What Is an Asp Snake?

asp-snake Credit: DEA / F. BERTOLA/De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images

Asp is an Anglicized term derived from "aspis" used to designate various types of venomous snakes. It usually refers to the Egyptian cobra and the horned viper. The asp is famous due to Shakespeare's portrayal of its role in Cleopatra's suicide in "Antony and Cleopatra."

Asps belong to the Elapidae family, members of which are characterized by their hollow, venom-injecting fangs. Some species within this family are able to spray their venom from holes at the tips of their fangs as a defense mechanism. The venom of snakes in the Elapidae family is mostly neurotoxic and capable of immobilizing prey.