Mongoose vs Cobra: Who Would Win In A Fight?

Written by Hannah Ward
Published: December 2, 2021
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Some of the most fascinating animal fights are those that we don’t expect.  When we imagine a massive cobra taking on a small mongoose we probably don’t expect it to be much of a fight at all.  After all, cobras are so big and venomous that they are surely going to kill and eat mongooses pretty easily, right?  Well, think again.

So, why isn’t it an easy battle for a cobra to win?  Well, mongooses are super fast and agile and are known as indiscriminate hunters because of their ability to eat anything they can catch and kill.  Not only that, but they even have a nifty little characteristic that makes them difficult for snakes to kill.

Comparing Cobra vs Mongoose

Cobras are some of the most feared snakes in the world due to their fast-acting and deadly venom.  Not to mention their intimidating appearance and size.  On the other hand, mongooses don’t look particularly scary or ferocious.  Join us as we compare the two and see exactly how they would get on in a fight.

Check out the chart below to learn a few of the main differences.

SizeAverage around 6 feet long, but up to 10 feet depending on speciesBody length of between 10 and 22 inches, excluding tail. Weigh up to 11 pounds
HabitatPrimarily Africa and Asia in grasslands, savannahs, and forestsPrimarily found in Africa. Live in variety of habitats, including forests and woodlands
Appearance & CharacteristicsColor varies – usually red, black, yellow, or patterned. Have a hood, smooth scales, and round pupilsShort legs, pointed noses, small ears, long bushy tails, and tough skin. Gray or brown color. Possess some immunity to snake venom
DietMice, rats, squirrels, frogs, lizards, birds, and other snakesIndiscriminate hunters – eat everything they can kill
Hunting TacticsDetect prey by smell (by flicking tongue in and out). Strike and bite prey and inject venom from their fangsQuick and agile. Deliver a powerful bite to the skull
PredatorsHawks, eagles, crocodiles, mongooseHawks, jackals, snakes
LifespanAround 20 yearsBetween 6 and 10 years

The 6 Key Differences Between Mongoose and Cobras

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

Mongoose vs Cobra: Size

There is a vast difference between the size of a cobra and the size of a mongoose.  The average length of a cobra is 6 feet long, although they can reach up to 10 feet depending on the species.  However, mongoose are much smaller and are only between 10 and 22 inches, excluding their tail.  They don’t even weigh very much – only up to 11 pounds.  Advantage: Cobra

Mongoose vs Cobra: Venomous

Mongooses are not venomous.  However, cobras are venomous snakes which have hollow fangs that are attached to their top jaw.  They use these fangs to inject deadly venom into their prey.  The venom from most cobras is a powerful neurotoxin that affects the nervous system and causes respiratory failure, muscle weakness and difficulty breathing.  However, some cobras have cytotoxic venom which causes extreme pain, swelling, and tissue death.  The king cobra is one of the most venomous cobras in the world and possesses enough venom in one bite to kill twenty people.  If a human is bitten then death can follow within only thirty minutes if untreated.  Advantage: Cobra

Mongoose vs Cobra: Appearance & Characteristics

Cobras have smooth scales and round pupils.  They can be a variety of colors, depending on the species.  However, cobras are most famous for their hood.  Hooding is their ability to flatten and widen their neck by spreading out their neck ribs.  They usually do this while raising the upper part of their body off the ground which creates and incredibly intimidating appearance.

Mongooses are grey or brown and have short legs, pointed noses, small ears, and a bushy tail.  They are incredibly quick and agile which makes them able hunters.  They also possess characteristics which mean that they have the edge over cobras in a fight.  Mongooses have tough skin which provides some protection against bites.  However, their most unique defense is their natural protection against cobra venom.  Mongooses have acetylcholine receptors that are slightly mutated.  This prevents the venom from binding to the cells in mongooses and killing them the way it does all their other prey.  However, mongooses are not entirely immune to snake venom, but it takes approximately eight times as much venom to kill one than it does a rabbit – meaning that the cobra would need to get in several bites.  Advantage: Mongoose

Mongoose vs Cobra: Diet

Cobras eat a variety of prey – including birds, lizards, mice, rats, squirrels, and even other snakes.  Mongooses are known as indiscriminate hunters as they literally eat anything that they can kill.  However, their main diet is rodents, birds, frogs, insects, and reptiles.  They are even known to break open eggs and crabs by using their front paws to throw them at a solid object such as a rock.

Mongoose (Helogale Parvula) - standing on sandy rock
Mongooses are quick and agile hunters

Oscar David Toledo Marin/

Mongoose vs Cobra: Hunting Tactics

Once a cobra has detected their prey they strike with lethal accuracy and inflict a deadly venomous bite.  Their venom is injected into their prey using their hollow fangs.

Mongooses are quick and agile and have extremely strong jaws.  They usually kill their prey by inflicting a lethal bite to the back of their head, crushing the skull.  Advantage: Mongoose (considering they have tough skin and immunity against cobra venom)

Mongoose vs Cobra: Who would Win in a Fight?

Although it would be easy to assume that cobras instantly have the advantage because of their much larger size and venomous bite, the truth is mongooses actually come out on top.  This is because they as so fast and agile that they are usually able to leap and bite the cobra on the back of its skull before it even has chance to strike.  Sometimes the cobra tries to wrap itself around the mongoose to slow them down enough to bite them if the mongoose has missed with its first bite.  Cobras actually fear mongooses so much that they try to avoid confrontation with their formidable little opponent.  Due to the mongooses natural defense against snake venom the only way a cobra can kill them is with several bites.  However, mongooses actually win around 75 to 80 percent of fights with cobras.

Once the mongoose has killed the cobra they sometimes eat them – fangs and venom sacs included.  As venom has to be injected to be effective it poses no threat to the mongoose when it is ingested.  However, on rare occasions the mongoose can come off worse even after defeating the cobra.  This is because if the mongoose is really unlucky then the cobras fangs can pierce their stomach lining.

FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions)

Are mongooses dangerous to humans?

No, mongooses are generally not aggressive towards humans and prefer to run away.

Can mongooses kill king cobras?

Yes, despite king cobras being the longest venomous snake in the world, mongooses are one of the few natural predators of them.

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About the Author

I'm an avid animal lover, and when not writing I can be found on my farm surrounded by dogs, horses, and sheep.

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