others are harder to acquire. They are easy to care for and breed readily. Their popularity has declined in recent years due to more interestingly colored snakes, like the corn snake. Despite this, captive breeding of house snakes for color and pattern continues. Few are exported from Africa due to their low market value and the ease of breeding them in captivity. They can live up to 20 years with proper care. Males are smaller than females and seldom grow longer than 2.5 ft (76 cm). Females can attain lengths of 3.5 feet (110 cm), and specimens from the eastern region of southern Africa (KwaZulu-Natal) are reported to reach lengths of 5 ft (1.5 m) or more. These snakes are nocturnal. The female lays one clutch of 9 to 16 eggs in early spring. They are known to store sperm and lay up to six clutches per year in captivity, but it rarely happens in nature. Hatchlings are 5–7 in (13–18 cm) upon hatching.


Their main diet consists of rodents; in captivity, smaller snakes take pinkie mice, and in the wild they more commonly prey on geckos until they are powerful enough to constrict mice. Large females are known to occasionally eat weanling rats. Adult snakes get fed weekly. Hatchlings may eat small lizards, such as skinks and geckos, and newborn mice. In captivity, they can successfully be fed on gecko tails. Larger specimens are also known to take lizards, and in rare cases they will catch small bats. House snakes should be fed alone; their often violent feeding response may cause cannibalism.


  1. ^ Kelly CMR, Branch WR, Broadley DG, Barker NP, Villet MH. 2010. "Molecular systematics of the African snake family Lamprophiidae, Fitzinger, 1843 (Serpentes: Elapoidea), with particular focus on the genera Lamprophis, Fitzinger 1843 and Mehelya, Csiki 1903". Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 58 (3): 415-426. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2010.11.010

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Boulenger GA. 1893. Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History). Volume I., Containing the Families ... Colubridæ Aglyphæ, part. London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, printers). xiii + 448 pp. + Plates I-XXVIII. (Genus Lamprophis, p. 39, Figure 19).
  • Branch, Bill. 2004. Field Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Third Revised edition, Second impression. Sanibel Island, Florida: Ralph Curtis Books. 399 pp. ISBN 0-88359-042-5. (Genus Lamprophis [sensu lato], pp. 73–74).
  • Fitzinger L. 1843. Systema Reptilium, Fasciculus Primus, Amblyglossae. Vienna: Braumüller & Seidel. 106 pp. + indices. (Lamprophis, new genus, p. 25). (in Latin).
  • FitzSimons V. 1966. "A check-list, with synoptic keys, to the snakes of Southern Africa". Ann. Transvaal Mus. 25 (3): 35-79. (Genus Lamprophis, Key to the species, p. 45).