How High Can a King Cobra Stand & 5 More King Cobra Facts

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: December 31, 2022
© iStock.com/takeo1775
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The king cobra is many things to different people. The snake can be admired or feared for its peculiar mannerisms and potency as a predator. As the longest venomous snake and one of the deadliest, most people would rather study this snake’s interesting behaviors from afar. Perhaps one of the most interesting elements of this reptile’s behavior is its striking stance. Instead of horizontally curling into an S-shape, the king cobra rears backward and stands up. We’re going to take a close look at this animal and answer the question, “how high can a king cobra stand?” To top it off, we’ll also show you some cool king cobra facts that aren’t on most lists!

How Big Are King Cobras?

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King cobras can grow to a length of 19 feet.

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The average king cobra can measure anywhere between 10 to 13 feet in long. Their average length is a little over half the maximum length witnessed for this species. The longest king cobra measured about 19ft and weighed over 15lbs. That is a very long venomous snake, and it rivals the lengths of some of the longest snakes in the world, like pythons and anacondas.

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However, the king cobra lacks the significant weight of those animals. After all, it relies on using venom to kill prey instead of constriction.

Why Do King Cobras Stand?

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The king cobra spreads its hood, growls, and stands up as part of its threat display.

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When alarmed or frightened, king cobras stand to make themselves look bigger and to position themselves to strike at a longer distance. Like most snakes, king cobras use defensive postures to get the other creature to back off. A king cobra produces a deep growling hiss, spreads its hood, and prepares to attack. That way, the snake will be in a great position to strike if it decides to strike whatever animal has elicited this response.  

The simple act of looking bigger can help these snakes scare off most potential predators. As apex predators, only a few animals can challenge a king cobra.

How High Can a King Cobra Stand?

close up of a king cobra
The king cobra is the longest venomous snake.

©iStock.com/takeo1775

A king cobra can lift about one-third of its body off the ground. Being that king cobras can grow to be 18ft in length or more, that makes these snakes terrifying. However, it’s unknown if a king cobra of such a long length can actually draw 6ft or more of its body from the ground. The smaller king cobras, measuring about 10ft long, can easily pull 3ft of their body length up into a striking pose.

If a maximum-sized king cobra were capable of pulling 6ft of its body off the ground, it would be able to look down on the average-sized human. As it stands, these deadly snakes are just capable of biting most animals on the neck and head. That makes them a serious threat since they can deliver their venom capable of killing an elephant into very sensitive areas.

5 More King Cobra Facts

close up of Indian cobra
The Indian cobra is easy to confuse for a small king cobra.

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King cobras are fascinating creatures. We will plumb the depths of these snakes’ characteristics and show you five intriguing facts about them. These are facts that are not typically included on the facts lists for king cobras.

1. King Cobras Get Their Name from Their Prey

The king cobra is a very large creature, so it’s only natural to dub it king, right? Well, the truth is that the king cobra was named such because it eats other snakes. Despite living in a part of the world that is abundant in small mammals and reptiles, this snake likes to eat other snakes.

The king cobra will even eat members of the snake species! Hail to the king, indeed.

2. King Cobras Rarely Bite Humans

Although these snakes have a fierce reputation, they do not often bite people. In fact, the people most often bitten by king cobras are snake charmers. When someone antagonizes a snake, it’s only natural for the wild animal to defend itself.

Another snake that looks like the king cobra and may accidentally provide some of its notoriety is the Indian cobra. This snake also has a hood and a similar threat response, but it doesn’t growl. Still, the Indian cobra is a member of the Big Four and causes about 15,000 deaths per year.

3. King Cobras Can Growl

Think of the typical sound that snakes make while hissing. It’s a high-pitched “Sssssssss” noise, right? That’s not what a king cobra does at all. When king cobras are upset, they take in air and issue a deep, breathy growl. The only sound more frightening to come from a snake would probably be a rattlesnake’s rattle.

4. Forget How High King Cobras Can Stand. They Can Climb

We’ve already answered how high a cobra can stand, but did you know they can climb very well? They will pursue their prey into tree branches. King cobras can also swim very well, but they aren’t very likely to attack anyone while they’re in the water.

5. The King Cobra is the Only Member of its Genus

As you may have heard, king cobras are not true cobras. True cobras are part of the Naja genus, but king cobras are members of the Ophiophagus genus. Like other kings, they are very exclusive. They are currently the only member of their genus. However, new research indicates that king cobras in Thailand may be a separate Ophiophagus species.

King cobras are very interesting snakes. Aside from having potent venom, these snakes are known for the ability to kill other snakes and to stand up higher than most. Their defensive posturing makes them very noticeable and frightening.

Fortunately, king cobras would much rather use their venom on creatures they can kill and eat. That means they will rarely envenomate human beings. If you see one of these snakes, though, you should not try to handle it. Back away slowly and give the creature all the space that it needs to retreat.

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close up of a king cobra
The king cobra is the longest venomous snake.
© iStock.com/takeo1775

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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with 8 years of experience. I've written in a variety of niches such as video games, animals, and managed service providers. I graduated from Rowan University in 2014 with degrees in English and Education. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games, reading, and writing for fun.

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