20 Fantastic King Cobra Facts You Shouldn’t Miss

by Sankalan Baidya
fantastic king cobra facts

Before we start with our list of fantastic King Cobra facts, we will just like to tell a few things in somewhat poetic mood and tone. There is perhaps no other snake in world that is as revered as the King Cobra. It is true that its reputation precedes it and not just within its native range, the King is a matter of fascination in cultures far and wide. So high is its reputation that the King Cobra has made it into popular culture in form of prints on tees, rings and pendants, walking sticks and games and more. Can you point out another snake that enjoys this kind of reputation? No you cannot! Not even the notorious Black Mamba is so highly revered.

Okay, our poetic endeavor ends here and we can start with our list of facts about King Cobra but, before we plunge into the list, let us take a look at the table below for some generic information that might come in handy:

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Reptilia
Order Squamata
Suborder Serpentes
Family Elapidae
Genus Ophiophagus
Species Ophiophagus hannah

Now, the list…

Fantastic King Cobra Facts: 1-5 (Where do King Cobras Live?)

1. It may sound a bit surprising though but the truth is that despite a part of the name being Cobra, this snake is not from the genus Naja to which the rest of the cobras actually belong. Yes sir! King Cobra has its very own genus and it is also the only member in that genus. Put in simple words, King Cobras are not true cobras.

2. Though endemic to Southeast Asia, the King Cobra is primarily found in Indian forests. However, you can always come across them in countries like Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal, Malaysia, Laos, Indonesia, Cambodia, China, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines. Yes yes, their habitat range is pretty big.

3. Now, that’s the range of habitat of King Cobras. What about the nature of the habitats they choose? Well, they are usually found in rainforests, mangrove swamps and bamboo thickets.

4. Those areas that receive heavy rainfall and have thick undergrowths are also the places where Kings can be found.

5. In case you are wondering about its distribution as per altitude, here is something that you might like about the King. It can be found all the way down at sea level and all the way up at an elevation of 2,000 meters or 6,562 feet.

Fantastic King Cobra Facts: 6-10 (What do King Cobras eat and how do they hunt?)

6. Now here is where it all gets interesting. The King Cobras almost exclusively feed on snakes. Yes, you read it right. They eat snakes almost all the time.

7. Question is, what kind of snakes do King Cobras eat? They mostly prefer non-venomous snakes like the rat snake, small pythons etc. The most favorite King Cobra diet is a rat snake.

8. Do the King Cobras eat other venomous snakes? Of course they do! They eat the likes of Kraits and cobras. Well, rarely but they also eat other King Cobras if food turns out to be scarce.

9. Is there anything else that the King eats? Yes! Monitor lizards. They can even eat monitor lizards and occasionally, they may even take away an egg or two if they just want to change their taste or may be when food is not very much available. They can also eat small mammals.

10. Now, one big question – ‘how do King Cobras hunt?’ There are three ways and all of them are used at once. If not all three, at least two are use.

  • First, they flick out their forked tongue and pick up the scent of the prey. The tongue is designed to collect chemical information that is passed on to Jacobson’s organ (a sensory receptor at the roof of its mouth).
  • They might use their eyes to see the prey. The Kings have really good eyesight and can locate prey up to a distance of 100 meters or 330 feet.
  • They will also track the prey using the ground vibrations that they pick up using their skin.

Fantastic King Cobra Facts: 11-15 (How do King Cobras hunt?)

11. Once the prey is identified and located, the King Cobra will go for a hot pursuit. Yes, they will actively go after their prey instead of actually ambushing the prey.

12. Once it is close enough to the prey, it will strike at a lightning speed and inject its prey with large amounts of venom.

13. The King will not wait for the prey to die and become still. Instead, it will start swallowing the prey which is still struggling.

14. It will start swallowing the prey whole but will do that by starting with the prey’s head. It hardly matters if the head of the prey is larger than its own head.

15. The lower jaw of the King is very flexible because the bones of the lower jaw are attached with what is known as pliable ligaments that allow the bones to move independently of one another and open the mouth wide enough to start swallowing.

Fantastic King Cobra Facts: 16-20 (King Cobra behavior)

16. It is widely believed the King Cobras are diurnal. They are rarely seen at night and hence, many herpetologists believe that they remain active and hunt only during the day time.

17. They are shy creatures. They will actually try to escape and get out of way when confronted. However, there is no reason to think that they will not get aggressive. When provoked they can become really aggressive.

18. When a King Cobra becomes aggressive, it will lift one-third of its body off the ground and stand straight. They will erect their narrow hood and flare it out and will start hissing. The hissing sound has a low pitch and sound very much like the growling of a dog.

19. The concerned King will strike with a downward move but it will still not strike to bite. It will only try to scare off the threat.

20. Because King Cobras don’t usually like to confront humans and try to get away, human fatalities aren’t high. Also, since they prefer to live deep in the jungles they will not like confront humans very often.

That concludes our list of 20 fantastic King Cobra facts. However, we are not done yet. There’s much more to say. For instance, we didn’t speak about its venom, about its intelligence, about it reproductive habits and about its appearance. We will cover these in our next article.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Featured Image Credit: By Hari Prasadhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/hpnadig/4517042373/, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

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