Although its scientific name seems to be indicative of tree climbing, the black mamba is a terrestrial and diurnal snake. It is known to be capable of reaching speeds of around 20 km/h (12 mph), travelling with up to a third of its body raised off the ground.Over long distances, the black mamba can travel 11 to 19 km/h (6.8 to 12 mph), but it can reach a speed of 16 to 20 km/h (9.9 to 12 mph) in short bursts, and it has been recorded at speeds of 23 km/h (14 mph), making it the fastest land snake in the world. The black mamba is a territorial snake, having a favoured home usually in an abandoned termite mound, a hollow tree or log, or a rock crevice. It will actively defend its territory very aggressively. Although it is a shy and secretive snake in general (often seeking to escape when a confrontation occurs), when cornered, the black mamba can put up a fearsome display of defence and aggression.When cornered, it mimics a cobra by spreading a neck-flap; exposing its black mouth, it lifts up to a third of its body up off the ground, and hisses. If the attempt to scare away the attacker fails, it will strike repeatedly. Many snake experts have cited the black mamba as the world's most aggressive snake, noting tendency to actively attack without provocation. It can show an incredible amount of tenacity, fearlessness, and aggression when cornered, during breeding season, or when defending its territory. According to Swaziland-born snake handler and snake expert Thea Litschka-Koen:
"black mambas will kill a dog or several dogs if threatened and it happens quite often. We also find dead cows and horses! We were called by the frantic family late one evening. When we arrived minutes later, two small dogs had already died and two more were showing severe symptoms of envenomation. Within 15 minutes we had found and bagged the snake. By this time the other two dogs were also dead. The snake must have been moving through the garden when it was attacked by the dogs. It would have struck out defensively, biting all the dogs that came within reach. The snake was bitten in several places on its body as well and died about a week later."
Similarly, black mambas have been witnessed confronting, biting, and subsequently killing lions and other large predators, such as spotted hyenas and leopards, in defence of their territory, eggs, or when the predators stand between the snakes and their prey.