King Cobra vs Lion: Who Would Win in a Fight?

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: September 15, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/takeo1775
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Key Points

  • Lions move much faster than king cobras, and they have the advantage of multiple sharply perceptive senses.
  • While king cobras don’t have the sheer biting power of lions, their bite delivers a nasty dose of deadly venom.
  • Ultimately, the lion would be able to ambush the king cobra and attack it with enough force to kill it, probably before the snake could react or bite. But even if the king cobra did manage to bite the lion in an encounter, the lion would still likely kill the snake before the venom takes hold.

Humans tend to dub the animals they find most dangerous or dominant as “kings.” That’s how we got the king cobra despite the snake not being a cobra at all. Humans also applied a similar level of logic to the lion and called it the “king of the jungle,” despite the mammal living in savannahs. Imagine that these two kings wandered out of their habitats and met up in the wild to duke it out. Which one would win a fight? We’re going to examine a king cobra vs lion fight and use data to show you who is going to win this battle!

Comparing a King Cobra and a Lion

A lion is faster than a king cobra.

A-Z-Animals.com

King CobraLion
SizeWeight: 11lbs-20lbs
Length: 12ft-19ft
Weight: 264lbs – 550lbs
Length: 4.7ft – 8.2ft
Height: 3-3.9ft at the shoulder
Speed and Movement Type– 12 mph
– Slithering along the ground
– 35 mph
Senses– Uses Jacobson’s organ to sense chemicals in its surroundings. 
– King cobras can hear a narrow range of low sounds
– Good vision
-Amazing sense of sight, especially night vision.
– Good sense of smell capable of smelling other lions’ markings.
-Great hearing allows them to hear prey miles away.
Defenses– Good camouflage
– King cobras can escape by hiding in crevices
– Scary threat display wards off attacks
– Stays with pride for safety in numbers
– Large size
– Can quickly run away from enemies
Offensive Capabilities– Will lift the front of its body several feet from the ground and then strike, allowing it to deliver venom in the vital areas.
Long fangs deliver up to 1000mg of venom – A single bite can kill 11 humans
– Sharp claws can gash foes
– Paw strikes can deliver a powerful, staggering blow  
Strong biting power can splinter bones and tear prey open.  
Predatory Behavior– Ambush predator that lies in wait and attacks other animals and reptiles, including other snakes.– Endurance predator or ambush predator
– Works as a group to take down prey  

Are King Cobras and Lions Natural Enemies?

The separation between their natural habitats makes a wild encounter between these two species unlikely. King Cobras thrive in streams and swamps with dense vegetation throughout southeast Asia. The lion has historically occupied the majority of the African continent as well as portions of southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia. Because nature has not pitted these two predators against each other, we will have to use the available facts to imagine an outcome.

What Are Key Differences Between a King Cobra and a Lion?

lion walking toward camera
The king of the jungle is a tough customer for many animals.

iStock.com/Gunther Fraulob

The key differences between a king cobra and a lion are their morphology, size, and method of attack. King cobras are limbless reptiles that use potent venom to subdue enemies and can measure up to 19ft long, and lions are carnivorous mammals that bite prey to death and can measure 8ft long and 550lbs.

These factors highlight the vast disparities that exist between these animals. However, the few points of comparison are not enough to declare a winner. We have to look deeper into each animal to figure out who can kill the other.

What Are the Key Factors in a Fight Between a King Cobra and a Lion?

king cobra snake
King cobras have deadly venom that could alter the outcome of this fight.

mrjo/Shutterstock.com

When considering the outcome of a king cobra vs lion fight, we have to look at typical and specific factors. For example, we need to examine the size, speed, and hunting prowess of the animals, but we also have to think about how the king cobra’s venom would impact the fight.

We’re going to weigh these factors and assign advantages to each creature. By the time we’ve covered these five points of data, we’ll have a good idea of the fight’s winner.

King Cobra vs Lion: Size

Lions are much larger than king cobras, but they are not as long. A lion can weigh 500lbs or more, grow 8.2ft long, and stands 3.9ft at the shoulder. A king cobra will only weigh about 15lbs and can grow up to 19ft long. King cobras are the longest venomous snakes in the world, but they are still small compared to the lion.

The lions have the size advantage in this fight.

King Cobra vs Lion: Speed and Movement

Lions are much faster than king cobras. Lions can run at speeds of 35 mph when they are closing in on their prey.

However, king cobras can only move at around 12 mph at their utmost. Even at that, they have a very fast strike speed that lets them land attacks from a stationary position.

Lions have the speed advantage, but they have slower reflexes than a king cobra.

King Cobra vs Lion: Senses

Lions have incredibly keen hunting senses. They can see very well, hear some animals from miles away, and have a sense of smell that helps them identify when other animals have been around.

Lions’ acute senses, combined with impressive speed, give them the upper hand when it comes to the element of surprise. If the lion cunningly snuck up on a cobra, it would probably be able to ambush it before the snake could react.

The king cobra is also a very effective hunter due to its senses. They mostly use their tongues and Jacobson’s organ to collect chemical data in the air along with their vision. Although their sense of sight isn’t amazing, they can see animals from about 300 feet away.

Lions have better senses than king cobras.

King Cobra vs Lion: Physical Defenses

The lion uses its speed and size to stay safe from enemies. Also, lions live in groups with others called pride, and these extra lions ward off most foes. The king cobra relies on its camouflage and threat display to ward off most enemies. They can also squeeze into small crevices to hide from larger animals and wait for them to pass.

The lion and king cobra have defenses that are similar in their effectiveness, so this is a tie.  

King Cobra vs Lion: Combat Skills

Lions rely on using their long, sharp claws and teeth to kill their foes. They can deliver a bone-crushing bite to a foe and end the fight in a moment. Lions also deliver powerful, staggering smacks with their paws. When hunting, they can go out individually and ambush prey, or they can use endurance hunting to sap and wear down foes with members of their pride.

King cobras are ambush predators, and they only have one method of attack: biting and delivering one of the strongest snake venoms into their prey.

Each of these animals is very effective at killing others, but only the lion is an apex predator of the two.

Who Would Win in a Fight Between a King Cobra and a Lion?

A Lion in the African Desert
Lions are apex predators that know how to kill all sorts of animals.

2021 Photography/Shutterstock.com

A lion would win a fight against a king cobra. The lion has many advantages that would help it in this endeavor. For one thing, the lion only needs one bite to completely kill the king cobra. With a running start, it could easily snatch up the snake in its paws and bite its head off before the snake could react.

Even if both animals started the fight without an ambush, the lion would still win this battle. The king cobra would probably rear up and wait for the lion to get close enough to lunge. The snake has the agility, but a single bite isn’t going to kill the lion that quick.

Humans can last for up to an hour without treatment before the worst symptoms from the venom take place. Lions are much larger than humans, so the venom may take even longer to harm them. Assuming the king cobra doesn’t use a dry bite, the lion is going to realize the threat this snake poses and use its remaining time on Earth to kill it.

Either the lion scores a quick and flawless victory, or the lion kills the cobra and then dies from the bite. The king cobra is not going to bite the lion and then get away without a counterattack.

Up Next…

Now that you have satisfied your curiosity about the winner of this imaginary battle, check out the articles below for more match ups between some of the natural world’s fiercest brawlers.

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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