King Cobra Bite: Why it Has Enough Venom to Kill 11 Humans & How to Treat It

Written by August Buck
Published: March 24, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/mrjo2405
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king cobra bite
The reason a king cobra’s bite is so powerful is because of the huge amount of venom it has per bite.

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You may not know this yet, but king cobras are the longest venomous snake in the world. Not only can this snake reach nearly 20 feet in length, but the king cobra has enough venom in it to kill at least 11 humans, or an entire elephant. Just one bite can accomplish this- but why do king cobras have so much venom, and how do you treat a king cobra snake bite?

In this article, we will address all of these questions surrounding king cobras, including why the bite is so powerful, whether or not cobras bite repeatedly, and how cobras interact with humans. Let’s get started and learn all you need to know about the longest venomous snake in the entire world!

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Why is the King Cobra Bite So Powerful?

King Cobra bite
King Cobra bites have as much as 400-500 mg of venom in a single bite.

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The king cobra is considered an extraordinarily dangerous snake for many reasons. Not only is it large and fast, but its bite is capable of incapacitating creatures of all shapes and sizes in a mere moment. In fact, king cobras don’t need to hold down their prey with their bodies like other cobras do. Their powerful jaws and venom levels render all prey helpless, without fail.

The reason a king cobra’s bite is so powerful is because of the huge amount of venom it has per bite. While the venom isn’t particularly concentrated and a bite from a black mamba is more potent than the bite of a king cobra, it is the amount that is dangerous. 

How Much Venom Does a King Cobra Bite Have?

King Cobra bite
There are very few reports of king cobras biting a single person repeatedly.

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King cobra bites have as much as 400-500 mg of venom in a single bite. The average amount of venom needed to kill a single mouse is a little over 1 mg, so you can only imagine how potent the average king cobra truly is!

However, as previously discussed, one single king cobra bite contains a large amount of venom. But this doesn’t mean that the venom itself is particularly potent or concentrated. If you are bitten by a king cobra, you may not be injected with 400-500 mg of venom. There’s a chance that you get envenomated with a lower level of king cobra venom, but is that a chance you are willing to take?

Do King Cobras Bite Repeatedly?

king cobra bite
Typically, a single king cobra bite is enough to make both humans and animals back off.

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There are very few reports of king cobras biting a single person repeatedly. However, it isn’t outside of the realm of possibility. Typically, a single king cobra bite is enough to make both humans and animals back off. But if someone didn’t get the message the first time, there’s no reason why a king cobra couldn’t bite someone a second time!

While it wasn’t a king cobra’s doing, there is a report of another cobra species biting two brothers, one after the other, while working in their restaurant in Bangladesh. Both men were sent to the hospital and treated with antivenom, and both experienced complications with their respiratory systems, as well as their skin at the site of the bite. However, given that they both arrived at the hospital within an hour, they made full recoveries in the end!

All of this to say- king cobras could bite repeatedly if they wanted to. But usually one bite is all it takes. Additionally, the cobra likely wants to get away from a threat just as much as you want to get away from a highly venomous snake bite!

What Animals Do King Cobras Hunt?

king cobra bite
While king cobras exist in a variety of habitats and locations, they are frequently found in populated areas.

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King cobras frequently hunt and consume birds, lizards, and other snakes. They will occasionally pursue rodents, though mice and rats are not their first choice overall. King cobras can climb trees, which means that they are often within striking range of a variety of birds. Given that king cobras move up to 12 miles per hour, it is easy to see how they can hunt agile and fast prey. 

How Do King Cobras Interact with Humans?

King cobra bite
Despite living side by side with humans in cities and countrysides in India and China, king cobras prefer to leave humans alone.

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While king cobras exist in a variety of habitats and locations, they are frequently found in populated areas. Despite living side by side with humans in cities and countrysides in India and China, king cobras prefer to leave humans alone. In fact, they prefer not to interact with humans at all if they can help it!

Humans are the only true threat to adult king cobras, and they know this. Despite their powerful venom and ability to kill 11 humans with a single bite, cobras are very shy. They don’t wish to bite, and only do so when threatened or endangered in any way. However, this doesn’t mean that they won’t ever bite humans. If a human frightens or threatens a king cobra, they should prepare for a potentially lethal bite!

How Do You Treat a King Cobra Snake Bite?

King cobra bite
Not only does the bite of a king cobra contain a high level of toxins; these toxins and venom target your heart and lungs.

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King cobra snake bites must be treated with antivenom in a hospital setting. Not only does the bite of a king cobra contain a high level of toxins; these toxins and venom target your heart and lungs. Your respiratory system and heart can suffer greatly from a king cobra bite, and many victims who don’t seek treatment end up perishing from cardiac arrest or respiratory complications.

In fact, a patient with asthma underwent treatment for a king cobra bite in the United Kingdom. Despite reaching the hospital within twenty minutes of being bitten, this individual was still admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. They were monitored for over twelve hours while on an antivenom treatment and fluids. They experienced erratic heart rates and respiratory issues, including difficulty swallowing, and they likely would not have survived if they hadn’t gone to the hospital immediately.

While king cobras don’t want to bite humans, it can still happen. That’s why it is important to seek medical attention if you are ever bitten by any venomous snake, including one as venomous as the king cobra!

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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.

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