Snow leopards, or "ghosts of the mountains" as they are known in some parts of the world, have earned an almost mythical status for their stealthiness and camouflage skills. The big cats are so perfectly adapted to their harsh mountainous habitat that even spotting them against a rocky backdrop can be near impossible.

However, dramatic footage that recently surfaced from India’s Himalayas reveals that even these most elusive cats occasionally show themselves (and sometimes even put on a spectacular hunting display).

The short clip, recently shared by WildFilmsIndia shows a snow leopard hurtling across a snow-covered cliffside tailing what appears to be a wild Himalayan sheep or “bharal”. The cat catches up to its prey just as it reaches the apex of a precipice and the tussling animals have nowhere to go but down.

A twisting ball of predator and prey plummets some 300 feet crashing against rocks and snow before eventually coming to rest on the mountainside. Remarkably, the snow leopard survives the ordeal and, despite the colossal fall, still appears focused on securing its prey. The bharal, however, is motionless.

This is not the first time that we’ve seen a snow leopard taking a tumble and its possible that the animals are somewhat accustomed to the occasional plummet. "To our knowledge there are no recorded statistics about frequency of falls," the Snow Leopard Trust told us about a similar incident. "However, logic would say that they probably do fall from time to time, given the ruggedness of the environment."

Short front limbs and longer hind ones allow snow leopards to bound up to ten metres (30ft) in a single leap. And that long tail makes them master balancers, even at top speeds and over rough terrain. Hunting is a challenging task though: prey can be sparse, and bolting across the high-altitude landscape they call home can be daunting (it’s one of the reasons these cats sleep for up to eighteen hours a day; their energy needs are huge).

“Each hunt is a rollercoaster ride of steep cliffs, precipitous falls and desperate lunges. Each failed hunt costs precious energy the cat can ill afford to waste,” the Snow Leopard Trust wrote on their website earlier this year.

Dramatic hunts like this one may be the norm then for a cat that clings to survival in one of the most remote habitats on the planet.

Top header image: Mark Dumont/Flickr