The king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is one of the most notable snake species in the world. Living primarily in the forests of Southeast Asia and India, this species has been a part of folklore in many of the countries it occupies. King cobras are highly venomous, although they’re quite shy and would much rather avoid people than fight them. You might know the king cobra as a powerful, deadly animal to fear, but there are some facts about this species that might surprise you.
#1 – The Longest Venomous Snake
King cobras are the longest venomous snake species in the world, reaching lengths of up to 18-feet (5.5 meters). It’s no wonder that so many are frightened by a venomous reptile that could stand up and look a man straight in the eye. But it’s true, these snakes can raise up to 1/3 of their bodies to look menacing and frighten off any danger – something they do quite well, as most humans are apt to run in this scenario.
#2 – Not A Real Cobra
Although called king cobras, these snakes are not actually cobras. Scientifically, true cobras are in the Naja genus. The king cobra is of the Ophiophagus genus and is, in fact, the only species within that genus. Perhaps the herpetologists found it so majestic that it deserved its own classification from the other cobras.
#3 – They Build Nests
Female king cobras are unusual among other snakes, as they are very dedicated parents. While most snakes lay their eggs and leave them to hatch, the king cobra will build a nest and protect her unborn babies aggressively. She will scrape up leaves and other debris from the environment to build the nest, where she deposits 20-40 eggs, and stays with them until the young are born. This is the only snake species known to exhibit this behavior.
#4 – Not The Most Venomous
Contrary to what many may believe, the king cobra’s venom is actually not very toxic. That said, what it lacks in potency it makes up for in volume. A bite from a king cobra is so deadly because they can deliver up to 7 milliliters in a single bite. Although the envenomation varies from bite to bite, in general, an adult king cobra can kill an adult human in roughly 15 minutes and an adult elephant within a few hours.
#5 – You Won’t Really Charm Them
Although king cobras are the species of choice for snake charmers, they actually do not hear ambient sounds very well. The snakes are not deaf, but they are reacting to the vibrations and the charmer’s shape and movement, not the music. The “dance” you see when watching a snake charmer is a natural defensive posture from the king cobra, not any sort of hypnosis. Still, watching a snake charmer perform an ancient tradition can be fascinating.
Cover photo: Rushen via Flickr