Indian cobra, N. naja
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Naja
Laurenti, 1768

Naja is a genus of venomous elapid snakes. Although there are several other genera that share the common name, Naja are the most recognized and most widespread group of snakes commonly known as cobras. The genus Naja consists of 20 to 22 species, but has undergone several taxonomic revisions in recent years, so sources vary greatly.[1] They range throughout Africa, the Middle East, India, southeastern Asia, and Indonesia.



From Old Indic nāga, cognate with English 'snake', Germanic: *snēk-a-, Proto-IE: *(s)nēg-o-.[2]


Naja species are long, relatively slender snakes. Most species are capable of attaining lengths of 1.84 metres (6.0 ft). Maximum lengths for some of the larger species of cobra is around 3.1 metres (10 ft), with the Egyptian cobra arguably being the longest species. All have a characteristic ability to raise the front quarters of their bodies off the ground and flatten their necks to appear larger to a potential predator.


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 cytotoxic features which causes swelling and 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 (similar to 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.


Species[1] Authority[1] Subsp.*[1] Common name Geographic range
N. anchietae Bocage, 1879 0 Anchieta's cobra Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, eastern Zimbabwe
N. annulifera Peters, 1854 0 Snouted cobra Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe
N. arabica Scortecci, 1932 0 Arabian cobra Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
N. ashei Wüster and Broadley, 2007 0 Ashe's spitting cobra (Giant spitting cobra) Southern Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, eastern Uganda
N. atra Cantor, 1842 0 Chinese cobra Southern China, Northern Laos, Taiwan, northern Vietnam
N. haje (Linnaeus, 1758) 0 Egyptian cobra Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, northern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Western Sahara
N. kaouthia Lesson, 1831 0 Monocled cobra Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, southern China, eastern India, Laos, northwestern Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand, southeastern Tibet, Vietnam
N. katiensis Angel, 1922 0 Mali cobra Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Gambia, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo
N. mandalayensis Slowinski & Wüster, 2000 0 Mandalay spitting cobra (Burmese spitting cobra) Burma
N. melanoleuca Hallowell, 1857 0 Forest cobra Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tom`e, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
N. mossambica Peters, 1854 0 Mozambique spitting cobra Extreme SE Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, NE Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania (including Pemba Island), Zambia, Zimbabwe
N. najaT (Linnaeus, 1758) 0 Indian cobra (Spectacled cobra) Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka
N. nigricincta Bogert, 1940 1 Zebra spitting cobra Angola, Namibia, South Africa
N. nigricollis Reinhardt, 1843 2 Black-necked spitting cobra Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (except in the center), Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Somalia, Togo, Uganda, Zambia
N. nivea (Linnaeus, 1758) 0 Cape cobra (Yellow Cobra) Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa
N. nubiae Wüster & Broadly, 2003 0 Nubian spitting cobra Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Niger, Sudan
N. oxiana (Eichwald, 1831) 0 Central Asian cobra Afghanistan, North-west India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
N. pallida Boulenger, 1896 0 Red spitting cobra Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania
N. philippinensis Taylor, 1922 0 Philippine cobra Philippines (Luzon, Mindoro)
N. sagittifera Wall, 1913 0 Andaman cobra India (Andaman Islands)
N. samarensis Peters, 1861 0 Peters' cobra Philippines (Mindanao, Bohol, Leyte, Samar, Camiguin)
N. senegalensis Trape, Chirio & Wüster, 2009 0 Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, ?Guinea-Bissau, ?Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal
N. siamensis Laurenti, 1768 0 Indo-Chinese spitting cobra Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam
N. sputatrix F. Boie, 1827 0 Indonesian cobra Indonesia (Java, Lesser Sunda Islands, East Timor)
N. sumatrana Müller, 1887 0 Golden spitting cobra Brunei, Indonesia (Sumatra, Borneo, Bangka, Belitung), Malaysia, Philippines (Palawan), southern Thailand, Singapore

*) Not including the nominate subspecies.
T) Type species.[3]


The genus contains several species complexes of closely related and often similar species, some of them only recently described or defined. Several recent taxonomic studies have revealed species not included in the current listing in ITIS:[1]

  • 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).[4][5]
  • Naja arabica Scortecci, 1932. A.k.a. Arabian cobra. Long considered a subspecies of N. haje, this was recently raised to the status of a whole species [6]
  • Naja ashei Broadley and Wüster, 2007. A.k.a. Ashe’s spitting cobra. This is a newly described species found in Africa.[7][8]
  • Naja nigricincta Bogert, 1940. This was long regarded as a subspecies of Naja nigricollis, but was recently found to be a full species (with N. nigricincta woodi as a subspecies).[9][10]
  • Naja senegalensis Trape et al., 2009. This new species, encompassing what were previously considered to be the West African savanna populations of N. haje, was recently described as a new species.[6]

Two recent molecular phylogenetic studies have also supported the incorporation of the species normally assigned to the genera Boulengerina and Paranaja into Naja, as both are closely related to the forest cobra (Naja melanoleuca) [9][11]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Naja". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 13 April 2008. 
  2. ^ Proto-IE: *(s)nēg-o-, Meaning: snake, Old Indian: nāgá- m. 'snake', Germanic: *snēk-a- m., *snak-an- m., *snak-ō f.; *snak-a- vb.
  3. ^ Zhao E, Adler K. 1993. Herpetology of China. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. 522 pp. LCCN 92-61941. ISBN 0-916984.
  4. ^ Broadley, D.G. & W. Wüster (2004) A review of the southern African ‘non-spitting’ cobras (Serpentes: Elapidae: Naja). African Journal of Herpetology 53:101-122.
  5. ^ Naja anchietae at the Reptile Database. Accessed 13 April 2007.
  6. ^ a b Trape, J.-F., L. Chirio, D.G. Broadley & W. Wüster (2009) Phylogeography and systematic revision of the Egyptian cobra (Serpentes: Elapidae: Naja haje) species complex, with the description of a new species from West Africa. Zootaxa 2236: 1-25.
  7. ^ Wüster, W. & D.G. Broadley (2007) Get an eyeful of this: a new species of giant spitting cobra from eastern and north-eastern Africa (Squamata: Serpentes: Elapidae: Naja). Zootaxa 1532: 51-68
  8. ^ Naja ashei at the Reptile Database. Accessed 13 April 2007.
  9. ^ a b Wüster, W., S. Crookes, I. Ineich, Y. Mane, C.E. Pook, J.-F. Trape & D.G.Broadley (2007) The phylogeny of cobras inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences: evolution of venom spitting and the phylogeography of the African spitting cobras (Serpentes: Elapidae: Naja nigricollis complex). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 45: 437-453.
  10. ^ Naja nigricincta at the Reptile Database. Accessed 29 December 2008.
  11. ^ Nagy, Z.T., Vidal, N., Vences, M., Branch, W.R., Pauwels, O.S.G., Wink, M., Joger, U., 2005. Molecular systematics of African Colubroidea (Squamata: Serpentes). In: Huber, B.A., Sinclair, B.J., Lampe, K.-H. (Eds.), African Biodiversity: Molecules, Organisms, Ecosystems. Museum Koenig, Bonn, pp. 221–228.

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  • naja — [ naʒa ] n. m. • 1734; lat. zool. (apr. 1658, av. 1693), du sanskr. naga « serpent » par une forme cinghalaise ♦ Zool. ⇒ cobra. ● naja nom masculin (hindi nagha) Autre nom du cobra. ● naja (homonymes) nom mascul …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • naja — naja, ir (salir) de naja expr. irse, marcharse, escaparse. ❙ « le levanta la barriga como si fuese a ir de naja...» A. Zamora Vicente, Mesa, sobremesa. ❙ «...o a esos señores que la han atropellado y han salido de naja, a ésos había que… …   Diccionario del Argot "El Sohez"

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  • Naja — prop. n. A genus of cobras. Syn: genus {Naja}. [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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