Naja haje


Naja is a genus of venomous elapid snakes. They are the most recognized, and most widespread group of snakes commonly known as cobras, though there are several other genera which also make use of that common name. The genus Naja consists of 22 generally accepted species, but has undergone several taxonomic revisions in recent years, so sources vary greatly. They range throughout Africa, the Middle-East, India, southeastern Asia, and Indonesia. Currently, 20 species are recognized.


Naja species are long, relatively slender snakes. Most species are capable of attaining lengths of 6' or more. All have a characteristic ability to raise the front quarter of their body off the ground and flatten their necks to appear larger to a potential predator.


Species Authority Subsp.* Common name Geographic range
N. annulifera Peters, 1854 1 Snouted cobra
N. atra Cantor, 1842 0 Chinese cobra
N. haje (Linnaeus, 1758) 2 Egyptian cobra
N. kaouthia Lesson, 1831 0 Monocled cobra
N. katiensis Angel, 1922 0 Mali cobra
N. mandalayensis Slowinski & Wüster, 2000 0 Mandalay spitting cobra
N. melanoleuca Hallowell, 1857 0 Black and white cobra (Forest Cobra)
N. mossambica Peters, 1854 0 Mozambique spitting cobra
N. najaT (Linnaeus, 1758) 0 Indian cobra
N. nigricollis Reinhardt, 1843 2 Black-necked spitting cobra
N. nivea (Linnaeus, 1758) 0 Cape cobra
N. nubiae Wüster & Broadly, 2003 0 Nubian spitting cobra
N. oxiana (Eichwald, 1831) 0 Central Asian cobra
N. pallida Boulenger, 1896 0 Red spitting cobra
N. philippinensis Taylor, 1922 0 Philippine cobra
N. sagittifera Wall, 1913 0 Andaman cobra
N. samarensis Peters, 1861 0 Peters' cobra
N. siamensis Laurenti, 1768 0 Indo-Chinese spitting cobra (Black and White Spitting Cobra)
N. sputatrix F. Boie, 1827 0 Indonesian cobra
N. sumatrana Müller, 1887 0 Golden spitting cobra
*) Not including the nominate subspecies (typical form).
T) Type species.


Other species that may be encountered in the literature include:

  • Naja anchietae (Bocage, 1879). A.k.a. Anchieta's cobra. Regarded as a subspecies of N. haje by Mertens (1937) and of N. annulifera by Broadley (1995). Regarded as a full species by Broadley and Wüster (2004).
  • Naja ashei Broadley and Wüster, 2007. A.k.a. Ashe’s spitting cobra. This is a newly described species found in Africa.


All species in the genus Naja are capable of delivering a fatal bite in a human. Most species have strongly neurotoxic venom, which attacks the nervous system, causing paralysis, but many also have hemotoxic features which causes swelling, necrosis and has a significant anticoagulant effect.

Several Naja species, referred to as spitting cobras, have developed a specialized venom delivery mechanism, in which their front fangs, instead of releasing venom through the tips, as a hypodermic needle, have a rifled opening in the front surface, which allows the snake to propel the venom out of the mouth. While typically referred to as spitting, the action is more like squirting. The range and accuracy with which they can shoot their venom varies from species to species, but it is used primarily as a defense mechanism. Once sprayed onto a victim's skin, the venom acts as a severe irritant. If it is introduced to the eye, it can cause a severe burning sensation and temporary or even permanent blindness if not cleaned out immediately and thoroughly.

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