The Rundown

10 instances of When Animals Invade Sports!

The Rundown

View gallery


The very first Venky's Chicken appearance - when can we expect Part III?

They say every good idea attracts ideas for a sequel. And it appears the world of sporting lunacy is no exception, as seen at Ewood Park on Sunday when Venky's Chicken 2 made a glorious debut in 'El Lanclassico' between Blackburn and Burnley.

The return of such a 'classic' animal-based sporting interlude compelled us to dig up another nine, for a top 10 list which could have the RSPCA watching future sporting events in nervous anticipation of the worst.

We'll start right at the top with the weekend's poultry-in-motion...

1. The Venky’s Chicken

Ewood Park, May 2012 and March 2013

Blackburn’s relegation from the Premier League last season was sealed by a 1-0 home defeat to fellow strugglers Wigan Athletic. That fateful night also marked the debut of the Venky’s chicken: mascot of disdainful protest.

Frustrated Rovers supporters, who had been campaigning all season for their Indian owners to leave their club alone, smuggled a chicken draped in a small Blackburn club flag onto the pitch early in the doom-securing contest.

And with Blackburn languishing in the Championship and seeing their FA Cup run ended by Millwall, the fans pulled off a follow-up as David Dunn spared blushes with a late goal for a 1-1 draw with fierce rivals Burnley at Ewood:

2. The Twickenham Fox

England v Scotland, March 2011

View gallery


This Calcutta Cup clash at the 2011 Six Nations may have been low on thrills, but the pre-match entertainment was unforgettable as a picture-book-cute fox wandered all over Twickenham, enthralling the crowd and TV viewers alike through the mere act of padding around on the hallowed turf.

Perhaps the unticketed visitor even gave the home side a bit of inspiration: just as foxes are the ultimate urban survivors, so England became Grand Slam survivors as they somehow eked out a win over a pluckier, gutsier Scotland side.

3. The Sawgrass Seagull

Players Championship, 1998

American journeyman golfer Steve Lowery was initially pretty pleased with himself when playing the infamous 17th hole on the TPC Stadium course: he hit a beautiful shot that was right into the heart of the island green on the tricky par-3.

But a passing seagull had other ideas: it picked up Lowery's ball, rolled it across the green with its beak, then picked it up, flew away, and dropped it in the lake.

Luckily for Lowery, the rules of golf legislated for such avian villainy: since the ball had stopped before he picked it up, he was allowed to replace the ball on the green.

4. The Visakhapatnam Bees

View gallery


Cricketers hit the deck as bees swarm the stadium (photo:K.R. Deepak)

The ACA-VDCA Stadium in Visakhapatnam, India, is one of international cricket's newest venues, having been built in 2003.

There's just one problem with it: there are roughly a dozen bee colonies on the stadium premises. Some are in trees on the site, while others are in the rafters of the stand - but all are very much alive and each honeycomb is teeming with flying beasts.

When they decide to come out and play, the players and match officials have no option but to lie flat on the ground until the swarm passes, while spectators can end up running around the stands trying to avoid getting stung.

The first ever one-day international at the ground, between India and Pakistan in 2005, was affected by a swarm, and at one recent match the TV commentators were hemmed into their glass box as the bees surrounded the press cubicle.

Indian newspaper The Hindu reported last month that the prohibitive cost of removing the honeycombs - a highly specialised job - has so far prevented stadium owners from having the bees moved on.

5. The Highbury Squirrel

Arsenal v Villarreal, April 2006

View gallery


The highlight of Arsenal's final European match at Highbury was not Kolo Toure's 41st-minute goal which eventually put the Gunners into their first Champions League final.

It was the grey squirrel which ran on to the pitch a couple of minutes into the game.

6. The Cricket-hating Camels

Tasmania, 1984

A cricket match between Tasmanian arch-rivals Launceston and Old Suttonians was interrupted in the most bizarre circumstances imaginable back in 1984: a caravan of camels charged onto the cricket square.

The match had to be halted to allow the rounding-up of the animals, who had escaped from a nearby circus - but the peace didn't last long. The camels broke back into the match three more times.

7. Urine trouble, Greavesy…

England v Brazil, World Cup quarter-final, June 1962

View gallery


When a stray dog ran on to the pitch in Vina del Mar, Chile, during England's World Cup quarter-final against Brazil, it took England striker Jimmy Greaves getting down on all fours and befriending the dog to catch and carry him off the pitch.

The cheer Greaves received was a rare bright moment on a bad afternoon: not only did England go on to lose 3-1, the dog also peed on the Tottenham striker as he handed him over to officials.

View gallery


This file photo shows the type of Hawk used at Wimbledon

8. The Wimbledon pigeons

All England Club, 2000

Some, like Mike Tyson, believe pigeons are beautiful and fascinating creatures. Others - like anybody who has been bullseyed by one of the flying rats as they walk across Trafalgar Square - may not concur.

But everyone can agree that having flocks of pigeons flying around could be a disaster for a tennis tournament, which is why the organisers of Wimbledon spend a fortune every year trying to keep the birds away.

In 2000, the All England Club employed a hawk called Hamish to chase the pigeons away, even equipping the bird of prey with its own laminated pass to the tournament.

But in 2008 the hawk patrol proved not to be enough, and a team of marksmen were hired to shoot the birds. It kept the tournament pigeon-free - but landed the club in hot water with animal welfare groups.

9. Dove takes on baseball - and loses

March 2001

The recent furore over a South American footballer who kicked an owl that was the opposing team's mascot was nothing compared to the publicity that baseball legend Randy Johnson garnered when he accidentally killed a dove during a game.

The Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher threw his best fastball at Calvin Murray of the San Francisco Giants - but as he did so, a dove swooped down into the ground at top speed.

Sadly for the bird, its high-speed divebomb took it exactly into the path of Johnson's 95mph fast ball. The result? The bird was killed in an astonishing explosion of feathers.

"I'm sitting there waiting for it, and I'm expecting to catch the thing, and all you see is an explosion," said Diamondbacks' catcher Rod Barajas at the time. "It's crazy. There's still feathers down there."

10. The Anfield Cat and his trans-Atlantic cousin

February and September 2012

View gallery


When a rogue feline made it onto the Anfield pitch during Liverpool’s goalless draw with Tottenham in February of last year, and evaded capture for over three minutes with a mazy run which would have made Luis Suarez or Gareth Bale proud, Twitter was festoomed with joke accounts claiming to be the real deal – with @AnfieldCat up to over 20,000 followers by the next morning.

Not only that, but the CONCACAF Champions League witnessed the debut of TAC’s North American cousin when Toronto FC played host to Santos Laguna six months or so later:

What was your favourite moment of animal madness in the sporting realm? Recall any other mental moments not listed here? And what's next - a polar bear at the freestyle skiing? A llama stealing a car at Dakar and going for a joyride? Have your say in the comments section below...

View comments (4)