Added February 2002

A quick guide to



Not all boas are large New World snakes. The sand boas are a lesser-known group of boas dispersed over a fairly wide range between East Africa, southeast Europe, Central Asia as far as China and the Indian subcontinent including Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Sand boas are largely burrowing creatures, although they tend to wait just beneath the surface rather than being complete fossorial tunnelers. This accounts for the rather high position of the eyes on the head. They are small (no larger than 3ft) and fairly easily kept. On the debit side, most are rather drab in adulthood, and as a burrowing creature are less likely to be seen than a terrestrial or especially an arboreal species.

E. [G. ] colubrinus, Kenyan Sand Boa E. [G. ] conicus, Rough-Scaled Sand Boa E. elegans, Elegant Sand Boa
E. jaculus, Javelin Sand Boa E. jayakari, Arabian Sand Boa E. johnii, Brown Sand Boa
E. miliaris, Central Asian Sand Boa E. [G. ] muelleri, African Sand Boa E. somalicus, Somali Sand Boa
E. tataricus, Tartar Sand Boa E. whitakeri, Indian (?) Sand Boa  


Species Common Name Origin Adult size Notes
Subfamily Erycinae

Eryx [Gongylophis] colubrinus Kenyan Sand Boa Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Libya, Chad, Niger, Yemen, Tanzania, Somalia 3'    
E. [G.] c. colubrinus Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Libya, Chad, Niger, Yemen, Somalia 3'
E. [G.] c. loveridgei Kenya, NE Tanzania 3'
E. [Gongylophis] conicus Rough-Scaled Sand Boa Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka 3'    
E. [G.] c. conicus
E. [G.] c. brevis
E. elegans Elegant Sand Boa C Asia (NE Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, S Turkmenistan) 3'  
E. jaculus Javelin Sand Boa SE Europe, Turkey & Middle East, W Asia 3'     
E. j. jaculus
E. j. familiaris
E. j. turcicus
E. jayakari Arabian Sand Boa E Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait 3'  
E. johnii Brown Sand Boa Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran India 3'    
E. j. johnii
E. j. persicus
E. miliaris Central Asian Sand Boa S Russia, Kazakhstan, N Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, China, Mongolia 3'    
E. m. miliaris
E. m. nogaiorum
E. [Gongylophis] muelleri African Sand Boa W & C Africa 3' Widely distributed.
E. [G.] m. muelleri
E. [G.] m. subniger
E. somalicus Somali Sand Boa Somalia and Ethiopia 3' The following details are based on the specimen cited in Gans, Laurent and Pandit. Scalation:  
E. tataricus Tartar Sand Boa Turkmenistan, E Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, E Turkmenistan N Iran, Afghanistan, W Pakistan, W China, S Mongolia 3'     
E. t. tataricus
E. t. speciosus
E. t. vittatus
E. whitakeri Indian(?) Sand Boa SW India 3' Listed in EMBL database but not found in Walls.


Boas: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual, Doug Wagner, Barrons, 1996, New York/Hong Kong. Excellent book covering all the boas, including the obscure species unlikely to be seen. Highly recommended.

Boas Rosy and Ground, Jerry G Walls, TFH, 1994. Walls writes well on most if not all herpetological subjects, and this is no exception: a useful and informative guide to rubber boas, rosy boas, sand boas and Pacific island ground boas, covering both natural history and captive care as well as some of the disputes over subspecies. There is a bonus chapter with sections on the Burrowing Python Calabria reinhardtii, the Neotropical Python Loxocemus bicolor and the Sunbeam Snakes, Xenopeltis sp. Recommended.

Snakes: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual, R D & P Bartlett, Barrons, 1997, New York/Hong Kong. Covers snakes in general but has a good section on the more popular and available boas.

Snakes of the World, Chris Mattison, Blandford, 1986/1992, London. A good book with the only reservation being that applied to Dieter Schmidt's, ie some of the taxonomy/classification is now out of date. See also Mattison's Keeping and Breeding Snakes (Blandford) which is probably more immediately useful to snake keepers.

The Boidae (Boas and Pythons) section of the EMBL reptile database provided (as always) much useful information, especially regarding subspecies, distributions and the history of recent taxonomic changes.


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