The Arabian Sand Boa (a complete guide)

In this blog post, we will describe the Arabian Sand Boa. We will discuss its looks, main characteristics, behavior and personality, care and food, health and vulnerabilities of the Arabian Sand Boa. 

The uniqueness of an Arabian Sand Boa

The Arabian Sand Boa is a harmless species that lives only in the Arabian peninsula. Although the terrain of the peninsula is very varied, ranging from forests to mountains, most of them are covered with sandy deserts, and they are the perfect habitat for these little dangerous animals.

The Arabian Sand Boa tolerates a wide range of temperatures very well. Since they spend most of their time in the desert, they cope well with drastic temperatures, which makes sense, as they can vary by about 50ºC between day and night.

This snake mainly hunts small reptiles. They don’t like to exert themselves, so they tend to hunt small prey that can be swallowed whole quickly, such as geckos or small lizards.

They are quite a rare species compared to other boas. Unlike most boas, this one lays eggs. There are only 3 other species of boa that do something like this.

During the day, the Arabian Sand Boa buries itself in the sand. Despite tolerating changes in temperature, it seems to prefer the night and spends most of the day buried in the sand, emerging at dusk.

During the night, it is rare that this boa does not go on adventures. They are known mostly for their small eyes.

There are nine species of sand boa in this genus that inhabit arid and semi-arid regions of Africa, the Near East, Asia but also some areas of Europe. All boas of the genus Eryx are harmless to humans.

Characteristics of sand boas

Sand boas are part of the Boidae family and the Erycinae subfamily. They are small boas. It is among the genus Eryx that we find the smallest Boidae. 

Eryx miliaris measures 35 to 55 cm. The largest species is just over a meter tall. These burrowing boas feature a small, compact head that is indistinguishable from the body, a cylindrical body, and a short tail. 

The eyes are small. They are harmless and non-poisonous snakes. They kill their prey by constriction. They frequent arid and semi-desert regions. These snakes are most active at dusk and at night. During the day, they stay cool under stones, in burrows of small mammals, or in bushes. 

They burrow in sand or loose soil. They use their head as a tool of penetration, pushed by the supports of the rest of the body. Very fast, they can pounce on their victim with a single blow from the sand. They can also evolve in areas with stony subsoil.

Eryx jaculus often lurks under flat stones. Their livery blends in very well with their surroundings. The ground color is usually dark sand, yellowish beige, or brownish yellow to reddish. They are excellent burrowers that are rarely seen on the surface. Their menu consists of lizards, small rodents, chicks, and even insects or gastropods depending on their habitat. 

Depending on their geographic area, they can hibernate. This is the case of Eryx jaculus which hibernates for 3 to 5 months

Some species of sand boas:

  1. Gongylophis colubrinus (Egyptian sand boa)

Size: 50 to 70 cm. Stocky and short body

Colors: Yellowish or gray-yellow background. Dorsal and lateral drawing composed of dark brown and orange spots. Gray or gray-yellow belly

Reproduction: Ovoviviparous. Mating in summer. Up to 15 snakes are born in the fall

Distribution area: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Arabian Peninsula, northern Kenya.

Note: this boa is often found in oases and near homes.

  1. Eryx jaculus (Arabian Sand Boa)

Size: 40 to 60 cm and up to 80 cm. Fat and short body

Colors: Yellowish beige, brownish-yellow to the reddish background. Darker bands that extend from the eye to the corner of the mouth. Darker spots on the back and sides. Belly clearer. Sometimes black or silver individuals are found

Reproduction: Ovoviviparous. Mating in April-May and birth in August-September of 3 to 12 snakes

Distribution area: Balkan Peninsula, southern Yugoslavia, southern Bulgaria, Turkey, Middle East, North Africa, East Africa

  1. Eryx miliaris (Oriental or Dwarf Sand Boa)

Size: 35 to 55 cm

Colors: Sand yellow to the dark brown background. Dark spots on the back. The dark lateral longitudinal stripe on each side of the tail

Reproduction: Ovoviviparous. Mating in April-May and birth in August-September of 3 to 12 snakes

Distribution area: Northwest of the Caspian Sea to Central Asia

Note: the eyes are placed very high on the head which allows it an excellent adaptation to the desert sands.

  1. Eryx Elegans (Central Asian Sand Boa)

Size: Up to about 38 cm

Colors: Olive-light brown background. Brown spots with a black outline on the back. Clear belly with brown spots

Range: Turkmenistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan

Note: This snake lives between 800 and 2500 m altitude. Fairly unknown species.

Physical description of the Arabian Sand Boa

The Arabian Sand Boa is a small non-venomous snake, reaching maturity up to 80 centimeters in length. The body of this snake is cylindrical in shape, with a constant thickness. The head is blunt and shovel-shaped, covered with protective scales, which help it dig in the sand.

The eyes and small nostrils are located in the upper part of the head, and the tail is provided with small conical scales, present especially in adult specimens. The body of the Arabian Sand Boa is covered with a scaly skin of different colors, from gray and brown to brown. The body is stripped and the abdomen is light in color.

The Arabian Sand Boa is also distinguished by a dark stripe that extends from the corner of the mouth to the eyes.

Behavior and personality of the Arabian Sand Boa

The Arabian Sand Boa is an increasingly rare snake, which stays in the wild all day hidden in the sand, and goes hunting at night. Prefers areas with sand, dunes, and loose soil. In captivity, Arabian Sand Boa is easy to maintain and has a docile temperament.

Care and food for the Arabian Sand Boa

In the wild, the Arabian Sand Boa prefers to consume rodents, reptiles, snails, and small mammals. In captivity, it is good to be fed frozen food, mice, and rats. Terrarium water should be changed daily to prevent bacterial infections.

Health and vulnerabilities of the Arabian Sand Boa

The Arabian Sand Boa is sensitive to bacteria, which it can contact from infected water or food. Therefore, it is good for the water to be permanently clean, and the food is frozen for 30 days.

Life conditions for the Arabian Sand Boa

The Arabian Sand Boa needs a medium terrarium, measuring 100x60x60, well ventilated, with a substrate of sand or baked earth. From the terrarium, there must be a hiding place, where the snake can retreat from time to time, but also some artificial plants.

Also, in the terrarium, there must be a permanent vessel with clean water, in which the snake can sway.

If you want to know more about the perfect terrarium for your Arabian Sand Boa, click here


Someone would say that browsing the internet is like opening Pandora’s box, and you never know what you are going to find. The internet is a mine for the most outlandish things, so it makes sense, and it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve marveled at something as strange as it is funny here. The thing is, this Arabian Sand Boa is a must-see.

It does not mean that it is not special, after all, Mother Nature made it that way, and surely there are rarer animals out there, but it has a detail that we have loved.

What do you think about this fascinating boa? 

FAQ about Arabian Sand Boa

Is the Arabian sand boa dangerous?

The Arabian sand boa is not dangerous. In fact, it is considered one of the most harmless snake species. Arabian sand boas live in the desserts or the Arabian Peninsula, and would not attack a human unless provoked. 

Can Arabian sand boas be pets?

Arabian sand boas can be great reptile pets. What makes them amazing as pets is their size. Any boa lover knows that they tend to grow up to a few meters, but not the Arabian sand boa who grows up to 80 cm top. They are easy to handle and very beautiful also. 

What do Arabian sand boas eat?

In the wild, the Arabian Sand Boa prefers to consume rodents, reptiles, snails, and small mammals. In captivity, it is good to be fed frozen food, mice, and rats. Terrarium water should be changed daily to prevent bacterial infections.

Do sand boas need a heat lamp?

Sand boas do not need a lamp, but you can install one in the terrarium if you want to bring more light to it. Just be careful not to increase the temperature inside above 95° F as this could be detrimental to your snake’s health.

How long do sand boas live?

Sand Boas can live over 20 years, depending on the care it receives and whether it lives in the wild or in the terrarium as a pet. 

Are sand boas aggressive?

Sand boas are not aggressive, they are quite shy in fact. A scared sand boa will always try to escape rather than attack/bite you. 


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