We've seen unpredictable and aggressive elephant behaviour play out many times before, but this footage of one of the supersized animals attacking and killing a young buffalo makes for particularly grim viewing.

Filmed in South Africa's Kruger National Park, the video shows the elephant charging as the buffalo struggles to get to its feet and hobble out of the path of danger. It appears the youngster had become separated from the rest of its herd and was possibly weakened by lack of water. The elephant easily knocks it to the ground before goring it repeatedly with its tusks.

Since being posted to YouTube by Latest Sightings last week, the clip has sparked plenty of questions and debate about the possible reasons for the elephant's behaviour.

The incident was captured at a waterhole where a large herd had gathered to drink, and the presence of young calves among the group would have put the adults on edge, but it's still exceptionally rare to witness an attack as ferocious as this one.

While it's unclear whether the animal in the video was male or female, one possible explanation is that the attacker was a bull elephant in "musth", a state of pumped-up aggressiveness that adult males enter come breeding season.

“[Musth] makes them more aggressive and unpredictable. It could have been irritated by the buffalo. The animal could also have experienced more stress because of the warmer weather and dryer conditions,” wildlife expert Dr Markus Hofmeyr tells local media outlet Lowvelder.

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Top header image: Brittany H., Flickr