Cobras are a group of highly venomous snakes that are known for their ability to expand their neck ribs to form a hood. While the hood is a characteristic of cobras, not all of them are closely related.
Cobras are found from southern Africa through southern Asia to islands of Southeast Asia. There are many different types of cobras, most of which belong to the Naja genus.
The most well-known type of cobra is the king cobra, which is the longest venomous snake in the world. In this article, we will provide an introduction to several cobra species, including some that are commonly available in the reptile trade, as well as some discussion on some of the defining characteristics of cobras. It’s important to note that all cobras are venomous, and some species are more venomous than others.
7 Types Of Cobras
True cobras are a group of venomous elapid snakes that belong to the Naja genus. They are commonly known as cobras and are the most widespread and well-known cobra species worldwide.
True cobras are found in regions throughout Africa, Southwest Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Some of the most well-known true cobras include the Indian cobra (Naja naja) and the Cape cobra (Naja nivea). The Egyptian cobra (Naja haje) and the monocled cobra (Naja kaouthia) are also members of the Naja genus.
True cobras are characterized by their ability to expand their neck ribs to form a hood when threatened. They are highly venomous, and their venom can cause paralysis and death in humans.
The king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is a venomous snake that is endemic to Asia. It is the longest venomous snake in the world, with an average length of 3.18 to 4 m (10.4 to 13.1 ft) and a maximum record of 5.85 m (19.2 ft). The king cobra is the sole member of the genus Ophiophagus, which was proposed by Günther in 1864.
The name Ophiophagus is derived from its propensity to eat snakes. Despite its common name and some resemblance, the king cobra is not taxonomically a true cobra.
The species has diversified coloration across habitats, from black with white stripes to unbroken brownish-grey. The king cobra is characterized by its ability to expand its neck ribs to form a hood when threatened. The species is highly venomous, and its venom can cause paralysis and death in humans.
King cobras are oviparous and lay 21-40 eggs, which are incubated by the elevated temperatures of decomposition. The female remains on top of the nest to guard the eggs, and the male also remains close by.
The juveniles are jet-black, with yellow or white cross-bars on the body and tail and four similar cross-bars on the head.
The shield-nosed cobra, also known as the eastern shield-nose snake, is a venomous snake that belongs to the family Elapidae and the genus Aspidelaps. The shield-nosed cobra is mainly found in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The species is highly venomous, and its venom can cause paralysis and death in humans. The shield-nosed cobra is characterized by its cobra hoods and enlarged rostral (nose) scales, although the hood is not nearly as well developed in Aspidelaps as it is in the true cobras of the genus Naja.
The species can survive between 20 and 28 years in captivity, though this age is normally not attained in the wild due to predation, accidents, etc.. The shield-nosed cobra is a small and stout poisonous snake that averages 40 – 45 cm in length and with a maximum length of 65 cm. It spends most of its time foraging in burrows and is nocturnal.
The venom of the shield-nosed cobra is highly neurotoxic, and no known antivenin is currently available for this species. Any bite or spit-sprayed venom from any elapid snake should be treated as an urgent medical emergency.
Tree cobras are a group of venomous snakes that are adapted to life in trees. There are several species of tree cobras, including Goldie’s tree cobra and the black tree cobra, both of which belong to the Pseudohaje genus.
These snakes are found in central and western Africa and are highly venomous, with neurotoxic venom that can cause paralysis and death in humans.
Tree cobras are characterized by their ability to move quickly and gracefully through trees, aided by their long, spiky tails and excellent eyesight. They are also known for their prehensile tails, which help them climb and catch prey.
Tree cobras are found in tropical rainforests with thick vegetation and high humidity, and they spend most of their time in trees, although they also come down to the ground, especially at night.
While tree cobras are not commonly kept as pets, they are sometimes available in the reptile trade, and their venomous nature makes them a dangerous species to handle.
Black Desert Cobras
The black desert cobra, also known as the desert black snake, is a venomous snake that belongs to the Walterinnesia genus. The genus contains two species, both of which are known as black desert cobras and are endemic to the Middle East. The black desert cobra is a medium-sized snake that is entirely black in color and has highly shiny scales.
The species is highly venomous, and its venom can cause paralysis and death in humans. Unlike other snakes commonly referred to as “cobras,” the black desert cobras rarely rear up or produce a hood before striking in defense.
The black desert cobras are strictly terrestrial and nocturnal, being most active around midnight. They actively pursue and forage for their prey and, rather than envenomate their prey with an open mouth, they usually bite sideways at short distances and often use constriction and suffocation techniques in addition to their venom.
The venom of the black desert cobra is highly neurotoxic, and no known antivenin is currently available for this species. Any bite or spit-sprayed venom from any elapid snake should be treated as an urgent medical emergency.
Spitting cobras are a group of venomous snakes that can intentionally and defensively shoot their venom directly from their fangs. This venom has two functions, with the first being as venom for prey and the second being as a defensive mechanism against predators.
Spitting cobras belong to the Elapidae family, which includes snakes such as cobras, mambas, coral snakes, kraits, taipans, death adders, and sea snakes.
The spitting cobra typically inhabits dry savanna and semi-arid environments, particularly the hotter, open areas of sub-Saharan Africa. When cornered, some species can spit their venom as far as 2 meters (6.6 feet). While spitting is typically their primary form of defense, all spitting cobras can also deliver their toxin as a venom by biting.
The venom of spitting cobras is highly toxic and can cause blindness, pain, and death in humans. Some of the species of spitting cobras include the red spitting cobra, the black-necked spitting cobra, the Mozambique spitting cobra, and the Asian spitting cobra.
Despite their dangerous nature, spitting cobras are of interest to scientists who study snake venom and aim to produce next-generation snakebite therapies.
There are many other types of cobras besides the true cobras, king cobras, shield-nosed cobras, tree cobras, and black desert cobras. Here are some of the other types of cobras:
– Zebra spitting cobra: This cobra is found in Angola, Namibia, and South Africa.
– Black-necked spitting cobra: This cobra is found in Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Niger, and Sudan.
– Cape coral snake: This cobra is found in southern Africa.
– Burrowing cobra: This cobra is found in Cameroon, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), and Gabon.
– Egyptian cobra: This cobra is found in Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.
– Monocled cobra: This cobra is found in Southeast Asia and parts of South Asia.
– Spanish cobra: This cobra is extinct and only known from fossils found in Miocene-aged strata of Spain.
– Red spitting cobra: This cobra is found in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania.
– Philippine cobra: This cobra is found in the Philippines.
It’s important to note that all cobras are venomous, and some species are more venomous than others. The most venomous species of cobra is the Caspian cobra, also known as the Central Asian cobra.
1. What are the different types of cobras?
There are many different types of cobras, including true cobras, king cobras, shield-nosed cobras, tree cobras, black desert cobras, spitting cobras, and others.
2. What is the most venomous species of cobra?
The most venomous species of cobra is the Anchieta’s cobra, also known as the Angolan cobra.
3. Are all cobras venomous?
Yes, all cobras are venomous, and some species are more venomous than others.
4. What is the difference between true cobras and other cobras?
True cobras belong to the Naja genus, while other cobras may belong to different genera. True cobras are characterized by their ability to expand their neck ribs to form a hood when threatened.
5. Are spitting cobras dangerous?
Yes, spitting cobras are dangerous and can cause blindness, pain, and death in humans.
6. Can cobras be kept as pets?
While some species of cobras are available in the reptile trade, their venomous nature makes them a dangerous species to handle, and they are not recommended as pets.
7. What is the lifespan of a cobra?
The lifespan of a cobra varies depending on the species and the environment, but some species can live up to 20-28 years in captivity.