The 10 Largest Cobras in the World

Written by Brandi Allred
Updated: June 24, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Cobras are characterized by their signature hood that flares around the head when threatened or attacking.
  • The snakes are found throughout Southeast Asia and down into southern Africa.
  • The largest cobra in the world is the king cobra.

Cobras have long fascinated and terrified us. They’re famous for their wide “hoods” and ability to “dance” for snake charmers. Their hoods aren’t really hoods at all but rather flattened and elongated ribs designed to make the cobra look bigger. When cobras feel threatened—whether by humans, predators, or even other cobras—they flatten their hoods, rear up off the ground, and hiss a warning.

These nightmarish snakes are found on islands off the coasts of Southeast Asia as well as on the mainland. They also live from there down through South Africa. All of these snakes are venomous and are quite large snakes. Some grow to only a couple of feet long, but others stretch to nearly 20 feet. So, what are the largest cobras in the world, and how big are they? Here’s a picture preview:

Read on to learn more fascinating information about 10 of the largest cobras in the world!

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10. Cape Cobra (Naja nivea)

Most deadly snake bites - Cape Cobra

The Cape cobra ranges in color from yellow to copper or even black-brown.

©Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com

One of the largest cobras in the world is the Cape cobra. Cape cobras grow up to five feet long and can live anywhere from the desert to the savannah. They’re native to southern Africa, where they prey on just about anything that crosses their path. Cape cobras hunt during the day and act quickly to defend themselves with a venomous bite if threatened or startled.

9. Snouted Cobra (Naja annulifera)

Snouted Cobra, Naja annulifera, South Africa, with raised hood in defensive posture. The snake has a yellow stomach, brown or blue back, and bands around the neck or body.

Snouted cobras have impressive hoods marked by a single, dark brown band running across the throat.

©iStock.com/StuPorts

Snouted cobras are one of the largest cobras in the world. They grow up to six feet long. They’re slim snakes that spend most of their time on the ground hunting for rodents and other small creatures. Unlike other species of cobra, snouted cobras do not live in forested areas, preferring grasslands, shrublands, or semi-desert climates instead.

8. Chinese Cobra (Naja atra)

Chinese Cobra

Also known as Taiwan cobras, Chinese cobras are currently listed as vulnerable in their native lands of China and Taiwan.

©Tino Anttila/Shutterstock.com

Chinese cobras grow up to six feet long, with some specimens measuring even a little longer. They’re easily recognizable by their dark, black scales, wide hoods, and distinct white markings across the neck. Chinese cobras live throughout southern and eastern China as well as on the island of Taiwan. They’re extremely venomous and, unfortunately, run into humans all too often.

7. Javan Spitting Cobra (Naja sputatrix)

Javan Spitting Cobra

Javan spitting cobras live only in Indonesia; they’re also known as Indonesian cobras.

©hermawanandik/Shutterstock.com

Though most Javan spitting cobras grow to around four feet long, some reach up to six feet in length. This makes the Javan spitting cobra one of the largest cobras in the world, despite its tiny geographical range. Javan spitting cobras have pale bellies with a single dark stripe across their necks. Their sides and back are characterized by alternating squares of light and dark scales. Like all cobras, they have wide hoods and toxic venom.

6. Black-Necked Spitting Cobra (Naja nigricollis)

Black-necked spitting cobras have strikingly dark coloring with pure white mouth interiors like the North American cottonmouth.

©Scott Delony/Shutterstock.com

One of the largest cobras in the world is the black-necked spitting cobra. These cobras are not only incredibly beautiful, but they’re also incredibly long, with some reaching up to seven feet. Black-necked spitting cobras live throughout most parts of central Africa. They’re mostly terrestrial but will also take to the trees to hunt if needed.

5. Monocled Cobra (Naja kaouthia)

Front view of a monocled cobra with its hood open

Monocled cobras have long gray or brown bodies.

©iStock.com/Koushik Bhattacharjee

Monocled cobras can reach over seven feet in length, though most grow to around five feet long. They’re native to Southeast Asia, where they live near water, grasslands, or forested areas. Monocled cobras have dark brown to black bodies with several circular markings along the back of the neck and hood.

4. Indian Cobra (Naja naja)

Deadliest Animal in the World: Snakes

The Indian cobra is also known as the spectacled cobra or Asian cobra.

©RealityImages/Shutterstock.com

One of the largest cobras in the world, the famous Indian cobra can reach lengths of up to seven feet. These cobras inhabit the Indian subcontinent as well as the island of Sri Lanka. They have potent venom and wide hoods; their coloring ranges from light brown to almost black.

3. Egyptian Cobra (Naja haje)

Closeup of egyptian cobra

Despite their name, Egyptian cobras live in numerous disjunctive areas throughout northern Africa.

©OPIS Zagreb/Shutterstock.com

These cobras—famous for their tendency to live among the pyramids—can grow up to 8.5 feet long. Because of their potent venom and quick self-defense, they’re one of the most dangerous snakes in northern Africa. Egyptian cobras are all black in color, and favor deserts where they can hunt for rodents.

2. Forest Cobra (Naja melanoleuca)

Deadliest Snake Bites - Forest Cobra (Naja melanoleuca)

The forest cobra is also known as the black and white-lipped cobra, or simply the black cobra.

©NickEvansKZN/Shutterstock.com

Forest cobras are one of the largest cobras in the world. In fact, they’re the longest ‘true’ cobras in the world at a maximum length of ten feet. Unlike number one on our list, the forest cobra is a member of the genus ‘Naja’, which technically makes them a true cobra. Forest cobras live across central Africa in forests, woodlands, and even scrublands.

This snake uses all that length to climb trees over 30 feet tall and easily propel itself through water. When faced with a threat, the forest cobra intimidates by rising high above the ground to scare predators away by appearing as large as possible. There are lots of potential predators for this substantial serpent to try and warn off. The forest cobra is hunted by mongoose, wild pigs, crocodiles, large lizards, and other snakes.

1. King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah)

King Cobra vs rattlesnake

King cobras live in the Indian subcontinent, as well as Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

©Jolly Therattil/Shutterstock.com

The largest cobra in the world is the king cobra, nearly 20 feet long. King cobras are not ‘true’ cobras, as they belong to the Ophiophagus genus, rather than the Naja genus. Still, that doesn’t stop them from coming in at number one on our list of the largest cobras in the world. 

King cobras are the longest venomous snakes in the world, and they have a potent, deadly venom to match. They’re unique in that they mostly eat other snakes, even smaller king cobras. When threatened, they rear up, spread their hoods, and hiss ferociously. Though generally non-aggressive, king cobras will bite to defend themselves, and with such a long body, they can strike at distances of several feet.

The Largest King Cobra in the World

So, what’s the largest of the largest cobras that have ever been recorded?

The largest King cobra according to the Guinness World Records measured 18.8 feet long and was captured in Negeri Sembilan state in Malaysia in 1937.

Following the attention brought by its huge size, the snake was transferred to the London Zoo in England to exhibit to the public. However, after World War II began, sadly it was killed in order to avoid placing people in danger in the event the zoo was bombed and its animals escaped.

How Long Do Cobras Live?

Venomous and huge, cobras are feared by many humans and other potential prey. But how long do these “charming” snakes live? The average lifespan of the king cobra is 20 years. Some may make it to 30 years. Other types of cobras may not survive as long as the king. The Chinese cobra, for example, will live only 12-13 years. If the cobra is in captivity, away from the stresses and dangers in the wild, its life can be lengthened.

Summary Of The 10 Largest Cobras In The World

RankCobra SpeciesLength
10Cape CobraUp to 5 feet
9Snouted CobraUp to 6 feet
8Chinese CobraUp to 6 feet
7Javan Spitting Cobra4-6 feet
6Black-Necked Spitting CobraUp to 7 feet
5Monocled Cobra5-7 feet
4Indian CobraUp to 7 feet
3Egyptian CobraUp to 8.5 feet
2Forest Cobra10 feet maximum
1King CobraNearly 20 feet

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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