PREVALENCE: Not common
ACTIVE PERIOD: Active during the night and day
KEY ID FEATURES: Very large, hooded when disturbed, faint but distinctive vertical banding running the length of the body
BEHAVIOR: Fast, defensive and willing to bite, will rush forward quickly and attack, cobras should be avoided when encountered
SIZE: Very Large - 4m+
OTHER: Can be mistaken with rat snakes when not hooded
QUICK ASSESSMENT 0-10
IMPORTANT: Many snakes have significant variance in coloration and pattern even within the same species. There can also be extreme differences in appearance from juveniles to adults so it is important to never assume you have properly identified a snake.
Additional Photo Contributions: Dr. Richard Whitbread
Ranging in color though generally black/brown/tan in color with distinct banding, often taking on a goldish hue. Very large, King Cobras can grow to lengths of up to 6 meters. When not displaying its hood the King Cobra can easily be mistaken for a rat snake at a quick glance. Juveniles are very different from mature specimens displaying very sharp contrasting black and yellow bands. Both mature and juvenile King Cobras will display their hood and rise up when defensive. The hood of the King Cobra is more narrow than that of the Chinese cobra. Adults also show very large head scales outlined in black..
Active mostly during the day, the King Cobra is a less common venomous snake in Hong Kong. As with many cobras if the King Cobra thinks it can get away it will most likely flee, but if it feels cornered or that you could easily give chase it will hood up, rise off the ground and stare you down while hissing and intermittently striking at the air as a warning. Generally it will not attack if you are far enough away and standing your ground but all cobras are capable of rushing forward to intimidate and possibly strike which can cause people to panic and fall down leaving them vulnerable to a bite. Due to the King Cobras size this can actually be quite dangerous as a fully grown adult can rise off the ground and be nearly eye level with an adult human. They are also remarkably fast and very willing to strike. King Cobras as with all cobras have short fixed fangs at the front of their mouth that are highly efficient at delivering venom and any bite should be treated as an envenomation and immediately treated. King Cobras in specific are known as one of the worlds most dangerous snakes not only due to their defensive behavior but also the amount of venom they can deliver in a single bite. Some cobras are also capable of spitting venom and while not normally a behavior associated with King Cobras you should never get close to one on the off chance this occurs.
JUVENILE KING COBRA EATS INDO CHINESE RAT SNAKE - SHORT VERSION
KING COBRA IN DEFENSIVE POSTURE
King Cobras are found all over Hong Kong including Hong Kong Island but in small numbers. They eat rodents, lizards as well other snakes and as such can be found from forested areas to areas around lakes and rivers as well as water culverts and jogging trails.
NO SNAKE SHOULD EVER BE HANDLED BY ANYONE BUT EXPERTS: King Cobras as with Chinese Cobras can be easily confused with Common Rat Snakes for the less experienced observer. There is no great differentiator between the King and the Common Rat Snake other than the Kings size at maturity, juvenile banding and its hooded posture when defensive. No Cobra should ever be approached, and rat snakes should be observed from a distance to avoid accidents due to misidentification. Visit the 'Practical Venomous Snake ID' section of the Snake ID page for tips on identifying some of the more common venomous species.