Black Mamba vs King Cobra: What’s the Difference?

Written by Brandi Allred
Updated: June 4, 2022
Image Credit Suresh Suryasree/Shutterstock.com
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Key Points

  • Black Mambas reside in the rocky hillsides, savannahs, grasslands, and woodlands of Sub-Saharan Africa. King Cobras can be found in mangrove swamps, forests, bamboo forests, and the edges of farmlands in Southeast Asia.
  • The king cobra is the longest venomous snake in the world, potentially growing up to 20ft long, while the black mamba can get up to 14ft long.
  • Female black mambas lay their eggs in burrows underground, while female king cobras actually build nests for their eggs.

You would be hard-pressed to find two snakes that evoke more fear than the black mamba and the king cobra. Both species are so venomous that they can easily kill a human, and, they both grow to over ten feet in length. But, when it comes to differentiation between the black mamba vs king cobra, how do you tell the difference? 

In this article, we’ll learn the exact differences between black mambas and king cobras. To do this, we’ll go over each species’ size, appearance, location and habitat, behavior, diet, and lifespan. By the end, you’ll be able to tell black mambas from king cobras, and you’ll know exactly what makes each species unique.

Keep reading to learn more about black mambas and king cobras.

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Comparing Black Mamba vs King Cobra

Black Mamba vs King Cobra
Black mambas can reach up to 14 feet in length, but that’s nothing compared to the king cobra. King cobras can grow up to 18 feet long.

A-Z-Animals.com

Black MambaKing Cobra
Size6-14 feet long; 5-10 pounds10-18 feet long; 15-20 pounds
AppearanceGray to dark brown body with pale belly and black inside of mouth. Has a small hood which it flattens when threatenedRanges from black or dark brown to yellow or green. Babies are black with white markings
Location and HabitatSub-Saharan Africa; lives in rocky hillsides, savannahs, grasslands, and woodlands. Prefers to stay near freshwaterSoutheastern Asia; frequents mangrove swamps, forests, bamboo forests, and the edges of farmlands
BehaviorNon-aggressive, but capable of biting multiple times when threatenedOnly bites when threatened; females guard eggs until hatching
Lifespan10-15 years15-20 years

Key Differences Between Black Mamba vs King Cobra

King Cobra vs rattlesnake
King cobras are heavier than black mamba, weighing about twice as much on average when full grown.

Jolly Therattil/Shutterstock.com

Black mambas are smaller than king cobras by several feet. The king cobra lives in India and Southeastern Asia, while the black mamba makes its home in sub-Saharan Africa. Both species have extremely potent venom, and both are responsible for many human deaths every year. King cobras have impressive hoods, while black mambas have no hood.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the key differences between the black mamba vs king cobra.

Black Mamba vs King Cobra: Size and Weight

juvenile black mamba on a tree branch
Black mambas grow quickly, and within 1 year of hatching can reach 6 feet in length.

NickEvansKZN/Shutterstock.com

When it comes to the black mamba vs king cobra, length is everything. Both species are exceptionally long snakes, but only one can be the longest venomous snake in the world. That’s the king cobra. A true monster among snakes, it can grow to nearly twenty feet long. The black mamba is no small fry either, though it’s not quite as impressive as the king cobra. Black mambas can reach up to 14 feet in length.

The king cobra isn’t just longer than the black mamba, it’s heavier too. Black mambas generally weigh less than ten pounds, while the king cobra can weigh up to twenty pounds. King cobras are heavy snakes, much heavier than the black mamba.

Black Mamba vs King Cobra: Location and Habitat

King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) The world's longest venomous snake
You don’t have to worry about black mambas or king cobras unless you live in certain parts of Africa or Asia. Neither species has ever been recorded in North, Central, or South America.

CappaPhoto/Shutterstock.com

Black mambas and king cobras live on entirely different continents. The black mamba lives in parts of south and east Africa in sub-Saharan areas. In contrast, the king cobra lives in India, China, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Locally, the black mamba vs king cobra live in distinct habitats. Black mambas prefer woodlands, hilly areas, savannas, and grasslands. They don’t like to stray too far from freshwater, and at night they prefer sleeping in hollow trees or empty burrows. King cobras stick mostly to forested areas, mangrove swamps, bamboo forests, and the edges of agricultural zones. King cobras spend much of their time in trees and bushes.

Black Mamba vs King Cobra: Appearance

King Cobra - Close Up
King cobras are famously known for their wide hoods. The hoods are actually made of flattened neck ribs that extend out from the body to make the snake look bigger, and more dangerous.

Suresh Suryasree/Shutterstock.com

When it comes to the appearance of the black mamba vs king cobra, the biggest difference is in the king cobras’ hood. Black mambas lack a large hood, what they do have is a pitch-black mouth. The king cobra has one of the largest hoods of all snakes, while black mambas sport only a small, narrow hood.

In terms of coloring, the only part of the black mamba that’s actually black is its mouth. The rest of the black mambas’ body ranges from gray to brown, with a light belly. King cobras tend to be darker brown or black, with white or yellow crossbars, and markings on the undersides of their hoods.

Black Mamba vs King Cobra: Behavior

Despite their differences, black mambas and king cobras share many behaviors. Both species lay eggs, rather than give birth to live young. Female black mambas lay their eggs in underground burrows, and female king cobras actually build nests for their eggs. 

Black mambas are generally shy and would rather flee than engage in conflict. If cornered, however, they will raise their heads up high and spread their neck flaps, taking on the appearance of a cobra. King cobras are also shy and even docile, but can be very vicious if threatened. When mating season arrives. king cobras become very territorial and aggressive.

When it comes to the black mamba vs king cobra diets, both hunt rodents and small mammals, as well as other snakes.

Black Mamba vs King Cobra: Lifespan

black mamba Hatchling
When threatened, both black mambas and king cobras rear up and flatten their necks. Though, the display is decidedly more impressive in the king cobra.

NickEvansKZN/Shutterstock.com

King cobras have been known to live up to 20 years in the wild, while black mambas live up to 15 years. In captivity, they may live even longer.

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