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Corn snakes are popular pet snakes included in the Elaphe guttata species of rat snakes. The two subspecies of this constrictor snake are indigenous to North America. They are the corn snake and the red rat snake, known by other common names such as the chicken snake, the rat snake, and the eastern corn snake. Although not officially recognized, numerous engineered corn snake breeds are identified and sold by professional breeders and pet stores. Various morphs created by such breeders, like colored and patterned morphs, are sold as specialty or designer corn snake breeds.
In the wild, corn snakes and red rat snakes display a variety of markings and colors, leading to common confusion with kingsnakes and copperheads. Characteristically, both corn snake breeds are long and slender, with various brown, orange, black, and white patterns nearly identical to copperheads or kingsnakes. Rat snakes native to North America, unlike copperheads and kingsnakes, are neither venomous nor particularly dangerous to humans. Similarities between wild corn snake breeds and other venomous snakes are attributed to protective mimicry, keeping corn snakes safe from would-be predators.
While technically not official corn snake breeds, morphs account for the majority of corn snake variations in the pet snake industry. Morphs are snakes bred for specific coloration or patterning. In regards to corn snakes, they can be classified into four primary categories, based on the appearance of certain colors and patterns. Crossbreeding of both wild corn snake subspecies results in additional unofficial corn snake breeds commonly sold by professional breeders. Specific categories include color morphs, pattern morphs, compound morphs, and hybrids.
Color and pattern morph corn snake breeds include normal, Okeetee, lavendar, and stripes, to name a few. Normal corn snake breeds are those snakes in captivity that display the same colors and patterns as wild corn snakes. Okeetee corn snakes are known for pronounced red saddles against prominent black borders. Lavendar corn snakes display a slightly pink body with various shades of purple saddles along its back. Stripe corn snakes are typically orange and white, with long horizontal stripes instead of saddles or spots.
Compound morph corn snake breeds number in the tens of thousands. By breeding and crossbreeding existing morphs, breeders establish a variety of blotchy patterns in a veritable rainbow of colors. Popular variations include snow, pewter, and amber. Each variation is known for specific colors or patterns, such as the characteristic pink and white blotches of a snow corn snake or the all-over silver color of pewter corn snakes.
Hybrid corn snake breeds are the result of crossing the two recognized subspecies of corn snakes. A Great Plains rat snake, better known as a red rat snake, bred to a normal corn snake results in what is known as a root beer corn snake. Crossing a root beer corn snake with an albino corn snake results in what is known as a creamsicle corn snake. Likewise, crossing a normal corn snake with a kingsnake results in what is known as a jungle corn snake.
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