In a classic conflict from Down Under, an Australian man was forced to intervene when an aggressive kangaroo threatened to drown his dog in a river Saturday.
Mick Moloney was walking his dogs along their normal route near his home in Mildura, Victoria, on Oct. 14 when he noticed one of his dogs was missing. They were walking along the Murray River at the time, which forms the northern border of the town. As Moloney looked around on the bank for Hatchi, the dog suddenly emerged “gargling” and “getting drowned by this monster,” according to a Facebook post written by Moloney. A tall kangaroo with rippling muscles stood in hip-height water in the river and held Hatchi around the neck, threatening to drown the dog.
Moloney immediately took action and waded into the river, yelling at the kangaroo to let his dog go.
“I’m gonna punch your fucking head in,” Moloney says to the kangaroo. “Let go of my dog.”
Moloney swings at the kangaroo, and while it’s hard to tell if he lands the punch in video, it’s clear the kangaroo reacts, lunging at Moloney and sending the man and his phone into the water.
The kangaroo’s reaction caused it to release the dog, who swims to shore. When Moloney resurfaces with his phone, the camera continues to record the kangaroo, whose expression and flexing stance hadn’t changed throughout the encounter. Moloney, laughing in disbelief, rejoins Hatchi, on shore.
“I got a few (scratches),” Moloney told Sunrise. “My forearm was killing me for most of the day. It was a bit of a punch on.”
Kangaroos are herbivores and don’t predate on any other animals for meat. It’s possible, however, that when they stand in the water, they might be trying to lure their own predators in so they can drown them, University of Melbourne kangaroo ecologist Graeme Coulson told ABC News.
“There’s a very strong instinct—kangaroos will go to water if they’re threatened by a predator,” Coulson says. “In the case of a big male [kangaroo], they can definitely drown dogs. If the dog swims out to them, they’ve got strong arms and big claws and they can drown [the dog].”
But this behavior is more likely a defense mechanism than an active attempt at killing predators, Coulson explains. And it’s not unique to kangaroos, either. Other herbivores around the world use a similar tactic.
“I’ve seen wild dogs chase impala into dams. I’ve seen buffalo waiting in water surrounding by hyenas. But they tend to just wait [in the water] until the animal gets bored. I don’t think it’s about trying to drown them,” he says.
Coulson even recalls a neighbor losing two terriers in situations identical to Moloney’s.
“It was a bull terrier that went in and it was drowned. Then he got another dog, another bull terrier, and it died the same way,” Coulson said. “So he got a third dog, and he kept it locked up.”
Moloney’s social media followers commented on the video with condolences and well wishes for Hatchi.
“Poor Hatchi hope he is ok,” one commenter wrote. “Hope you gave that roo an ass whooping.”
“I tried,” Moloney wrote back. “We’re calling it a draw.”