Golden Lancehead vs Black Mamba: What Are the Differences?

Biggest Snakes: The Black Mamba
© Cormac Price/Shutterstock.com

Written by Kyle Glatz

Published: April 3, 2022

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The most frightening snakes are usually venomous and somewhat mysterious. No two snakes fit that description better than the golden lancehead and the black mamba. These two venomous snakes don’t have many interactions with human beings, but they’re potentially deadly when they encounter them. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the golden lancehead vs black mamba and show you the differences between these two deadly reptiles, along with a few ways that they’re similar.

Comparing a Golden Lancehead and a Black Mamba

Golden lanceheads and black mambas differ in size, color, location, and type of venom they use.
Golden lanceheadBlack Mamba
SizeWeight: 0.5-5lbs
Length: 2-4ft
Weight: 3.5-4.5lbs
Length: 6-9.5ft, up to 14ft maximum
Speed– 2-5 mph7-20 mph
Venom– Hemotoxic venom that kills red blood cells and causes tissue damage
– Fast absorption rate
– Causes severe necrosis of tissue
– Has enough venom to kill ten humans
– 5-7% mortality without treatment
– 3% mortality rate with treatment  
– Powerful neurotoxic venom that can kill humans quickly
– 100g-120g of venom per bite on average with 400g maximum –  Capable of killing 10-20 humans with a single bite
100% envenomation rate and delivers several bites
– 100% mortality rate without treatment
– 5-10% mortality with treatment depending on multiple factors
Coloration– Yellow, tan, cream
– Yellow colors can be quite intense and bright
– Brown, grey, olive
– Has a black mouth
Location– Lives only on “Snake Island”, Ilha da Queimada Grande
– 20 miles off the coast of Brazil
– Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly central-east and southeast parts of the continent

The Key Differences Between a Golden Lancehead vs Black Mamba

The key differences between a golden lancehead and a black mamba are size, color, location, and type of venom they use. Golden lanceheads are small yellow or cream snakes that measure between 2-4ft and use a hemotoxic venom to kill their foes. Black mambas are long olive or brown snakes that measure up to 9.5ft or longer and use a potent neurotoxic venom to disable and kill their foes.

Both animals are named for their color, but the origin of the black mamba’s color is not as obvious. In fact, if you see the black interior for which the black mamba is named, you are probably close enough to be in peril.

Golden Lancehead vs Black Mamba: Size

Black mamba in a defensive posture

Black mambas can grow to a maximum of 14 feet.

©Cormac Price/Shutterstock.com

The golden lancehead is smaller than the black mamba. The black mamba can range in size between 6ft and a maximum of 14ft while weighing up to 4.5lbs or slightly more. The golden lancehead only grows about 4ft in length and up to 5 lbs. To be fair, though, the black mamba has a lot more area in which to grow large than the golden lancehead.

Golden Lancehead vs Black Mamba: Speed

The black mamba is a lot faster than the golden lancehead. Then again, it’s faster than most snakes that aren’t the sidewinder rattlesnake. The black mamba can move at speeds between 7 and 20 mph.

Golden lanceheads are small vipers that only reach speeds of 2 to 5 mph, but the latter measurement is their “closing” speed on prey. Either way, the black mamba is more capable of chasing down prey.

Golden Lancehead vs Black Mamba: Venom

Black mambas are rarely black, and they're actually named for the inside of their mouth.

Black mambas have far deadlier venom than golden lanceheads.

©reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

The black mamba is one of the most venomous snakes on the planet, but the golden lancehead is not even among the ten deadliest. Nevertheless, myths about the golden lancehead have made people worry more about the snake than they should.

The black mamba’s venom is a powerful neurotoxin substance that is injected in 100% of bites; they don’t use dry bites to deter foes. Each bite delivers up to 400g of their venom, enough to kill between 10 and 20 human beings in a single blow. If the individual does not seek treatment, they will die. The snake has a 100% mortality rate. With antivenom, that number dramatically drops to 5-10%, and that mortality rate depends on many things.

The golden lancehead uses a hemotoxic venom to kill its prey, but it is a cause for concern because it contains a substance that increases the venom uptake. A single bite could kill ten people, but the mortality rate is only between 5-7% without antivenom and 3% with antivenom. Both snakes are very deadly animals.

Golden Lancehead vs Black Mamba: Coloration

As the golden lancehead’s name suggests, it’s a snake that is primarily yellow. The yellow can be very bright, and the snake can also exhibit tan and cream colors. The black mamba is not a black snake. Instead, it can be brown, grey, or olive. However, its mouth is black, and that is where the snake derives its name.

Golden Lancehead vs Black Mamba: Location

golden lancehead vs fer-de-lance

Snake Island is the only place in the world that is home to the golden lancehead.

©Nayeryouakim / Creative Commons – Original / License

The black mamba doesn’t live anywhere close to the golden lancehead. Black mambas are native to sub-Saharan Africa, especially in the central and southeast parts of the continent.

Feeding the legend of the golden lancehead is the fact that it only lives in one place: Snake Island. This quarantined place is called Ilha da Queimada Grande, an island located 20 miles off the coast of Brazil. The island is home to a lighthouse that the Brazilian Navy repairs from time to time, and only some researchers get permission to go to this area. However, pirates visit the island to score a $30,000 per golden lancehead payday from time to time, but they do this at their peril.

Golden Lancehead vs Black Mamba: Who Would Win in a Fight?

A black mamba would undoubtedly win a fight against a golden lancehead. Black mambas are faster, have deadlier venom, and are used to seeing other species of snakes in action. A golden lancehead wouldn’t know what to make of this massive intruder.

In reality, the fight could go two ways. First off, both snakes could land a bite on each other. They would both die as a result, but the mamba would last longer. Otherwise, the black mamba could completely overwhelm the small snake by delivering a few bites and using its speed to escape any counterattacks.

That would leave the mamba alive and the lancehead dead. Even if the golden lancehead got the first bite, it’s not fast enough to escape any retaliation by the black mamba.

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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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