Newt Gingrich expounds on his love of snakes, elephants

It’s no secret that Newt Gingrich is mad about science and the animal kingdom.

And that passion was on full display during a Thursday interview on Hardball with Chris Matthews. The grinning former House speaker was glad to dish on his love for wild animals after Matthews marveled that he's never seen a presidential candidate go from zoo to zoo as he stumped across the country.

Gingrich's favorite snake? That would be the python, because they're "big and passive.”

Favorite animal? Perhaps appropriately, the Republican loves elephants. “They’re just remarkable,” he said.

Gingrich also gave a shout-out to reptiles in general, saying they're "astonishingly successful."

The Georgian said that his favorite place to observe captive critters is the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

When Matthews joked that he had expected Gingrich’s favorite snake to be the deadly black mamba, the laughing ex-House speaker shot back, “You have a more ruthless approach to politics than I do.”