In a rare encounter featuring two of Africa's most striking wild cats, a serval was caught on camera recently fending off a snarling onslaught from a much-larger cheetah.

Filmed by Mika Solomon and Gavin Newfield during a recent stay at Ivory Tree Lodge in South Africa's Pilanesberg Game Reserve, the serval appeared to be in the proverbial "wrong place at the wrong time" as it crouched beside the roadside trying to avoid drawing any attention from a group of approaching cheetahs. But one of the larger cats spotted the serval and moved in to inspect the foreign feline.

After much snarling and yowling, "the sighting ended when the serval took an opening to exit the battle for territory," Solomon and Newfield explained to Latest Sightings. "As the cheetah recognised the serval’s attempt, he shot towards the serval’s path, but, despite the rustling of leaves, nothing of those two was to be seen again.” Meanwhile the remaining three cheetahs set off after a wildebeest perhaps trying to capitalise on the commotion of the cat kerfuffle.

Although scientists are still unsure of the exact reasons that wild cats clash, it has been recorded in a number of species. The behaviour could be an attempt from the cheetah to see off any competition for food and resources. Pursuing an animal that can vigorously fight back, however, is a risky, energy-sapping tactic and this young cheetah was wise not to launch a fully-fledged attack.

Top header image: Ferdinand Svehla, Flickr