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Mongoose and king cobra—legendary enemies—square off in their classic and rarely photographed encounter near Mysore, India. Here the mongoose, master of the quick dart, dances and feints to make the cobra strike—and miss. Then the little snake-hater himself will strike. Photographs on the following pages show what happened

Unafraid, the mongoose brings the fight to the snake; always with the purpose of getting a firm toothhold on the head, for a bitten king cobra lashes about so violently it often dislodges its adversary. As the snake maneuvers to strike without getting too far off balance, it finds the mongoose poised and ready to execute a seemingly impossible escape or counterattack (right)

Death is certain for the cobra now as its stalker holds fast. If anyone knew the mind of this animal it was Kipling, whose famous mongoose Rikki-tikki-tavi said, "It must be the head...the head above the hood, and when I am once there, I must not let go"