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Five Headed Cobra Hoax Images


Circulating images supposedly depict a five-headed cobra found at Kukke Subrahmanya, a Hindu temple in the Indian state of Karnataka.

Brief Analysis

The images do not show a real five-headed snake. Four of the images are in fact photographs of normal, one-headed snakes that have been altered in an image manipulation program to appear that the snakes are five-headed. One of the images may show a toy or model that has been staged for the photograph.


Subject: Fw: a 5 x headed snake, a cobra too

A 5 headed snake found in Kukke Subramanya, Near Mangalore,Karnataka

Five headed cobra 1

Five headed cobra 2

Five headed cobra 3

Subject: A snake found near Kukke Subrahmanya with 5 heads.......

Rare Photo - A snake found near Kukke Subrahmanya with 5 heads.......

Five headed cobra 4

Five headed cobra 5

Detailed Analysis

Messages that are currently circulating via email, blogs, and social networking websites, claim that set of attached images depict a "rare" five-headed Cobra that was found at Kukke Subrahmanya, a Hindu temple located about 105 km from Mangalore in the state of Karnataka, in southern India. There are two main versions of the messages that contain a different set of five-headed snake images. Both versions claim that the snake was found at Kukke Subrahmanya. A third version, that features the same images shown in the first example above, relocates the "find" to the Tshilidzini Hospital,Venda.

However, none of the five-headed snake pictures are genuine. The three images contained in the first example shown above are in fact nothing more than digitally manipulated versions of a set of photographs that show a normal, one-headed cobra. The following photographs, which have been published on a number of websites, show the original source images used to create the fake five-headed snake images:

Source Cobra Image 1 Source Cobra Image 2 Source Cobra Image 3
Photo Credit: Tien Chiu

The original photographs were taken at a snake farm in Thailand in 2003 by blogger, Tien Chiu. I sent an email to Tien Chiu asking about the photographs and she responded that she indeed took the photographs but the snake was definitely not five-headed. It seems that someone has used Tien Chiu's photographs as the source images for the five-headed snake hoax without her permission or knowledge.

The first image shown in the second example above is also clearly manipulated from a photograph of a normal one-headed cobra. The following close-up screenshot of the image shows how the snake's head in the original photograph was replicated and joined together to create the five-headed manipulation:

Snake heads close up.

The second image in the second example above, may also be a manipulated photograph. However, the strange colouration and shape of the "snake" suggest that it may actually be a model or a toy that has been placed in the water for the photograph. Moreover, although the message suggests that the two images show the same, five-headed snake, it is very clear that the second image does not depict the same snake that is shown in the first image.

Thus, the supposed five-headed snake shown in these images represent nothing more than the fairly amateurish "photoshopping" work of some unknown prankster. The hoax photographs have circulated widely in India, perhaps accelerated by the fact that a five-headed snake god known as Nagaraja is part of that nation's cultural and religious heritage.

The occurrence of animals, including snakes, with more than one head is not uncommon. The condition is known as Polycephaly. However, while bicephalic (two-headed) or tricephalic (three headed) animals have been well-documented, there are no credible reports of animals with more than three heads. Animals with more than three heads abound in mythology, but do not exist in the real world.

Editor's Note:
Thank you to Tien Chiu for her response to my enquiry and for permission to republish her photographs in the above article.

Last updated: 16th March 2011
First published: 5th July 2010
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
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