A 5-year-old boy grabbed a rabid fox by the neck and pinned it to the ground during a family cookout, protecting six other children before his stepfather could kill the animal.

"I wanted to protect my little brother," said Rayshun McDowell, who battled the fox in the front yard of his home Sunday in Kingstown, a town about 50 miles west of Charlotte.

The fox bit Rayshun in the leg, but the 61-pound boy held the animal down for more than a minute. Animal control officials said Tuesday that test results confirmed the fox had rabies, which is fatal unless treated before symptoms appear. Rayshun is undergoing treatment.

"I looked out the window and Rayshun had the fox by the neck and was pushing it into the ground," said his mother, Shinda Linder. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing."

Rayshun's stepfather, Ryan Thompson, pulled the boy off the animal and kicked it. A neighbor fired a handgun three times but the fox continued to advance.

Thompson, wearing a cast because of a broken leg, said he used a stick and his crutch to beat the fox to death.

Rayshun, meanwhile, asked only for a Band-Aid and didn't complain of any pain.

"Rayshun was really calm and wasn't upset," his mother said. "I couldn't believe he would do something like that. He was so brave, and I was a wreck."

Rabies is transmitted through saliva and attacks the nervous system. It often makes animals aggressive. A 6-year-old girl who was attacked by a fox the same day at her home nearby also is being treated.