updated 7/19/2008 9:52:31 AM ET 2008-07-19T13:52:31

An elderly woman was attacked by a large kangaroo on a farm in Australia and was lucky to be alive after a pet dog leapt to her aid, her son said Saturday.

The 6-ft., 5-in. kangaroo lunged without warning Friday at 65-year-old Rosemary Neal as she went to check on some horses on the property near Mudgee, 160 miles northwest of Sydney, son Darren Neal said.

"The kangaroo just jumped up and launched straight at her," he said. "He hit her once and she just dropped and rolled. My dog heard her screaming and bolted down and chased him off.

"If it wasn't for the dog, she'd probably be dead."

Rosemary Neal was hospitalized with a concussion and deep cuts to her face, hands and back, he said.

Kangaroos are widespread across Australia and there are dozens of species ranging from tiny, 17-ounce potoroos to Red Kangaroos, the world's largest marsupial that can grow past 6 feet tall and weigh more than 200 pounds.

Most species are not considered aggressive toward humans, and attacks are extremely rare. But males fight each other for mates, rearing up on their tails to scratch at the soft flesh of the bellies of their rivals with the powerful legs they more commonly use for their trademark leaps.

Darren Neal said mobs of kangaroos had become common on their farm, and his mother thought nothing of walking through them. Usually, they just jumped away.

"You can't drive down the street without swerving to miss them," Neal said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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