Cobras are venomous snakes of family Elapidae, and part of several genera. They generally inhabit tropical and desert regions of Asia and Africa. These snakes kill their prey, usually small rodents and birds, by injecting a neurotoxin through their hollow fangs. The King Cobra notably eats other snakes; it feeds almost entirely on other snakes, even venomous ones (ophiophagy). The spitting cobra can also incapacitate larger would-be predators by delivering irritating venom to their eyes. Cobras come in varying colors from black or dark brown to yellowish white. The (jet) black cobra found in North India is considered a sub-species of cobra.
The cobra’s most recognizable feature is its hood, a flap of skin and muscle behind the head which it can flare, perhaps for the purpose of making it appear bigger and more threatening to predators. The hoods of some species carry markings which may also serve to confuse enemies. The cobra’s predators include the mongoose and possibly some raptors.
The word “cobra” came from Spanish or Italian and is short for “cobra capello” = “snake with a hat” or similar (referring to the hood); it probably came from Latin coluber = “snake”.
The cobra is important in Hindu symbolism.