The Egyptian cobra is one of the most deadly snakes in Africa. Its venom is more toxic than most other familiar cobras, such as the Indian cobra, famed for its use in snake charming, and even the king cobra, the world’s largest venomous snake. The Egyptian cobra's venom first causes paralysis and soon after death, as the heart and other chest muscles give out. Humans bitten by an Egyptian cobra will die unless an antivenin drug is administered within an hour or two. The death is reputed to be painless. Legend has it that Queen Cleopatra, the Ptolomeic ruler of Egypt during Roman times, chose to use a bite from an Egyptian cobra to commit suicide after hearing of her lover Mark Antony's death.
The Egyptian cobra is the largest cobra in Africa. It is also known as the brown cobra. Like other cobras, this species has a hooded neck; the hood is opened when the snake rears up into a threat posture. The beily below the hood has dark bands before changing to pale brown.
Egyptian cobras live in any habitat where there is a good supply of food. They sometimes live among humans, attracted by the rodents that also live in human settlements. In the wild young snakes eat toads and birds' eggs, while older individuals eat small mammals. The largest Egyptian cobras eat other snakes. They seem to be particularly fond of puff adders.
The eggs are laid in a termite mound to protect them from predators. The eggs are also kept warm by the heat produced by the insects' nest, and after 60 days of incubation the young hatch.
Distribution: Northern and eastern Africa and most of the Middle East as far north as Syria.
Habitat: Grasslands, woodlands and deserts.
Food: Mammals, eggs and other snakes.
Size: 1.3 - 2.5 m (4.25 - 8.25 ft).
Maturity: 3 years.
Breeding: Up to 20 eggs laid in termite mounds. The eggs hatch after 60 days, and the young are already venomous but have smaller hoods than the adults.
Life span: 25 years.