King Cobra vs Cobra: What’s the Difference?

Written by August Buck
Updated: June 8, 2022
Image Credit Suresh Suryasree/Shutterstock.com
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Key Points

  • These are two types of cobras that share many similarities such as their telltale hoods.
  • King cobras are significantly larger. Generally, cobras are 2-10 feet long and weigh up to 10 pounds. But king cobras grow to 12-18 feet and up to 20 pounds.
  • The king cobra’s name comes from how it eats many other types of snakes.

Did you know that there are significant differences between a king cobra versus cobra? Both of these snakes share a name and many physical characteristics in common with one another. However, there are actually many traits and features that set them apart from one another. But what might some of these features be, and how can you learn to tell them apart? 

In this article, we will address all of the ways in which a king cobra is different from the general classification of cobra. We will discuss their physical differences as well as their behavioral differences. That way, you can learn how to tell common cobras apart from the king cobra. Let’s get started and learn about these snakes now! 

Comparing King Cobra vs Cobra

king cobra vs cobra
Despite their names being similar, king cobras are members of the Ophiophagus genus while cobras are members of the Naja genus.

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King CobraCobra
Size12-18 feet long; 10-20 pounds2-10 feet long; 5-10 pounds
AppearanceSlender body with chevron pattern on back of neck; found in brown, green, or yellow and tan scales. Has hood surrounding faceHooded and found in a variety of colors; has a more narrow head and larger hood compared to the king cobra
Lifespan15-20 years10-12 years
BehaviorCapable of rising up to four feet to stand and threaten prey or foes; has enough venom to kill an elephant in a single biteLives in a variety of habitats and locations; venomous and does not eat other snakes. Some cobra species spit venom, while others can be kept as pets
GenusOphiophagusNaja

Key Differences Between King Cobra vs Cobra

king cobra vs cobra
King cobras eat other snakes, while many other cobra species do not do this.

Vova Shevchuk/Shutterstock.com

There are many key differences between king cobras and cobras. Despite their names being similar, king cobras are members of the Ophiophagus genus while cobras are members of the Naja genus. This makes them distinct in their scientific classifications. King cobras eat other snakes, while many other cobra species do not do this. Finally, some cobras have the capability of spitting venom, while king cobras do not have this ability.

Let’s discuss all of these differences in more detail now. 

King Cobra vs Cobra: Size

king cobra vs cobra
The average king cobra reaches anywhere from 12 to 18 feet long, while other cobra varieties only reach 2-10 feet in length.

Andre Coetzer/Shutterstock.com

The king cobra is regarded as the longest venomous snake in the world, While most other cobra species do not reach the same lengths and sizes. For example, the average king cobra reaches anywhere from 12 to 18 feet long, while other cobra varieties only reach 2-10 feet in length. 

This also means that king cobras weigh more than the average cobra in general. For example, king cobras often weigh anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds, while other cobra species only weigh 5 to 10 pounds on average. 

King Cobra vs Cobra: Venom and Diet

king cobra vs cobra
King cobras inject a large amount of venom per bite, enough to kill multiple people, while other cobras don’t have as much potency per bite.

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While all cobras, including the other genus known as king cobras, are venomous, there are some differences in the level of venom that they use as well as their dietary preferences. For example, king cobras are called king cobras because they frequently eat other snakes, while most cobra species eat rodents or birds.

King cobras also inject a large amount of venom per bite, enough to kill multiple people, while other cobras don’t have as much potency per bite. However, there is a type of cobra species that spits venom, often as far as 8 feet, which is an ability that king cobras do not share. Whether you’re dealing with a king cobra or another type of cobra, it’s a good idea to avoid their venomous bite! 

King Cobra vs Cobra: Appearance

king cobra vs cobra
Both king cobras and cobras have hooded faces that they use in order to defend themselves against enemies or predators, but the average king cobra has a smaller hood compared to other species of cobras.

Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com

It can be extremely difficult to look at a king cobra versus other types of cobras and tell the difference. Both king cobras and cobras have hooded faces that they use in order to defend themselves against enemies or predators, but the average king cobra has a smaller hood compared to other species of cobras. 

Despite this fact, the average king cobra has a wider head than many other types of cobras. King cobras also have a chevron pattern on the back of their neck, while not all other cobras have this. However, it often takes an expert to pick out a king cobra compared to many other specific types of cobra species

King Cobra vs Cobra: Behavior

king cobra vs cobra
Many other cobras live in trees and deserts, while king cobras are often found in populated areas seeking out their next meal.

iStock.com/StuPorts

There are some behavioral differences between king cobras and other types of cobras. For example, king cobras frequently rise up to 4 feet in the air and bite people on their upper bodies, while not all other cobra species do this. Many other cobras live in trees and deserts, while king cobras are often found in populated areas seeking out their next meal. 

There aren’t very many people who recommend keeping king cobras as pets, though there are other cobra species that are kept as pets in specific situations. However, no type of cobra is often kept in a domesticated situation given their venomous bite and potentially aggressive nature. 

King Cobra vs Cobra: Habitat

There are at least 37 species of cobra, and overall they exist in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. On the other hand, the king cobra only lives in south and southeast Asia. While king cobras inhabit wetlands, shrublands, and forests, there are other types of cobras that can live in a wide range of habitats such as rainforests, open grasslands, coastal plains, and arid climates.

King Cobra vs Cobra: Lifespan

king cobra vs cobra
King cobras live an average of 15 to 20 years, while other cobra species only live anywhere from 5 to 12 years total.

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A subtle difference between king cobras and other types of cobras is their lifespan. King cobras live an average of 15 to 20 years, while other cobra species only live anywhere from 5 to 12 years total. However, it depends on the specific species as well as the captive status of the snake itself. All snakes tend to live longer when kept in captivity rather than in the wild.

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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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