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What is a Red Spitting Cobra?

By S. Ashraf
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The red spitting cobra, scientifically named Naja pallida, is one of the smaller types of cobras. An adult red spitting cobra is a slender snake that usually ranges in length from 28-47 inches (70-120 cm), with the longest recorded size having been 60 inches (153 cm). The tail of this species of cobra is comparatively long and can be as much as 20 percent of the entire length of the cobra’s body. Despite their name, red spitting cobras actually come in a variety of body colors, including gray, yellow, orange, light brown, pinkish and several shades of red. Its most distinguishing physical characteristic is the wide dark band of color that encircles its throat.

Geographically, the red spitting cobra is found only in Africa. On the African continent, its range is limited to East Africa, from Tanzania north through Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and into the southern regions of the Nile valley in Egypt. The color of the red spitting cobra depends on its geographic origin. The red spitting cobra from northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, for example, is reddish-orange in color, and those from other locations might have a very different color, such as gray or yellow.

For habitat, red spitting cobras like to live in dry savannah areas, semi-deserts and grasslands. They might be encountered at elevations up to about 4,000 feet (1,200 m). This type of cobra is commonly found near oases in deserts where they hunt. As adults, red spitting cobras are active at night. During the day, they will hide underground, beneath brush piles or in old logs or termite hills.

Red spitting cobras are carnivorous and hunt a wide variety of prey, such as lizards, frogs, small mammals, as well as birds and eggs. These cobras will occasionally eat other snakes and are also cannibalistic. Scientists believe the reason juvenile red spitting cobras are primarily active in the day is to avoid being eaten by adults of the species that hunt mostly at night. The name of these snakes comes from their ability to spray venom accurately up to about 8 feet (2.4 m), either when hunting or threatened. Venom from the red spitting cobra paralyzes the swallowing and respiratory muscles of prey and might cause blindness if it enters the eyes.

Cobras of this species lay six to 15 eggs. The eggs are often laid in either rotting vegetation or a burrow. Young red spitting cobras are born live when the eggs hatch.

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Discussion Comments
By serenesurface — On Jul 13, 2014

My teacher talked about this type of cobra in class and she told us about an experiment done with them. Scientists did an experiment with red spitting cobra to see how accurate they are with their target.

Apparently, the red spitting cobra ejected the venom and hit the person's eyes every single try. Of course the person had protective clothing and goggles to protect himself. But I don't think I would have every accepted to be a part of that experiment!

By stoneMason — On Jul 12, 2014

@ZipLine-- Yea, thankfully, most of us will never encounter one!

The most interesting thing about this type of cobra is that it not only sprays far, but it intentionally sprays venom to the eyes. While the threat is busy rolling on the floor from the pain, the red spitting cobra disappears. The venom doesn't always cause blindness, but the chances are great.

The other interesting part about red spitting cobra is that it's probably the most beautiful cobra species with bright pink and orange colors.

By ZipLine — On Jul 12, 2014

A cobra snake that can spray venom eight feet far?! Wow, I certainly wouldn't want to come across a red spitting cobra. Cobra snakes are the most feared of all snakes and it sounds like red spitting cobra are the most dangerous of the lot.

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