Cobra Di Capello, Hooded Snake

Letter T.

There are several varieties of this venomous serpent, differing in point of colour; and the aspic of Egypt, with which Cleopatra destroyed herself, is said to be a very near ally to this species; but the true cobra is entirely confined to India.

The danger which accompanies the bite of this reptile, its activity when excited, the singularity of its form, and the gracefulness of its action, combine to render it one of the most remarkable animals of the class to which it belongs. When in its ordinary state of repose the neck is of the same diameter as the head; but when surprised or irritated, the skin expands laterally in a hood-like form, which is well known to the inhabitants of India as the symptom of approaching danger. Notwithstanding the fatal effects of the bite of these serpents, the Indian jugglers are not deterred from capturing and taming them for exhibition, which they do with singular adroitness, and with fearful interest to the unpractised observer. They carry the reptiles from house to house in a small round basket, from which they issue at the sound of a sort of flute, and execute certain movements in cadence with the music.

The animal from which our Engraving was taken is now in the menagerie of the Zoological Society in the Regent's Park, and is probably one of the finest which has ever reached England alive.

The Indian mangouste is described to be the most deadly enemy of the cobra di capello, and the battles between them have been frequently described. The serpent, when aware of the approach of the mangouste, rises on its tail, and with neck dilated, its head advanced, and eyes staring, awaits with every look of rage and fear the attack of its foe. The mangouste steals nearer and nearer, and creeping round, endeavours to get an opportunity of springing on the serpent's back; and whenever it misses its purpose and receives a bite, it runs perhaps some distance, to eat the mangouste-grass, which is an antidote against the poison: it then returns to the attack, in which it is commonly victorious.

The bite of the cobra di capello is not so immediately fatal as is commonly supposed; fowls have been known to live two days after being bitten, though they frequently die within half an hour. The snake never bites while its hood is closed, and as long as this is not erected the animal may be approached, and even handled with impunity; even when the hood is spread, while the creature continues silent, there is no danger. The fearful hiss is at once the signal of aggression and of peril. Though the cobra is so deadly when under excitement, it is, nevertheless, astonish ing to see how readily it is appeased, even in the highest state of exasperation, and this merely by the droning music with which its exhibitors seem to charm it.

Cobra di Capello.

The natives of India have a superstitious feeling with regard to this snake; they conceive that it belongs to another world, and when it appears in this, it is only as a visitor. In consequence of this notion they always avoid killing it, if possible.