Just like it says on the tin, how much does an animal’s behavior/handleability factor into your decisions to breed it?
Like, say you have to choose between two individuals with identical genetics, would the temperament of the individual factor into your choice or would you look at something else, like size or breeding history, first?
Just curious seeing as I know many dog/cat breeders and some bird breeders take behavior into account before breeding (which makes sense since a badly behaved/aggressive dog/cat/bird can cause some damage) and was wondering if that was something reptile breeders took into consideration or if it varied depending on the species being bred etc?
Don’t know about anyone else, but if all other factors were equal, then absolutely temperament would be a selector.
How well does the animal eat, handle, deal with changes in its environment? These are important things to consider. We are producing pets here, I want to have a rep with my customers of producing “nice” and “easy” animals.
You want to make good genetic choices in your pairings, but looks aren’t all of it, temperament is partly genetic too.
Temperament comes pretty low down my list when it comes to pairing and breeding. These are not domestic animals. I expect the human in the equation to be the one to adjust their behaviour to suit the snake, not the other way around! Though most of what I keep are small, unusual snake species that don’t have a massive captive bred presence yet.
My first concern is health. I only breed from snakes that are physically healthy. No kinks. No deformities. No history of repeated/recurring health issues. I will breed from Long Term Captives that have scars from their time in the wild, as I actually consider this to be good evidence of their resilience to injuries/against infection. Rid**** (like Vin Diesel in Pitch Black, I’m amazed that this has been censored), one of my male Black African House Snakes, has got a huge scar midway down his body from where something tried to eat him back in Africa. It’s a very old injury and probably happened when he was very small/neonate. He is also my best eater of the 2.2 group. I’m hoping to breed him next year.
Second comes adjustment to captivity. I’ve got some species in my collection that are Long Term Captives that are rarely bred in captivity (Sunbeam snakes, African Egg Eaters, Kukri snakes). I’ll be holding back the babies that most readily accept frozen thawed rodents from the start, to build up a captive breeding programme of individuals best suited to captivity.
Those are all good points and legitimately ahead on the list.
Temperament comes in after all else being equal.
Because I think we can breed for better handling in some cases.
In the case of rare or wild caught specimens without a large captive population, breeding for captive viability would come first. Then commercial viability (how easy to breed, feeder acceptance, reliable clutching, population sustainability etc.). Then commercial desirability would come into play, which would be the looks, the morphs, ease of husbandry, and finally temper.
I know I’ve heard from others, and noticed for myself, how some popular species are very different now than they were decades (and generations) ago. Thirty years ago, you could spot a retic or carpet owner by the prominent chewing marks, and ball pythons were hit or miss if they would survive. Part of the difference is better husbandry and part of it is captive bred vs wild caught. But part of it is we don’t handle and breed the mean ones if we have nice ones that have the same looks.
Just my $0.02
BTW @kukrikeeper awesome that you’re breeding the tough species. Love it. That’s how the hobby advances. Better access to some of these underrated animals and a captive bred pop so we don’t have to pressure the wild pop. Wins all around and we can’t do it without people taking on the challenging animals.
I don’t select for temperament at all, because it’s not something I care about in my own animals and also because it does not necessarily inherit. I select for health, looks, and lineage. Occasionally for size too.
I think breeding for temperament is a great thing (for many/most species in the hobby), as I’m a mom of 2 kiddos and I want them to be able to interact with and help care for the collection. I also think it’s something that endears reptiles to the general public and potential future reptile owners.
I show off my collection a lot at my day job with pictures/videos and most everyone is not only surprised at the variety of morphs and beauty of each animal but also that they tolerate handling so well. A coworker even started collecting tarantulas as a result. They always get a kick out of feeding videos and pictures of my kids holding the snakes, etc. And I’m always honest, these are still not truly domestic creatures and they can and will bite if I give them a reason to.
I think it’s a great way to introduce people, and especially kids, to keeping reptiles and other exotics, which then opens the door to caring about conservation (hopefully) of wild populations. At least that’s how I see it, and maybe it’s a stretch, but it’s what I try to spread around anyway. It’s easier to get someone to care about a creature they can handle and interact with than one that is “scary” and may bite them. But then as they learn and gain more experience they will learn to respect the “scary” ones and no longer fear them (hopefully).
All that said, if it’s a truly rare species, then health and genetic robustness is always the most important thing, and temperament doesn’t matter as much as establishing the species in the hobby.