Top Ten animal intrusions in sport

ESPN staff
September 20, 2013
The Anfield Cat was a Twitter sensation © Getty Images

Former Zimbabwe all-rounder Guy Whittall perhaps would not have enjoyed such a deep sleep this week if he knew a 2.4 metre crocodile was camping under his bed. It is not the first time sports stars have come into close contact with strange creatures - here is our top 10 animal intrusions in sport.

10. Celtic's fox in the box

During the 1994-95 season, Celtic took up temporary residence at Hampden Park when Celtic Park was under renovation. While playing out a 'home' game against Motherwell, a sly fox made its way onto the pitch - no big deal, these things happen in football. However, during an Old Firm derby at the refurbished Celtic Park a few years later, a slightly older but familiar looking fox burst onto the field prompting the referee to delay a corner. Eventually it was chased off, leaving fans debating whether it was the same creature. They say you should never go back, but Celtic must have great bins.

9. The Arsenal squirrel

Arsenal managed to get in an extra body in their Champions League semi-final first leg against Villarreal in 2006 as something nutty occurred in north London. Marauding across the pitch and putting an outstanding performance in at left-back was a stray squirrel, presumably signed last minute to assist an out-of-position Mathieu Flamini. Arsenal won 1-0 and on the verge of the final, leaving fans with a mouth-watering trip to Paris and a cracking joke about a squirrel with significantly more Champions League experience than Tottenham.

8. Got 'im! Rudolph accidentally kills a pigeon

If you're an animal rights activist who possesses a deep enthusiasm for ancient cricket rivalries, please look away now. Any match between Yorkshire and Lancashire will provide plenty of talking points, but none quite as bizarre as this. During a Twenty20 match at Headingley in 2009, Yorkshire midfielder Jacques Rudolph routinely prevented a four before throwing the ball back towards his wicket keeper - only for it not to return. Bemused fans soon clocked the ball had directly hit a passing pigeon, unfortunately killing it in the process. Showing no signs of squeamishness, Rudolph picked up its lifeless body and placed it behind the boundary - waving a remorseful hand up to the crowd to say sorry. The Yorkshire field could not maintain their accuracy as neighbours Lancashire cruised to a five-wicket win.

7. An unwelcome birdie at the 17th

Most golfers (professional or amateur) must dream about making birdie at the iconic 'Island Green' 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. However, during the 1998 Player's Championship, it was a different kind of birdie which proved troublesome for Steve Lowery. After hitting his tee shot onto the green, Lowery could only watch as a lone seagull landed and began pecking at his ball. Happy with its haul, the greedy gull managed to get Lowery's ball in between its beak - only to drop it in the drink as it flew off. If only Jacques Rudolph teed up next…Thankfully for Lowery, he was allowed to replace his ball on the green with no penalty (Rule 18-1, for those who are interested).

6. The Anfield Cat

Top Cat, Bagpuss, Garfield, Cat Deeley, Kat from Eastenders - move over, you've got company. That group of famous cats was joined by the one who stopped Liverpool and Tottenham at Anfield last year. Causing the match to stop for over a minute, the 'Anfield Cat' even had time to pose on the pitch for photographs before slowly cat-walking its way to the touchline, leaving Kenny Dalglish wondering why the game had actually come to a halt. @AnfieldCat is still tweeting happily to his 60,000 followers, though is yet to be verified with a blue tick.

5. Cricket's snake in the grass

With England not getting any joy from their opening warm-up match in Sri Lanka in 2007, deadly snakes were discovered before lunch in one corner of the ground which kept many occupied and amused. Stuart Broad, who admitted snakes are his biggest phobia, happened to be policing the boundary around five yards away. We're sure if he knew this was the case, he would have asked to join the guys in the slips.

4. Paul the Octopus

Paul uses his mystical powers to decide the 2010 World Cup final - Netherlands needn't have bothered showing up for the game © Getty Images

Who has the greatest influence on the outcome of a football match - the players, the manager or a psychic octopus? Paul the Octopus attracted worldwide fame between Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup by correctly predicting the outcome of 11 out of 13 matches across both tournaments - a staggering 85% success rate. Paul chose the winner simply by eating whatever he fancied out of a glass box emblazoned with the nation's flag, prompting a frenzy of betting across Germany. His choices didn't always go down well, though - after rightly calling Germany to beat Argentina in the 2010 World Cup quarter-final, Argentina chief Nicolas Bedorrou posted an octopus recipe on Facebook. It got worse when Paul predicted a Spain win over the hosts in the semi-final; many of his fellow countrymen called for him to be eaten. Paul died in October 2010 with possibly the greatest Football Manager stats of all time.

3. Ants stop play

Usually a delay to a cricket match involving England occurs due to bad weather. However, during the 2009 ICC Champions Trophy in Australia it was something else falling from the sky which had umpires Billy Bowden and Aleem Dar waving the players back towards the dressing room. Australia's openers were about to begin their run-chase during the highly anticipated semi-final between the two old foes when a mini-plague of flying ants descended on the Centurion pitch. The delay lasted 12 minutes, but did not prevent a ridiculously one-sided Australian win as they cruised to a nine-wicket victory, leaving England wishing the ants had stayed around a little longer.

2. Peloton left barking mad at dog

Last year's Tour de France is remembered fondly by Sir Bradley Wiggins and his fans, but less fondly by Philippe Gilbert and the owners of a large dog. The pet dashed out into the middle of the race and caused chaos in the peloton, bringing Gilbert crashing down in an accident that injured the Belgian's shoulder. He picked himself up and turned on the family who owned the dog, who probably told him "don't worry, it won't hurt you..."

1. Groundhog day for Davidson

There is probably no crueller animal intervention in sport than what happened to Anthony Davidson during the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix. He struck a groundhog at close to 200mph down the long back straight in his Super Aguri and had to replace his front wing, and ultimately finished the race in 11th spot, missing out on his first career points in Formula One. So startling was the turn of events that Davidson's pit crew had no idea he was on his way in to see them, and his moment of glory had passed. Instead, it was his team-mate Takuma Sato who grabbed points with an excellent sixth-placed finish, which included a fine overtake on then-world champion Fernando Alonso. For Davidson's sake, we won't mention what happened to the groundhog.

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