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Naja sp., Asiatic cobras

see also African cobras, Naja sp.


  • 1. Naja atra
  • 2. Naja fuxi
  • 3. Naja kaouthia
  • 4. Naja mandalayensis
  • 5. Naja naja
  • 6. Naja oxiana
  • 7. Naja philippinensis
  • 8. Naja sagittifera
  • 9. Naja samarensis
  • 10. Naja siamensis
  • 11. Naja sputatrix
  • 12. Naja sumatrana


The taxonomic classification of the Asiatic cobras has undergone fundamental revision in recent years. Formerly, they were united under a single species with various subspecies (Naja naja spp.), but this proved to be unrealistic. Wüster (1996) postulated 10 separate species.


The former subspecies N. n. miolepis is now included in N. sumatrana.


N. siamensis is a separate species which is distinguished from N. kaouthia (Wüster et al. 1997). Slowinski and Wüster (2000) described a new species from central Myanmar named N. mandalayensis.


Molecular analysis and morphological comparisons show that the Chinese population of N. kaouthia represents the new species Naja fuxi (Shi et al., 2022).


Serpentes; Elapidae; Elapinae

Common names

Asiatic cobras, Asian cobras, Asiatische Kobras


N. mandalayensis, N.philippinensis, N. samarensis, N. siamensis, N. sputatrix and N. sumatrana: Spitting cobras, Speikobras.


Note that in eastern India also many specimens of N. kaouthia have been reported to spit (Whitaker and Captain, 2004, Santra and Wüster 2017).



  • 1. Chinese cobra, Taiwan cobra, Chinesische Kobra
  • 2. Brown banded cobra
  • 3. Monocled cobra, Monocellate cobra, Siamese cobra, Monokelkobra
  • 4. Burmese spitting cobra
  • 5. Common cobra, Indian cobra, Indian spectacled cobra, Brillenschlange
  • 6. Central Asian cobra
  • 7. Northern Philippine cobra, Philippinische Kobra
  • 8. Andaman cobra
  • 9. Visayan cobra, Southeastern Philippine cobra
  • 10. Indochinese spitting cobra
  • 11. Southern Indonesian spitting cobra, Javan spitting cobra
  • 12. Equatorial spitting cobra

  Fig. 4.57 Asiatic cobras in typical threatening pose (from behind).


a Naja naja, note the hood markings.
b Naja kaouthia, note the hood markings.



From the Caspian Sea across the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia to China. See link "Distribution" at the top of the page for detailed information.


  Map 29  Asiatic Naja sp.


Appearance and warning behaviour (rearing up and formation of hood) as for the African cobras. Compared to the African cobras, the Asiatic cobras have a somewhat wider hood, but on average they are shorter.

On the dorsal side of the spread hood, N. naja has a characteristic although variable marking in the form of two "eyes" connected by a curved line (hence the name Indian spectacled cobra, Fig. 4.57a). N. kaouthia in general has only one "eye" on its hood (Monocled cobra, Fig. 4.57b). Such markings are sometimes present in other species, e.g. N. atra, or are present in a rudimentary form, as in N. sputatrix.

Adults over 1 m, individual specimens from the larger species such as N. kaouthia can reach up to 2 m. Colouring in light and dark shades of brown to black (N. sputatrix), sometimes speckled.

Do not place great demands on their environment. Often found in open territory and agricultural areas, but also in forested regions. In colder areas they tend to be active during the day and at dusk; in warmer areas they are also nocturnal. N. naja and N. kaouthia in particular are often found in densely populated areas and even on the outskirts of cities. Quite often found close to living quarters, around or in houses or stables.

They often find hiding places in rodent burrows, the original inhabitants of which comprise their main prey. In India, cobras contribute greatly to reducing the rat infestation.

When threatened, they attempt to escape. If this is not possible, they employ typical warning behaviour (see African cobras). Their striking range from the threatening pose is barely greater than the length of their erect upper body. This is often followed by warning bites (dry bites), where the snake strikes with closed mouth. When a cobra bites, it does not let go again immediately. 

Like the African spitting cobras, N. mandalayensis, N. philippinensis, N. samarensis, N. siamensis, N. sputatrix and N. sumatrana can also spray venom into the face of their victim in defence (see African cobras). In eastern India also many specimens of N. kaouthia have been reported to spit (Whitaker and Captain, 2004) ; in contrast to the other Naja species, which are known to spit, here the venom channel and hence the venom exits at a much more acute angle towards the ground. As in the known spitters this is accompained by a foreward launge (Santra and Wüster 2017).


Cobras are among the most epidemiologically important snakes in large areas of Asia.

Most accidents occur during the day, while the victim is working in the field, on the way to or from work or during the daily housework. A study in northern Malaysia revealed that in about half of recorded cobra bites (N. kaouthia and probably N. sputatrix), no or minimal signs of envenoming were present (Reid 1964).

In Myanmar, it has been reported that only about 30% of cobra bites (N. kaouthia) lead to envenoming. Cobras are held responsible for around 5% of all fatal snakebites in Myanmar (Aye 1990).

Of the important venomous snakes in India ("The Big Four": cobras, kraits, Russel's viper and carpet vipers), cobras are the most significant medically (Murty 1990). In Sri Lanka, N. naja, along with Russell's viper and kraits, is responsible for around one third of fatal snakebites (De Silva 1976b).

N. philippinensis is the only venomous snake in the Philippines that causes significant mortality. It represents a serious occupational danger for rice farmers. The yearly mortality rate due to N. philippinensis bites in some rice farming communities on Luzon is on average 50 per 100,000 inhabitants (Watt 1987b)!


Literature (biological)

Cox 1991, Chan-Ard et al. 2000, Daniel 1983, Deoras 1971, 1978, De Silva 1990, Deuve 1970, Khan 1990, Liat 1979, 1990, Murthy 1990, Saint Girons 1972, Shi et al. 2022, Slowinski and Wüster 2000, Toriba 1990a, Tweedie 1983, O'Shea 2005, Whitaker and Captain 2004, Wüster and Thorpe 1991, 1992, Wüster 1996, 1998, Wüster et al. 1997, Zhao 1990