Zebra Spitting Cobra

Naja nigricincta

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

This snake can spit a distance of nine feet or further!


Zebra Spitting Cobra Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Naja nigricincta

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Zebra Spitting Cobra Conservation Status

Zebra Spitting Cobra Locations

Zebra Spitting Cobra Locations

Zebra Spitting Cobra Facts

Mice, fish, frogs, and birds
Fun Fact
This snake can spit a distance of nine feet or further!
Estimated Population Size
Unknown, but widespread and stable
Other Name(s)
Western barred spitting cobra

Zebra Spitting Cobra Physical Characteristics

Skin Type

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A zebra spitting cobra can spit its venom a distance of over nine feet.

The western barred spitting cobra is more familiarly known as the zebra spitting cobra. Its name refers to the pattern of brown or black and white stripes running the length of its body. The zebra spitting cobra has strong venom that can cause serious eye damage or even blindness. This reptile grows to a size of 3.9 to 4.9 feet or more and has a lifespan of as long as 12 years. It has a diet of rodents, small birds, fish, and frogs.

4 Zebra Spitting Cobra Amazing Facts

  • It can spit its venom from the ground or while it’s standing up with its hood spread
  • It stores its venom in big pouches on the sides of its head
  • This snake is a common sight crossing roads at night
  • Its lifespan goes up to 12 years

Where to Find Zebra Spitting Cobra

The zebra spitting cobra is native to Africa. It’s found in the central part of Namibia and in Angola as well as in South Africa in the Western and Northern cape provinces. This snake inhabits a rocky, shrubland or savanna habitat.

The mating season of the zebra spitting cobra occurs in the middle of spring into summer. They are seen moving a little more around their habitat than usual during that time.

Countries where zebra spitting cobras live:

  1. Namibia
  2. Angola
  3. South Africa

Scientific Name

Naja nigricincta is the scientific name of the western barred spitting cobra. The word naja is Latin meaning cobra and nigricincta means black strip referring to its coloration. Furthermore, it’s called a zebra spitting cobra because of its pattern of black or brown and white stripes.

This snake is in the Elapidae family and class Reptilia.

Its subspecies is Naja nigricincta woodi or the black spitting cobra.

Population & Conservation Status

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reports this snake’s population as widespread and stable. There’s not an exact population listed. It’s displayed as Least Concern.

Appearance & Description

The name of this snake says a lot about its appearance. It has black or brown and white horizontal stripes or cross bars down the length of its back. This snake has a black or brown head along with a black throat. Its belly is light brown or cream with partial stripes. Juvenile zebra spitting cobras have lighter brown or black and white stripes. Their color deepens as they grow older and get larger in size.

The size of this cobra ranges from 3.9 feet to 4.9 feet or longer. This cobra has a wide snout, round eyes, and a bulge on each side of its head where venom is kept.

How to identify a zebra spitting cobra:

  • Brown or black and white horizontal stripes down its back
  • A black or brown head
  • A black throat
  • A light brown or cream belly with partial black stripes
  • A thick, strong body
  • A wide head and snout
  • Round, dark eyes
  • A pouch on each side of its head for venom storage
A zebra spitting cobra with its hood open

A zebra spitting cobra has a black or brown head and a black throat.


Zebra Spitting Cobra Venom: How Dangerous Are They?

The venom of the zebra spitting cobra is dangerous. Furthermore, it can deliver its venom by spitting as well as through a bite.

Keep in mind this cobra is able to spit a distance of at least nine feet. Furthermore, it doesn’t have to be in an upright position to spit. Whether it’s on the ground or in a raised position, it can spit with accuracy at the eyes of a human or predator.

Someone who gets this snake’s venom in their eyes is going to feel a lot of pain and can go blind if treatment is not administered. The treatment is to rinse the affected eye with lots of water in an effort to remove the venom. It’s necessary to see a doctor right away so the injured eye or eyes can be examined. Plus, the person may need to take antibiotics to address any bacterial infections.

This cobra’s bite contains venom as well. The first and most important step is to get the person to the hospital for treatment. While waiting for medical help keep the injured limb as still as possible. The bite wound should be positioned below the level of the person’s heart. If you have a bandage, wrap it around the bite wound and limb making it snug, but not overly tight.

Antivenom is available in hospitals to treat zebra spitting cobra bites.

Zebra Spitting Cobra Behavior and Humans

When a venomous zebra spitting cobra is standing up with its hood spread, it may not seem like a shy snake. But it is. These snakes don’t want an encounter with a human or a predator. So, they usually try to escape to hide beneath a pile of rocks or inside a burrow.

A zebra spitting cobra only raises its body and spreads its hood when it feels threatened or pushed into a corner. This snake is known to hiss and sway while in the raised position. All of this behavior is exhibited in an effort to frighten away threats.

Zebra Spitting Cobra in Raleigh, North Carolina

In 2021, a zebra spitting cobra was seen slithering around a neighborhood in Raleigh, North Carolina. So, how did a venomous snake native to Africa end up in the city of Raleigh in North Carolina USA? The answer is it was being kept as an exotic pet and somehow escaped its enclosure making its way outdoors.

The zebra spitting cobra was one of several venomous snakes kept by its owner in Raleigh. The owner was questioned, but it’s still unclear how the snake got out of its enclosure.

The snake was spotted on porches and fences throughout the Raleigh neighborhood as local animal control searched for it over several days. Not surprisingly, families living in the neighborhood were worried for their children and pets as officials looked for the snake.

A glue trap was what eventually captured the cobra. This type of trap consists of glue on a wooden board that adheres to a snake when it slithers through it. This allows animal control to subdue the snake without getting hit with its venom. The glue is removed from the snake’s body with mineral oil. Though it sounds like a time-consuming way to capture a reptile, a glue trap allows animal control to capture a snake alive.

The zebra spitting cobra didn’t harm any people or pets while on the loose. Officials in Raleigh are not certain whether they will return the cobra to its owner.

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Zebra Spitting Cobra FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are zebra spitting cobras venomous?

Yes, they can spit venom and have a venomous bite.

How do zebra spitting cobras hunt?

A zebra spitting cobra is nocturnal. It has excellent vision at night helping it hunt for prey. With a fast movement, it bites its prey injecting it with venom. The animal dies fairly quickly and the cobra proceeds to swallow it.

Are zebra spitting cobras aggressive?

No, they are shy reptiles.

Where do zebra spitting cobras live?

These cobras live in Africa specifically Namibia, Angola, and South Africa.
Their habitat includes shrublands, rocky areas, and savannas.

What do zebra spitting cobras eat?

Mice, fish, frogs, and birds are the typical diet of this cobra.

Does a zebra cobra spit venom?

Yes, these cobras have fangs designed to spit their venom.

What happens if a zebra cobra spits on you?

When this snake’s venom gets into your eyes it stings and is very painful. This is why it’s necessary to start rinsing your eyes with water right away to try to remove as much venom as possible. Getting medical treatment is essential so a doctor can determine if there is any permanent damage from the venom.

How far can a zebra spitting cobra spit?

This snake can spit a distance of nine feet or further! On top of that, they are very accurate at aiming at the eyes of a person or predator.

How big does a zebra spitting cobra get?

A zebra spitting cobra has a size range of 3.9 to 4.9 feet and sometimes longer.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.


  1. African Snake Bite Institute / Accessed May 6, 2022
  2. Reptile Database / Accessed May 6, 2022
  3. Wikipedia / Accessed May 6, 2022
  4. IUCN Red List / Accessed May 6, 2022
  5. African Snake Bite Institute / Accessed May 6, 2022
  6. Charlotte Observer / Accessed May 6, 2022
  7. Wikipedia / Accessed May 6, 2022