The rinkhals, also known as the ringhals or ring-necked spitting cobra, is a nocturnal, solitary species. It is highly venomous and is the only species in its genus.

Despite some similarities, rinkhals is not a true cobra because it belongs to a separate genus. In contrast, true cobras, such as the Indian and Egyptian cobras, belong to the Naja genus.

Scientific Classifications

  • Suborder:Serpentes
  • Family:Elapidae
  • Genus:Hemachatus
  • Species:H. haemachatus

Conservation Status

Not EvaluatedNE

Not Evaluated

Data DeficientDD

Data Deficient

Least ConcernLC

Least Concern

Near ThreatenedNT

Near Threatened





Critically EndangeredCR

Critically Endangered

Extinct in the wildEW

Extinct in the wild




Rinkhals Snake


These snakes can reach up to 35-47 inches (90-120 cm) and weigh about 15-20 lbs (7-9 kg).

Rinkhals Cobra

Color and Appearance

Their body coloration varies depending on where they live; it can be mostly black, orange, or yellow and may or may not have dark brown stripes. There are 1-2 light-colored crossbands on the snake’s throat, and all specimens possess characteristic dark bellies.

Are they Dangerous

Rinkhals Spitting Cobra

Rinkhals is considered an extremely venomous snake with venom having an LD50 value of 1.1 – 1.6 mg/kg and a yield of 100 mg per bite. The side effects of their venom may include abdominal pain, drowsiness, bruising, pain and swelling in the bitten area, nausea, vertigo, and vomiting.

Rinkhals Snake Playing Dead

However, they are timid and would instead run away and hide than attack; sometimes, these snakes may pretend to be dead by staying still and turning on their backs with mouths open to ward off threats. But they occasionally rise up, spread their hoods, and even spit venom reaching up to nine feet; this behavior occurs when the danger feels too great. If the venom is spat in the human eye, it can cause a burning sensation, blurry vision, and even blindness; it can also destroy the cornea of humans and animals.

The fatality rate of this snake bite is very rare. The last recorded death caused by Rinkhals’ bite was about 40 years ago.

Rinkhals At a Glance


Native to South Africa, their distribution ranges across Eastern and Western Cape provinces, the Free State, Kwazulu Natal, Lesotho, Mpumalanga, Transkei, Western Swaziland, and parts of Gauteng.

A small population also inhabits Inyanga on the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border.

Rinkhals Snake Image


Rinkhals prefer grasslands, marshy fields, shrublands, and swamps.


They live up to 20-25 years in the wild.

Hemachatus haemachatus


While the exact predators of this snake remain unknown, it can be assumed that they fall prey to the same threats other elapids face.


Frogs, toads, and rodents are the primary food source of these snakes; however, they also consume small birds and their eggs, lizards, and other snakes.

Juveniles feed mostly on toad eggs and lizards.


Juvenile Rinkhals

The breeding season starts in June and lasts through August. Being ovoviviparous, a female gives live birth to 20-35 individuals after 5-6 months of gestation.

Newborns are precocial, measure approximately 16-17 cm, and are independent from birth. Juveniles reach their sexual maturity at 2-4 years old.

Similar Species

Cape Cobra

The Cape cobra is a venomous species native to south Saharan Africa.

Puff Adder

The puff adder is a viper species endemic to Africa and Asia.


The boomslang is a snake from the Colubridae family; it is highly venomous and is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa.


Q: What is the difference between Rinkhals and a true cobra?

Ans:  Rinkhals and true cobras have different scale textures; while the former has ridged scales, the latter scales are smooth. There is also a difference in reproduction, the cobras lay eggs, and rinkhals gives live birth.

Q: What is the difference between Rinkhals and Mozambique Spitting Cobra?

Ans: The rinkhals is mainly black to grey with yellow or orange bands, while the Mozambique spitting cobra has a dark to light brown, shiny body, with a black coloration between the scales and an orange-ish pink to yellowish belly with a dark band on it. They also have dark blotches on their throats.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *