Long, slender, becoming robust at when large. Adults 1 200 mm – >1 800 mm. Head slightly distinct from neck. Eye and pupil round; iris dark. Broad heads with well-developed muscles in the temporal region that bulge over venom glands in large adults. Colour highly variable – plain, dark-mahogany, chocolate-brown, bronze, copper, dark-yellow to bright, light butter-yellow, often speckled or with dark blotches on the body. Juveniles with broad, dark throat band that fades with age. Smooth, shiny dorsal scales in 19 – 21 rows at mid-body; anal entire.
Fixed front fangs. Does not spit.
Most venomous cobra in Africa. Potent neurotoxin causing paralysis of the lungs and death. Lethal dose: 15 – 20 mg; yield 60 – 160 mg; average 100 mg. Numerous annual reports of bites and deaths. Early injection of adequate quantities of polyvalent anti-venom is essential. A BITE FROM THIS COBRA IS A REAL MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Polyvalent anti-venom is available.
Common in arid areas of the country, preferring dry, scrub country. Uses holes created by other animals as a permanent retreat.
Diurnal; during extremely hot and dry conditions only active toward evenings. Preys on mice, rats, lizards, toads and frogs. Cannibalistic, preying on other snakes, including members of its own species. Enters human habitation while foraging for prey.
Curious and bold; usually tries to escape; if cornered, faces aggressor, raising the front portion of body off the ground, spreading a broad hood. From this position lunges forward to bite anybody within close proximity. Retreats when left alone, keeping a wary eye on intruder, ready to turn and repeat the defensive stance when approached too closely.
Reproduces by egg-laying.