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Snake Identification Cape Cobra / Mole Snake / Boomslang

NEVER try to identify a snake primarily by it’s colour. There can be MAJOR colour variations within the same species of snake some of which can be very similar to other species.

Cape Cobra or Mole Snake?

Colour and size wise a cape cobra, mole snake and boomslang can be very similar.


Cape cobras are  usually very nervous and lively and when threatened will rear up and spread it’s hood.

The Head.

The shape and size of the head is the best way to distinguish between the two species.
The cobra have broad triangular head which is usually wider then the body when it’s hood is not spread, with a round temporal area where it’s venom glands are located.
The mode snake who spend much of its life underground have a smaller elongated head and a pointed snout. The mole snakes eyes is also further back from it’s nostrils when compared with the cobra’s.

Scales and appearance

Both the mole snake and the cape copra have smooth scales giving it a shiny look, compared to the boom slang which have rough scales giving it a dull appearance.

Scroll down for videos on how to identity and Cape Cobra, Mole Snake & Puff Adder.

Boomslang (Dispholidus typus)

Highly venomous.
Do not try to identify a boomslang by its colour, which can vary from green, olive, brown, yellow, grey to red.


Non aggressive and fairly docile.  When threatened the snake may inflate its neck.


The boomslang has a relatively small head with large round eyes and round pupils.  The head has a very characteristic shape and is distinct from the rest of the body.  The canthus rostralis* is also distinct.

Scales and Appearance

The dorsal scales are very narrow, oblique, strongly keeled (rough), with apical pits, arranged in 19 or 21 rows. The tail is long, and the subcaudals are paired. The keeled scales gives it a dull look in contrasts with the the shiny appearance of the mole snake and cape cobra.



*The canthus, canthal ridge or canthus rostralis
In snakes and amphibians, the canthus, canthal ridge or canthus rostralis, is the angle between the flat crown of the head and the side of the head between the eye and the snout. More specifically, between the supraocular scale and the rostral scale.

Credits and sources

Cape Snake Conservation

Aeon Computer Kimberley

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