What Are Some Facts About the Egyptian Asp Snake?

Asp is a general term for venomous snakes, especially the Egyptian cobra and the horned viper native to North Africa. The Egyptian asp is renowned as the symbol of royalty in Egypt. Its venomous bite was used to execute favored criminals in Greco-Roman times. The asp is mostly known for being Cleopatra’s method of suicide.

The Egyptian cobra is common over much of Africa, especially around the edges of the Sahara. It lives in the woodlands, savannah, grasslands and semi-arid habitats. It can grow as long as 8 feet, but its typical length is 5 to 6 feet. Cobras are known for displaying a hood, which is an extension of the ribs behind their heads. Cobra venom is deadly, though their bites are only fatal to humans about 10 percent of the time. Cobras are immune to their own venom. The Egyptian cobra is the preferred snake used by snake charmers.

Egyptian cobras have been widely mentioned in folklore. The goddess Isis is said to have created the first cobra, which also represented Egyptian deities such as Ma’at, Re and Neith.

The desert horned viper is sometimes referred to as the Egyptian asp. The horned viper lives in North Africa, Arabia, Israel and the Sinai Peninsula. These snakes grow 4 to 5 feet long. Horned vipers are also venomous.