Central Asian Cobra | Naja oxiana (Eichwald, 1831)

Naja oxiana, Central Asian Cobra, Cobra, Serpent, Venomous

 The Central Asian cobra (Naja oxiana), also called the Caspian cobra, Oxus cobra or Russian cobra is a venomous member of the snake family Elapidae distributed in Central Asia.

Central Asian cobra (Naja oxiana)
Image Source: Omid Mozaffari - http://calphotos.berkeley.edu1, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18350378

The species is of moderate to large in length and a heavy-bodied serpent with long cervical ribs which gives high capacity to form a hood. The body of the snake is observed compressed dorsoventrally while sub-cylindrical posteriorly. This species has an averages length of about 3.3 ft. (1 m) and may rarely reach over 4.9 ft. (1.5 m) in length. The skull is elliptically depressed and somewhat distinct from the neck, with a short rounded snout having large nostrils. The eyes are of medium size having round pupils. Dorsally it has smooth scales and is strongly oblique, with the outer 2 – 3 scale rows larger than the rest. 

Young ones tend to be pale having visible dark and light cross-bands of approximately equal width around the body while adults are entirely light to chocolate brown or yellowish, rarely some retain traces of juvenile banding, especially the first few dark ventral bands. There is no hood mark and lateral throat spots in this species. It is oviparous in nature.

The species is distributed in the Trans Caspian region; found Afghanistan, in Turkmenistan, North-Eastern Iran, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tadzhikistan, Northern Pakistan and North-West India (Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir). The species is frequently found in arid and semiarid, rocky, shrub or scrub covered foothills at elevation of about 3,000 m.asl.

It is the only cobra species which is found sympatrically with Indian spectacled cobra, N. naja. All other Asiatic cobras can be distinguished from Naja oxiana on the basis of its high ventral and or sub caudal scale counts. Besides specimens of the monocellate cobra (N. kaouthia) with remarkably high ventral and sub caudal scale counts may be distinguished from N. oxiana by the possession of a hood mark, a distinct throat pattern with lateral spots, and a higher number of dorsal scale rows at the level of the 10th ventral. 

Morphological Scalation:


Mostly one cuneate scale on each side; frontal longer than broader.


Males- 23-27 (at 10th ventral): 19-23 (at 20% of ventral): 21-25 (at 40% of ventral): 19-23 (at 60% of ventral): 15-17 (at 80% of ventral): 15-18 (at vent).

Females- 23-26 (at 10th ventral): 19-21 (at 20% of ventral): 21-23 (at 40% of ventral): 19-22 (at 60% of ventral): 15-17 (at 80% of ventral): 16-17 (at vent).


193-207 (Male), 191-210 (Female).

Sub Caudal:

63-71 (Male), 57-70 (Female); paired.


Average length-90 cm (3.3ft) - Maximum length 150 cm( 4.9ft)

Naja oxiana is an aggressive and bad-tempered serpent if provoked. Though they will try avoiding humans like all serpents as much as they can but once when they feel threatened or cornered they will become viciously aggressive. Even juveniles have a tendency to be very aggressive. Once cornered and provoked, it spread its hood; hiss loud; sway from one side to other and strike repetitively. It is mainly diurnal in nature but it may be crepuscular and nocturnal in some parts of its habitat range during the hottest months (July and August). Beside this species is a good climber, swimmer and often found in water and rarely found too far away from it. It preys on small mammals, amphibians, rodents, toads and frogs, occasionally fish, birds and their eggs.  It is a quick-moving and agile species lives mostly in holes in embankments or trees.

Naja oxiana
Image Source:http://knowledgebase.lookseek.com

It is documented that this species is the most venomous species of cobra in the world, slightly ahead of the Philippine cobra, based on a 1992 toxicological study stated in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology. A amount of small non-enzymatic proteins are found in its venom, containing neurotoxins and cytotoxins, which have been publicized to cause cell death through injury to lysosomes. In addition to this, the venom also contains nucleases, which can cause tissue damage at the site of the bite and may also potentiate systemic toxicity by releasing free purines in situ. 

The bite of this kind may show symptoms such as severe pain and swelling, weakness, drowsiness, ataxia, hypotension, along with severe neurotoxicity, paralysis of throat and limbs, and it may appear in less than one hour after the bite. Without proper medical treatment, signs rapidly exacerbate and death may occur soon after a bite due to respiratory failure. 

Literature Cited:

Adil, S., Shermeen, I., Hira, A., Rimsha, K., and Sehrish, A. 2020. Diversity of amphibians and reptiles in Daphar Forest Sanctuary, district Mandi Bahauddin, Pakistan. Journal of Wildlife and Ecology, 4(1):15-26

Ashraf, M. R., Asif, N., Eric, N. S., Maryam, J., Utpal. S., Tahir, Y., and Abu, S. H. 2019. Molecular phylogenetics of black cobra (Naja naja) in Pakistan. Electronic Journal of Biotechnologyget paper here

Faiz, A. H., Bagaturov, M. F., Hassan, M. U., Tariq, G., Malik, I. U., and Faiz, L. Z. 2018. Distribution of Reptiles in Tolipir National Park, Pakistan. Journal of Bioresource Management, 5 (2). - get paper here

Caspian-Cobra in animalia.bio retrieved on 06 January, 2021

Central Asian Cobra in indiansnakes.org retrieved on 06 January, 2021

Caspian_Cobra  in animals.fandom.com retrieved on 06 January, 2021

Naja oxiana in reptile-database.reptarium.cz retrieved on 06 January, 2021

Jamal, Q., Muhammad, I., Saif, U., Muhammad, A., Farrah, Z., Qaiser, Z., and Syed, B. R. 2018. Diversity and Altitudinal Distribution of Squamata in Two Distinct Ecological Zones of Dir, A Himalayan Sub-Zone of Northern Pakistan. Pakistan J. Zool., 50(5), pp 1835-1839 - get paper here

Joisten, F. 2013. Amphibien und Reptilien in Nord-Afghanistan. Reptilia (Münster) 18 (103): 86-93 - get paper here

Martin, T., Guillemin, M., Nivet-Mazerolles, V., Landsmann, C., Dubos, J., Eudeline, R., and Stroud, J. 2017. The herpetofauna of central Uzbekistan. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 11(1) [General Section]: 93–107 - get paper here

Rastegar-Pouyani, N., Haji, G. K., Mehdi, R., Soheila, S., and Steven, C. A. 2008. Annotated Checklist of Amphibians and Reptiles of Iran. Iranian Journal of Animal Biosystematics, 4 (1): 7-30

Sahi D.N., Koul S. 2020. Annotated List of Amphibians and Reptiles of Jammu and Kashmir State. In: Dar G. and Khuroo A. (eds) Biodiversity of the Himalaya: Jammu and Kashmir State. Topics in Biodiversity and Conservation, Vol .18. Springer, Singapore - get paper here

Schmidt, D. 2004. Zur Reproduktion von Schlangen im Terrarium: Aufgaben - Fakten - Probleme. Draco, 5 (17): 22-36 - get paper here

Smith, M.A. 1943. The Fauna of British India, Ceylon and Burma, Including the whole of the Indo-Chinese Sub-Region. Reptilia and Amphibia. III (Serpentes). Taylor and Francis, London.

Trutnau, L. 1996. Ein Beitrag zur Biologie, Pflege und Nachzucht der Mittelasiatischen Kobra Naja oxiana (Eichwald, 1831). Herpetofauna, 18 (100): 06-10 - get paper here

Wallach, V., Wüster, W., and Broadley, D.G. 2009. In praise of subgenera: taxonomic status of cobras of the genus Naja Laurenti (Serpentes: Elapidae). Zootaxa, 2236: 26–36 - get paper here

Whitaker, R., and  Captain, A. 2004. Snakes of India. Draco Books, 500 pp., reprinted 2007 - get paper here

Wüster, W., and Thorpe, R. S. 1991. Asiatic cobras: Systematics and snakebite. Experientia 47: 205-209 - get paper here

Wüster, W., and Thorpe, R. S. 1992. Asiatic cobras: population systematics of the Naja naja species complex (Serpentes: Elapidae) in India and Central Asia. Herpetologica 48: 69-85. - get paper here

Young, B. A. 2018. Male reproductive behaviour of Naja oxiana (Eichwald, 1831) in captivity, with a case of unilateral hemipenile prolapse. Herpetology Notes, 11: 1061-1064 - get paper here



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Herps Of Doda: Central Asian Cobra | Naja oxiana (Eichwald, 1831)
Central Asian Cobra | Naja oxiana (Eichwald, 1831)
Naja oxiana, Central Asian Cobra, Cobra, Serpent, Venomous
Herps Of Doda
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