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About the World's Most Intelligent Snake

| Updated September 26, 2017

While signs of intelligence can be found in many snake breeds, most herpetologists will name the King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) as the most intelligent of them all, because of its nesting and hunting methods,

The Facts

The King Cobra, a member of the Elapidae family, is the largest venomous snake in the world and has reached lengths of almost 18 feet. It lives for up to 20 years and in the wild will feed almost exclusively on other snakes.


The King Cobra prefers areas with bodies of water such as lakes and streams, and can often be found in highland forests. Its range includes India, China, Indonesia, the Malay Penninsula and the Philippines.


The King Cobra has smooth, dark scales that range from olive-green to black, with yellow bands going across the body. The underside is yellow or cream colored and will often have darker bands of color mirroring the yellow bands on the other side. The head is large, with fixed fangs in the front of the mouth that are obvious when it is open. The most telling physical feature of the King Cobra is the hood around its head, which consists of elongated cervical ribs in the neck that stretch out loose skin.

Risk Factors

Though the King Cobra is shy and reclusive, it is highly dangerous. Its venom is a neurotoxin that affects the central nervous system and can cause pain, drowsiness, paralysis and even coma. Death can follow unless one of two types of antivenin made specifically to treat King Cobra bites is administered.


The King Cobra is considered the most intelligent snake in the world because of several behaviors not seen in other snakes. One is its ability in captivity to recognize its handler from other people. Another is the ability of males in the wild to recognize the boundaries of their territory. They will defend this space to the death from all other male King Cobras. Female King Cobras will build a nest to lay their eggs in, scraping together leaves, twig, and other materials with their coils. They are the only snakes that build nests.