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Temporal range: MioceneHolocene
Indian cobra (Naja naja) in a defensive posture
Scientific classification
Elapidae (with some exceptions)

Laurenti, 1768

Cobra is the common name of various venomous snakes, most of which belong to the genus Naja.[1]

Many cobras are capable of rearing upwards and producing a hood when threatened.[a]

Other snakes known as "cobras"

While the members of the genus Naja constitute the true cobras, the name cobra is also applied to these other genera and species:

  • The rinkhals, ringhals or ring-necked spitting cobra (Hemachatus haemachatus) so-called for its neck band as well as its habit of rearing upwards and producing a hood when threatened[2]
  • The king cobra or hamadryad (Ophiophagus hannah)[3]
  • The two species of tree cobras, Goldie's tree cobra (Pseudohaje goldii) and the black tree cobra (Pseudohaje nigra)[4]
  • The two species of shield-nosed cobras, the Cape coral snake (Aspidelaps lubricus) and the shield-nosed cobra (Aspidelaps scutatus)[4]: p.76 
  • The two species of black desert cobras or desert black snakes, Walterinnesia aegyptia and Walterinnesia morgani, neither of which rears upwards and produces a hood when threatened[4]: p.65 
  • The eastern coral snake or American cobra (Micrurus fulvius), which also does not rear upwards and produce a hood when threatened[4]: p.30 

The false water cobra (Hydrodynastes gigas) is the only "cobra" species that is not a member of the Elapidae. It does not rear upwards, produces only a slight flattening of the neck when threatened, and is only mildly venomous.[4]: p.53 


  1. ^ Two kinds of non-venomous snake, the hognose snakes and the striped keelback, also rear upwards and produce hoods but are not considered "cobras"; likewise, some venomous elapid snakes, such as the black mamba, are also capable of producing hoods but are not called "cobras".


  1. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cobra" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 613.
  2. ^ Wolfgang Bücherl; Eleanor E. Buckley; Venancio Deulofeu (17 September 2013). Venomous Animals and Their Venoms: Venomous Vertebrates. Elsevier. p. 492. ISBN 978-1-4832-6363-2.
  3. ^ United States. Department of the Navy. Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (2013). Venomous Snakes of the World: A Manual for Use by U. S. Amphibious Forces. Skyhorse. p. 217. ISBN 978-1-62087-623-7.
  4. ^ a b c d e Mark O'Shea (20 February 2008). Venomous Snakes of the World. New Holland. p. 74. ISBN 978-1-84773-086-2.[permanent dead link]