The King Cobra

by Annette J Beveridge

Editor Annette J Beveridge

Few snakes strike fear into the heart as much as the king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah). Found in jungles in southern and south-east Asia, the King Cobra is the longest venomous snake in the world with an average length of 10-13 ft (3 -4 metres). The largest recorded king cobra was discovered in Thailand and reached 18ft 4 inches.

The King Cobra is dangerous but often misunderstood. Highly venomous, they will try to avoid confrontation but will provide an intimidating display if....

Capable of lifting 1/3 of its body off the ground, the king cobra moves from side to side in a threatening pose. With black, penetrating eyes, they are identifiable by the hood that flares outwards when the snake feels threatened. The hood is actually the ribs and muscles.

A group of king cobras is called a quiver


These are smooth snakes with a yellow, brown, green and black scaly pattern. On the back of the neck, there is a distinctive pattern of colour. Some king cobras are leucistic, and this is where much of the colouration is missing due to a partial loss of pigmentation. The snake may have white or patchy colouring.

These snakes are primarily killers of other snakes and lizards and will take rat snakes, green whip snake, pit vipers, kraits, pythons, and other cobras as a primary food source. If food becomes scarce, they will feed on small vertebrates. Once the snake has eaten well, it will not need to eat again for months due to a slow metabolic rate. King cobras have been known to constrict prey but this is not typical.