poison snake fangs hood usually
COBRA (Naja tripudians), a poisonous Colubrine Snake, belonging to the family Elapidce, known also as the Hooded Snake, or Cobra di Capello. In this species the anterior ribs are elongated, and by raising and bringing forward these, the neck, which otherwise is not distinct from the head, can be expanded at will into a broad disc or hood, the markings on which bear a striking resemblance to a pair of barnacles, hence the name " Spectacle Snake " also applied to the cobra. It possesses two rows of palatine teeth in the upper jaw, while the maxillary bones bear the fangs, of which the anterior one only is in connection with the poison gland, the others in various stages of growth remaining loose in the surrounding flesh until the destruction of the poison fang brings the one immediately behind to the front, which then gets anchylosed to the maxillary bone, and into connection with the gland secreting the poison, which in the cobra is about the size of an almond. Behind the poison fangs there are usually one or two ordinary teeth. The cobra attains a length of nearly 6 feet and a girth of about 6 inches, and with the exception of the markings on the hood is of a uniform brown colour above and bluish-white beneath. There are, however, many distinct varieties, in some of which the spectacle markings on the hood are awanting. The cobra may be regarded as nocturnal in its habits, being most active by night, although not unfrequently found in motion during the day. It usually conceals itself under logs of wood, in the roofs of huts, and in holes in old walls and ruins, where it is often come upon inadvertently, inflicting a death wound before it has been observed. It feeds on small quadrupeds, frogs, lizards, insects, and the eggs of birds, in search of which it sometimes ascends trees. When seeking its prey it glides slowly along the ground, holding the anterior third of its body aloft, with its hood distended, on the alert for anything that may come in its way. " This attitude," says Sir J. Fayrer, " is very striking, and few objects are more calculated to inspire awe than a large cobra when, with his hood erect, hissing loudly, and his eyes glaring, he prepares to strike." It is said to drink large quantities of water, although, like reptiles iu general it will live for many months without food or drink. The cobra is oviparous ; and its eggs, which are from 18 to 25 in number, are of a pure white colour, somewhat resembling in size and appearance the eggs of the pigeon, but sometimes larger. These it leaves to be hatched by the heat of the sun. It is found in all parts of India from Ceylon to the Himalayas, where it occurs at a height of 8000 feet, and it is justly regarded as the most deadly of the Indian Thanatophidia. A large proportion of the deaths from snake bite, where the species inflicting the wound has been ascertained, is shown to be due to the cobra ; and it is estimated that fully one-half of the 20,000 deaths that annually occur iu India from this cause may be attributed to this unluckily common species. The bite of a vigorous cobra will often prove fatal in a few minutes, and as there is no known antidote to the poison, it is only in rare instances that such mechanical expedients as cauterizing, constriction, or amputation can be applied with sufficient promptitude to prevent the virus from entering the circulation. Of late years, owing to a small reward offered by the Indian Government for the head of each poisonous snake, great numbers of cobras have been destroyed ; but only low caste Hindus will engage in such work the cobra being regarded by the natives generally with superstitious reverence, as a divinity powerful to injure, and therefore to be propitiated; and thus oftentimes when found in their dwellings this snake is allowed to remain, and is fed and protected. " Should fear," says Sir J. Fayrer, " and perhaps the death of some inmate bitten by accident prove stronger than superstition, it may be caught; tenderly handled, and deported to some field, where it is released and allowed •to depart in peace, not killed" (Thanatophidia of India). Great numbers, especially of young cobras, are killed by the adjutant birds and by the mungoos - a small mammal which attacks it with impunity, apparently not from want of susceptibility to the poison, but by its dexterity in eluding the bite of the cobra. Mere scratching or tearing does not appear to be sufficient to bring the poison from the glands ; it is only when the fangs are firmly implanted by the jaws being pressed together that the virus enters the wound, and in those circumstances it has been shown by actual experiment that the mungoos, like all other warm-blooded animals, succumbs to the poison. In the case of reptiles, the cobra poison takes effect much more slowly, while it has been proved to have no effect whatever on other venomous serpents. The cobra is the snake usually exhibited by the Indian jugglers, who show great dexterity in handling it, even when not deprived of its fangs. Usually, however, the front fang at least is extracted, the creature being thus rendered harmless until the succeeding tooth takes its place, and in many cases all the fangs, with the germs behind, are removed - the cobra being thus rendered innocuous for life. The snake charmer usually plays a few simple notes on the flute, and the cobra, apparently delighted, rears half its length in the air and sways its bead and body about, keeping time to the music. The cobra, like almost all poisonous snakes, is by no means aggressive, and when it gets timely warning of the approach of man endeavours to get out of his way. It is only when trampled upon inadvertently, or otherwise irritated, that it attempts to use its fangs. It is a good swimmer, often crossing broad rivers, and probably even narrow arms of the sea, for it has been met with at sea at least a quarter of a mile from land.