The Indian cobra has a long round body with their colour varying from brown through to black and the underside being a lighter colour typically white. Their body is covered with spectacled white and yellow markings which sometimes form bands across the body. On the front of their hood is a pair of spots on each side of the head which aim to resemble the eyes and serve to distract predators.
The hood is a fold of skin which they can spread out from the sides of their head to increase the size of the head when threatened.
Their tongue is forked. This is used to sense prey with it capable of processing two smells at once.
They measure between 1.8 and 2.2m (6-7.25ft) and weigh an average of 2-3kg (4.5-6.5lbs).
Indian cobras are carnivores. They feed on a range of small mammals, frogs, birds, lizards and other reptiles including snakes. Their main method of obtaining prey is to strike them and then use their venom to quickly incapacitate the prey so they can swallow it.
An Indian cobra may eat food that is the same size as their head due to their jaw being composed of two independent bones which are only loosely attached to the skull.
They are capable of going for up to a month without food due to the size of the meals they ingest and their inactive nature.
As their name suggests India is the native home of the Indian cobra. They are also found throughout Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
They make their home in forests and grasslands. As human civilization has expanded in their range they have also been able to expand their range in to rice paddies and road verges near human habitations. This has led to them coming it to contact with humans more often.
Breeding takes place from April to July. The female will lay her eggs within a tree hollow, rodent burrow or termite mound. Each clutch of eggs may include between 12 and 20 eggs.
Like many cobras the Indian cobra works hard to protect their young. The female will stay by the nest for most of their time except when they need to eat. Incubations last for 50 day’s.
Once the young Indian cobras hatch they are already independent. From day one they are able to spread their hood and begin to inject venom.
After hatching they can last two weeks before their first meal is required due to the egg yolk which is retained in their stomach.
Most of their activity takes place at night. They will on occasion be seen basking throughout the day though.
They are capable swimmers and are also able to climb well.
Predators and Threats
They face predation from mongooses and birds of prey.
To defend themselves the Indian cobra will raise up the front third of their body and spread their hood. If this does not make the threat retreat they will then bite the predator and inject their potent venom. This is a neurotoxic venom and can prove fatal within minutes.
Due to their small fangs they often need to strike multiple times or strike and then hold the prey to inject enough venom.
Humans will also attack Indian cobras as they are responsible for a number of human fatalities each year. As many as 50,000 people may be bitten by venomous snakes in India each year with many of these being from Indian cobras. The risk of this is increased due to their preference for rice paddies and inhabited areas.
They are also hunted by humans for their skins which are popular for use in handbags due to the pattern.
Indian cobras are most notable for being one of the main snakes used for snake charming displays.
Dr. Raju Kasambe / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)
Pavan Kumar N / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK
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Ramirez, J. 2001. "Naja naja" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed June 17, 2020 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Naja_naja/
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