home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Naja nigricollis (Black-necked spitting cobra)

Swartkeelspoegkobra [Afrikaans]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Lepidosauromorpha > Lepidosauria > Squamata > Serpentes (snakes) > Family: Elapidae > Genus: Naja

Naja nigricollis woodi (Black spitting cobra), Western Cape. [photo M. Witberg ,from SARCA Virtual Museum]


This snake species is identified by its uniformly olive or grey brown body and a single broad black throat band. This snake is the second largest cobra in Africa and has an average length of 1.3 meters but can grow to a length of 2 meters.

Distribution and habitat

The distribution of the three subspecies recognised in southern Africa is as follows:

  • Naja nigricollis nigricollis (Black-necked spitting cobra) - Caprivi Strip, Namibia

  • Naja nigricollis nigrocincta (Western barred spitting cobra) - central and northern Namibia

  • Naja nigricollis woodi (Black spitting cobra) - southern Namibia, Namaqualand (Northern Cape) to Citrusdal (Western Cape)


Eats lizards, other snakes, amphibians, small fish, birds, bird eggs and rodents.

Predators, parasites and disease

Fed on by other snakes.


Oviparous (egg laying), usually laying between 10 and 15 eggs occasionally as many as 22.


Like other cobras they live for on average of about 20 years.

Medical importance

Has a powerful and potentially deadly cytotoxic venom which is capable of causing permanent blindness (this snake is able to spit its venom). There is no antivenom available for this species.



  • Broadley, D.G. 1983. FitzSimons' Snakes of Southern Africa. Delta Books, Johannesburg.

  • Marais, J. 2004. A Complete Guide to Snakes of Southern Africa. Struik Publishing, Cape Town.