The Rundown

Top 10 animals who stole the sporting headlines

The Rundown

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The guest appearance of a fox at Twickenham on Sunday
prompts our look at the top 10 moments when animals stole the sporting
headlines.

1. The Twickenham fox,
Calcutta Cup match, March 2011

Sunday's Calcutta Cup match might 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.

2. Pickles the dog,
1966 World Cup

England's World Cup-winning campaign of 1966 got off to an
appalling start before the tournament even began: a week after the reigning
champions Brazil had handed the Jules Rimet trophy (below) over to England, it was
stolen while on exhibition at Central Hall in Westminster.

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Brazil were understandably furious, claiming that such an
incident would never have happened in their country, where football was seen as
too important for thieves to target the iconic trophy.

Luckily, an unlikely saviour arrived in the form of a dog
called Pickles, who swooped in to track down the trophy in the nick of time.
Pickles discovered it discarded at the bottom of a hedge, presumably while
looking for a suitable place to cock his leg.

The rest is history: Bobby Moore led England to summer
glory, and Brazil won it for keeps in 1970 after their third triumph.

The trophy was stolen again in 1983 - in Brazil - and has
not been seen since, rather undermining the Brazilian indignation of 17 years
earlier.

3. Paul the Octopus

In years to come, the average football fan in the street
will probably remember three things about the 2010 World Cup. First, Nigel de
Jong's astonishing kung-fu kick on Xabi Alonso. Second, being blown away with
admiration for a bunch of German youths who should still have been using
Clearasil and having difficulties talking to girls with their newly-broken
voices.

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And third - and most memorable of all - Paul the Octopus, the
cephalopod who became a global sensation after successfully predicting matches
at the World Cup by choosing between two feed boxes which bore the flags of the
two nations involved in the next match.

Paul correctly predicted the winner of all seven of
Germany's matches at this summer's World Cup in South Africa, before then correctly
choosing Spain over the Netherlands before the final.

4. Sawgrass's evil
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.

5. The Visakhapatnam cricket
stadium bees

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.

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6. The Highbury
squirrel, Arsenal v Villarreal, Champions League semi-final, April 2006

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 onto the pitch a couple
of minutes into the game

7. Camels stop play,
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.

8.  The canine pitch invader, England v Brazil,
World Cup quarter-final, June 1962

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 to catch the dog 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.

9. The Wimbledon
pigeons

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.

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10. 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."

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