The animals of Kruger National Park in South Africa are no spring chickens when it comes to harrowing moments of mother-to-cub rescues. But this one might just be one of the most incredible ones ever recorded.

When a hungry male lion was wandering in search of prey, he caught the smell of young leopard cubs. What he didn’t expect was for their mom to show up.

Male lions are mighty beasts, and are not likely to be dissuaded easily – especially when they’re hungry.

Since leopards are much smaller than lions, they’ll never go head to head with the king of the jungle.

It’s rare enough to catch two big cats interacting at all, but for a leopard to stand its ground is unheard of.

Yet, that’s exactly what this brave mother did.

She jumped down and challenged the lion…

… giving her cubs time to run and hide.

The lion was determined. But this mama was even more so.

Eventually, the huge lion actually turned back from the standoff, defeated.

He clearly was not expecting a fight.

Under normal circumstances, leopards would do just about anything to avoid lions.

And we do mean…

Absolutely anything.

But when it comes to a head-on confrontation…

Leopards rarely come out on top.

These photos were taken in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Against a pride of nine lions, this solitary leopard didn’t stand a chance. 

This is how it usually ends.

The much bigger cat wins.

And that’s exactly what makes what our leopard mother did so amazing.

Leopard cubs are usually tied to their mom’s side for about a year and half, as they learn to hunt and defend themselves. We’d say these cubs are learning from the best!