Seba’s African Rock Python, Python sebae (Gemlin)

Coluber Sebae Gmelin in Linneaus 1789
Coluber Speciosus Bonnaterre 1789:17
Boa Hieroglyphica Schneider 1801:266
Python Houttuyni Daudin 1803:254
Heleionomus variegatus Gray 1842:43
Python Sebae — Duméril and Bibron 1844:400
Python Liberiensis Hallowell 1845:249
Python jubalis Pitman 1936 (nomen nudum)
Python sebae sebae — Broadley and Howell 1991:22
P. sebae Map
The distribution of Python sebae. Yellow squares are single locations and clustered squares are multipe locations that are clustered. This map is a best guess.
Type Locality: "America" in error. Holotype: ZMUU, based on plate 199, figure 2 in Sebae (1735).

Distribution and Habitat. Seba’s African Rock Python occurs south of the Sahara, from Senegal eastward to Ethiopia and Somalia, extending southward into northern Angola (as far south as Ambriz on the coast), the Shaba Province of Zaire, and into Kenya and Tanzania. Sub Saharan Africa from Senegal east to southern Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia, including Guinea-Bissau, southern Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, southern Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, southern Chad, Central African Republic, Congo Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, northern Angola, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania (Broadley, 1984; Lanza and Nistri, 2005). Largen and Rasmussen (1993) states that sebae rarely extends much above 2000 m in elevation.

Diet. Tjader (1910:233) described an 11 foot snake in an arboreal ambush position in a fig tree. Which species (sebae or natalensis) was involved cannot be determined. Luiselli et al (2001) studied this snake in southern Nigeria and compared its dietary habits in suburban and more natural habitat. They found it fed most between 1600 and 2400h in the suburban areas, while in the natural habitat it fed mostly during the day (0700 to 1900h). In the urbanized landscape it feed on poultry, rats, goats and dogs. In the natural habitat it feed on rodents, fruit bats, crocodiles, and monitor lizards.

Size & Growth. Barton and Allen (1961) obtained a West African Python (sex not given, but most likely a male) that they estimated to be slightly less than 2 ft (0.6 m), after 8 years and 8 months of captivity it was 11 feet 2 inches (3.4 m) long and weighed 56 pounds (25.4 kg). It was 289 pounds 131 kg) of food during this time, thus it gained one pound (0.45 kg) for every 7.8 pounds (3.5 kg) of food it ate. Villiers (1950; 1975) reports a 9.8 m snake shot at Bingerville in the Ivory Coast in 1932 by Mrs. Charles Béart. The snake was apparently killed in a school yard. In a letter to Clifford Pope dated December 25, 1958, Charles Béart states that he measured an African Rock Python that was fully 32 feet long. It was observed in a hedge of bougainvilleas at a school in Bingerville, Ivory Coast Republic and was shot by Béart’s wife. Other authors (Branch, 1984; Haagner, 1992) have considered this record lacking details that would be needed to accept the size of the snake. The table below summarizes some size records for this species. In the Methods column m = measured and e = estimated. Murphy and Henderson (1997) considered the Van Rompaey record an error based on the photograph included in the article and the weight. An 11 m python would weigh considerably more than 43 kg.






9.8 m

32 ft


Bingerville, Ivory Coast Republic

Beart, 1932 in Doucet, 1961


24.6 ft



Doucet, 1963:227

9.45 m

31 ft



Duncan, 1847:157

12.2 m

40.02 ft


Creek Town, Nigeria (hearsay record)

Kingsley, 1897:546





Lonnberg (1911)

7.5 m

24.6 ft



Starin and Burghardt, 1993:53

7.85 m

25.75 ft



Stucki-Stirn, 1979:50

4.93 m

16.4 ft


(Shimba Hills , near Mombassa)

Tjader (1910:233)

11 m

36.08 ft


 near Luluabourg (now Kananga) in the DRC [43 kg]

Van Rompaey, (1985:250)
JCM Natural History © John C. Murphy