Listen to this article
A 10ft python made headlines this week after emerging victorious from a fight with a crocodile before eating its rival whole in just 15 minutes. The incident, at Lake Moondarra in Queensland, Australia, was captured on camera by locals, one of whom said: “I don’t know where it went after that – we all left, thinking we didn’t want to stick around.” Here are five more animal duels.
1. Dog v Elephant
According to an early encyclopedia by the Roman author Pliny, in 336BC a large dog given to Alexander the Great by the King of Albania was ordered to fight an Indian elephant. At the sight of its 10,000lb opponent, the dog is reported to have released a bark that “sounds like thunder”. Circling the beast, biting it from all sides, the dog proved too quick for its opponent, who grew dizzy, eyes rolling upwards, before it collapsed to the floor.
2. Mongoose v Snake
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, a “valiant” mongoose adopted by an English family living in India, confronts two snakes in this tale from Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book (1894). In the final battle to protect his family, Rikki considers eating the cobra, as was the “custom of his family at dinner”. Upon remembering, however, that “a full meal makes a slow mongoose”, he leaves his prey where it lies.
3. Horse v Dog
In Animal Farm (1945), George Orwell’s fable about Stalinism, the faithful horse Boxer, said to represent loyal Soviet workers, is besieged by a pack of dogs symbolising the state’s secret police. Seeing them come, mad with the taste of blood, he puts out a “great hoof”, catching a dog in mid-air and pinning it to the ground before Napoleon, the farm’s porcine patriarch, orders him to let the dog go; it slinks away, “bruised and howling”.
4. Shark v Octopus
In Jack Perez’s 2009 film Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus, two prehistoric sea creatures are frozen, locked in battle, for 10m years. A team of scientists unwittingly releases them from the ice, whereupon they wreak havoc.
5. Kangaroo v Kangaroo
In the BBC’s Life of Mammals series, two kangaroos square up to each other for a bout of what presenter David Attenborough describes as “kangaroo boxing”, punching, shoving and kicking one another. Attenborough’s breathy voiceover informs us that kangaroos are “among the most sociable of all Australian marsupials”, though he concedes that “living in groups can lead to problems in getting on together”.
Get alerts on Life & Arts when a new story is published