Common Name:
Northern Mexican pine snake
Jan's bullsnake
Mexican bullsnake
Mexican gopher snake
El Cincuate (in Mexico)

Scientific Name:
Pituophis deppei jani (Cope 1860)

    Hatch: 9 to 14 inches
    Adult: 5 to 5.5 feet on average. Some reach 7 feet in length.

Scalation: (based on Stull's study)

Dorsal rows (mid-body): maximum number of scale rows usually 29, occasionally 31; rows at neck 25 to 31, most frequently 27; number anterior to the vent 20 to 23, most often 21 (43).

Ventrals: 225 to 235 (average 228.9) (43)

Caudals: 52 to 66 (average 62.4) (43)

Supralabials: usually 8, sometimes 9, with the fourth and fifth or fifth and sixth entering the eye(43).

Infralabials: 10-13 (43)

Prefrontals: two (43)

Anal Plate: Single, undivided

Range: The Barlett's state "The more easterly of the two races of Mexican Bullsnake (P. d. janni [sic]) is found in the Mexican states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Hidalgo, and Tamaulipas" ( 91).

Kardon gives a range of northcentral to western Mexico, to include the Sierra Madre Oriental (Snakeling 41).

Text by Shannon Hiatt

Coloration and Description:

General: The Bartlett's description indicates that jani are "pallid as a juvenile with even the better defined anterior blotches appearing faded. The sandy tan ground color of the juveniles (which may have an orangish wash) intensifies with age. The ground color of the adult is golden to a rather bright orange and is most intense at midbody. With age, the dorsal blotches may become somewhat better defined" (91).

W.P. Mara's description states ". . . P. d. jani, closely resembles P. d. deppei in most respects, but the blotches closer to the head tend to be quite dark whereas those toward the rear will be lighter; with the nominate subspecies (deppei deppei) the color of the blotches remains more consistent" (18).

Troy Hibbitts describes a WC jani male and two jani females in his collection, "The male is a very light (white) ground color with black blotches and a pale orange head. His daughter is light but not white, with black blotches and a fairly bright orange head. The Kardon female is golden with black blotches and a bright orange head" (forum post, September 17, 1997).

John Cherry offers further description of the jani worth examining: "The Northern Mexican Pine (P. d. jani) and the Mexican Gopher (P. d. deppei) are both highly variable snakes. Some jani are shades of beige ground color with darker brown blotches to the prettier phases having a light cream color with vivid black blotches and a red head" (forum post, December 15, 1999).

John also states, "In the jani there is a red headed, very striking animal that has large black blotches, and then there is the normal phase which is a tan animal with black/brown markings" (forum post June 18, 1999).

Stull's 1940 study gives this description: "A series of dark spots is found on the dorsum. These number 21 to 25 on the body and 7 to 10 on the tail. They are usually quadrangular anteriorly, although sometimes ovid or saddle-shaped; are generally more or less saddle-shaped, and frequently confluent at the sides, in the middle of the body; become quadrangular anterior to the vent; and appear as bars on the tail. In color they are gray anteriorly and reddish-brown outlined with black on the middle and posterior parts of the dorum and on the tail. They vary from 5 to 2 scales in length and from 10 to 13 scales in width and are separated by interspaces at least 5, and generally more, in width. . . . The ground color is yellowish white" (44).

Many jani display a unique "three-snakes-in-one" look, with the front third of the body, the middle third, and the posterior third each appearing as quite distinct sections.

The Mexican pine reaches over seven feet in length (Troy Hibbitts states he had a WC male deppei deppei that size, personal communications) but, as noted by the Barlett's, 5.5 feet is probably the average size for this species (91). Residents from the interior on Mexico indicate that it is a common snake throughout its range, but, unfortunately due to its size and local superstitions, it killed on sight by the rural people who encounter it

Head and Neck: In some deppei jani, there is an intensely orange to orange-red head, although other specimens have rather drab brown head coloration as adults. This orange coloration often extends along the entire top third of the snake.

Stull indicates the head is "pale brown, darkest on top, and the throat is white" (44).

Ventral: "The white belly may have the anterior half immaculate, and the posterior half and under side of the tail bearing a series of small brownish spots, 1 or 2 scales each in length, and 2 to 4 scales apart, on each side of the ventral scutes; or may have the lateral series of spots present throughout the entire length of the body, with additional or small or minute spots scattered irregularly between the lateral series" (Stull 44).

Habitat: Kardon notes that this subspecies frequents "pine forest and high-elevation desert habitat ranging in elevation from 4,500 to 7,000 feet" (41).

Prey: Predominately rodents with the occasional small mammal, i.e. baby rabbits, as well as young birds.

Behavior: Mara describes the temperament of the jani. ". . . like their cousins in the United States, [the two subspecies] are very bold and will gladly make a great fuss when irritated. P. deppei jani, for example, is supposedly a very formidable animal, particularly wild adults; they are among the few Pituophis that will not hesitate to bite" (19).

Captive Behavior: A fearless, intelligent snake that may not hesitate to bite without warning - no hiss and no tail buzzing. Body and neck posture will alert the observant keeper, but not even being observant will guarantee that you will not be bitten. When settled and not under stress, the jani is a fairly tractable animal as long as it is not disturbed unduly.

Captive Breeding: John Cherry notes that deppei jani need at least three years of growth before breeding, and that both species need a cooler temperature range (he suggests 78 degrees maximum) for successful culture. He also advises against "power feeding" the jani since jani are prone to developing chronic regurgitation syndrome if over fed or fed with prey items that are too large. Smaller portions less often will work with this snake.

Other than the peculiarities mentioned here, cultivate the jani like any Pituophis. As already noted, it is important that they be kept at a much lower temperature. Alan Kardon suggests a night drop in temperature when possible and cooler temps (74-78 degree with 82 degrees maximum) for successful culture (Tale, 42). This lower temperature is a requirement because, as noted above, they are a montane snake that lives at 4,500 to 7,000 feet (41).

Literature Cited:

Bartlett, R.D. and Patricia P. Bartlett, Snakes: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual, Hauppauge, NY: Barron's, 1998. [Has excellent photos of both subspecies on page 91.]

Kardon, Alan. 1997. The Tale of the Ugly Snakeling: the Northern Mexican Pine Snake. Reptiles, 5 (1): 40-43.

Kardon, Alan. 1995. Treasure of the Sierra Madre Orientals: the northern Mexican pine snake Pituophis deppei jani. Vivarium. 7 (1): 18-21.

Lazcano, D., Jr., K. H. Peterson and A. Kardon. 1993. Notes on Mexican herptofauna 2: reproduction in the northern Mexican bullsnake, Pituophis deppei jani (Cope). Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society. 28 (10): 209-211

Mara, W.P. Pine Snakes: A Complete Guide, Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications, Inc., 1994. [Both subspecies shown in photos on pages 18-19.]

Rodriguez-Robles, Javier A. and Jose M. De Jesus-Escobar. 2000. Molecular Systematics of New World Gopher, Bull, and Pinesnakes (Pituophis: Colubridae), A Transcontinental Species Complex. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 14 (1), January: 35-50. [see bibliography for wide range of scientific sources.]

Stull, Olive Griffith. Variations and Relationships in the Snakes of the Genus Pituophis,United States National Museum, Bulletin 175, Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Institution, 1940.

Power 1998