Long, slender, becoming robust with size. Adults 1 200 – 1 800 mm, up to >2 500 mm. Head distinct from neck, becoming very large and broad with bulging temporal muscles in large specimens. Eye and pupil round; iris dark. Colour above dark-brown, grey, or black, sometimes banded; throat with dark band. Below, paler and heavily mottled. Smooth, dull dorsal scales in 17 – 19 rows at mid-body; anal entire.
Fixed front fangs. This cobra does not spit.
Potent neurotoxin with some local effects around bite-site. Venom yield: 80 – 300 mg, average 150 mg, while 35 mg considered a fatal dose. Few bites reported annually. Polyvalent anti-venom is available.
Favours savanna, low-veld and bushveld areas. Often climbs trees.
Can be diurnal, but mainly active after sunset, often visiting human dwellings in search of prey such as rodents, frogs, toads, birds and poultry. Raids chicken runs for eggs and chicks, killing hens defending their chicks. Preys on snakes (especially Puff Adder) and other reptiles.
Usually tries to escape but will not hesitate to face an attacker, raising the anterior portion of body off the ground, spreading a broad hood.
Preyed upon by raptors.
Reproduces by egg-laying.