0008 – Genetics / Line Breeding Ethics?

  • Post published:2023-02-11

Another controversial subject and this is a love it or hate it generally. I am probably a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to this subject. I am mainly referring to the breeding of the Spider Gene Ball Python (Python regius), the Reticulated Python (Malayopython reticulatus)Batwing Rattlesnake (hybrid) (Crotalus horridus × Crotalus adamanteus) and the German Shepherd. There will be hundreds, if not thousands of other examples I am sure, but I am predominantly just using these for my few points.

The Ball Python is probably the reptile that has been messed with the most genetically to create different morphs/ appearances to suit the wants of humans. I am one of those, for the want of the Piebald but some just don’t do a thing for me, despite having very high price tags. Each to their own.  Now a lot of the basic morphs originate from wild specimens, some selectively bred from a range of genetics. One that has come under fire from a number of people is the spider gene due to neurological issues that can develop/ be born with. The has caused many a debate and I do have one. It was my intention to breed and then I have personally opted not to, but I also have no objection to those who do breed it. Where I have problems is if breeders don’t advise new owners of potential problems or if they have specimens with a bad head shake they don’t euthanize it. This is by no means nice to do, but for the benefit of the gene and the animal, don’t hold on to weak specimen. Breed and sell strong healthy genetic animals. It is the bad/ weak specimens that make it to the wrong camera’s / YouTubers that create hype, not the thousands that are doing well. Mine for instance under any conditions shows no signs of any neurological issues. One should not always blame the gene or species, but also look at the breeder and were they wrong to let the animal grow up / be sold. Birth defects happen in all animals, domestic or wild. In a captive situation, albeit often termed as playing God, it is our responsibility to ensure healthy animals are produced and to minimize any suffering of any animals as much as is possible.

Certainly not reptile, but take the German Shepherd. This is not the only dog species that has changed significantly over the years to suit what man has believed to be the right appearance. This is all well and good that these  authorities have decided the sloping back is the look, but they did not consider or were not aware at the time of the hip issues this causes. It is knowingly breeding in a health issue into a working breed. Giving benefit of the doubt that they didn’t initially realise the strain on the hips, when more and more cases of hip dysplasia started, realise the error and revert back to a squarer back. Breed a stronger line that minimises a health issue. Ignore the costs to the owner, what about the pain the animals goes through, the discomfort of sometimes being left too long to suffer with a human worsened ailment.


Retics are amazing pythons that are in a different league to the others. Now I havent kept the species for long, but in observations they have a different level of intelligence. Tap training is quicker and easier, their recognition of people is better and just their general behaviour.  I do have a personal bias to African Rock Pythons, but due to permits I dont keep them, however they are still not retic brains. Now Retics come in various morphs, but also sizes. There are dwarfs and super dwarfs and some in the USA are specialising in small Retics. This is done by breeding various small locality specimens and line breeding smaller specimens of this to get smaller and smaller lines. Although I am one for keeping bloodlines pure, I am a hypocrite here as I fully agree with it. Few have the space for a 20ft python of pure muscle and a potential killer, but this in a 5-8ft form is a different story. A lot more people can be exposed to the joy of Retics with far less risks although a well raised retic is a very gentle specimen.

Now I am not one for hybrids and don’t agree with it, especially with the risks of escapes if one of the species are indigenous to your area. Ignoring the environmental side as this is a subject to wide for this article. Even just from a a captive situation what is the species you land up with and what are the potential risks to keeper or specimen as a result of the hybrid. Quite often hybrid to hybrid breeding has difficulties/ defects immediately indicating this is not ideal/ normal. Now you may ask why risk to keeper, take the Batwing Rattlesnake. Firstly it is a beast of a rattlesnake that is gorgeous, but what is the venom, how will it impact on humans. In event of a bite what antivenom is likely to be effective if any. I admit I have not read up if these answers are already available, but on initial crossing it was not. Similar one, but a naturally occurring hybrid is the Gambino. Another stunner hybrid that I would not say no to keep, but what is the predominant venom, what other potential problems are there as a result of the cross. Granted this can go the other way that a weak species may have that problem reduced by the genetics of another being introduced. So where do I actually sit on this subject. Naturally occurring hybrids I have no objection to, but keepers need to understand potential risks with venomous species. Unnatural Hybrids I am typically not in favour of, but the Batwing I do find amazing and I would probably find it hard to say no to it. very hypocritical, I admit.

Overall where do I sit. There are some genetic lines or hybrids I would choose not to breed or own, but this by no means says it is not right. It is simply my choice. If anyone else wants to, feel free to do so, al that I would judge it on is looking out for the specimen. If the specimen is potentially likely to suffer, rather do the best for the specimen than try make a sale for the benefit of your wallet and we all know across the breeding world this happens. If breeding is done with ethics and health of the animal first, go ahead. We all have our own choices, like and dislikes, it is what makes us human, lets just keep the animal first.