10 Absurd Times That Animals Have Run Amok

In the 15,000 years or so that humans have been domesticating animals, it has become clear that most species simply will not become subservient. And as anyone with a cat will confirm, even animals that are well-adjusted to living with people can have a mischievous or stubborn mind of their own. This can lead to problems when animals are accidentally turned loose or unknowingly wander into towns and cities.

With zoos, circuses, and exotic pets being longtime sources of fascination and entertainment, it is no surprise that such events have happened many times all around the world. Happily, they have not all ended in tragedy. Many have just become amusing anecdotes for the locals to share. After all, the animals are often just as confused and stunned as the humans they run into. Here are ten of the most absurd and amusing times that animals have run amok among people and, amazingly, did not manage to cause any serious harm.

Related: 10 Bizarre Animal Races

10 The London Runaway Horses

Anyone taking a stroll through central London on the morning of April 24, 2024, might well have thought that they were witnessing an apocalyptic omen. A tall white horse, dripping bright red blood down its chest and legs, galloped riderless through the streets alongside a jet-black one.

Elsewhere in the city, two other horses were running rampant in rush hour traffic. In what eyewitnesses described as “total mayhem,” the horses collided with people, cars, and even a parked bus. They had escaped from a military base where they were taking part in a routine exercise that morning. While the horses might have gotten used to the sounds of guns and cannons, apparently, they were not prepared for the sound of builders moving concrete nearby.

The spooked animals sprinted away and threw their riders off into the street. Luckily, they were quickly rounded up, and although there were injuries to a handful of people and two of the horses—not to mention several vehicles—there were no fatalities.[1]

9 A Chinese Elephant Herd Caused over $1 million in Damage

Horses are not the only animals who have wreaked havoc together. Between 2020 and 2021, an unstoppable 16-strong herd of Asian elephants in China set out on a 300-mile (482.8-kilometer) trek that took them down highways, across farmlands, and through cities. Along the way, the elephants were responsible for 412 incidents where things were damaged. A lot of what they destroyed was crops and farmland, and the total cost of these incidents is believed to have been around 6.8 million yuan, or $1.1 million.

At one point, they even forced an entire town to grind to a halt. This was when they reached the town of Eshan and spent six hours there roaming the streets while residents were told to stay inside. According to an elephant expert, the herd’s inexperienced leader probably led them astray. Inexperienced, maybe, but they still proved a match for the Chinese authorities.

Amazingly, 360 people, 76 police vehicles, and drones were all involved in trying to track and stop the elephants. Setting up roadblocks and baiting the elephants with food were two of the ways that the authorities tried to stop them to no avail.[2]

8 A State of Emergency Called for a Polar Bear Invasion

It took little more than a dozen elephants for the residents to be ordered to remain inside buildings in Eshan. But what happens when more than 50 large, dangerous animals start showing up on people’s doorsteps? In 2018, the world found out the answer to this question when Russia’s Arctic Novaya Zemlya archipelago had around 50 polar bears take up residence near the Belushya Guba settlement.

The region’s governor was forced to declare a state of emergency after reports that the bears had been attacking people and entering buildings. Residents were reportedly too scared to leave their homes or send their children to school. However, there was no quick fix to the problem. Because polar bears are an endangered species, shooting them requires a special license, which the authorities are reluctant to give.

Patrol cars, dogs, and efforts to scare the bears away did not initially seem to work, but the polar bears did eventually leave toward the end of February 2019. They had come in search of food after being attracted by an open-air landfill site on the settlement.[3]

7 The Great Springfield Cobra Scare of 1953

The people living on Novaya Zemlya would at least have been aware of the possibility of running into a polar bear. The residents of Springfield, Missouri, on the other hand, probably never expected to find themselves on the lookout for deadly cobras. Yet from August until October 1953, they were doing exactly that.

At least 12 of the venomous snakes were on the loose following a dispute between a pet shop and a teenager. The teenager had traded common black snakes with the shop owner for a fish that suddenly died. In revenge, the teen broke open a crate at the back of the pet store, thinking it contained harmless black snakes like the ones he had traded. Only it contained cobras, which quickly slithered off into Springfield.

Searches were soon underway, with residents carrying garden tools in case they suddenly needed to behead a snake. A van playing snake-charming music even drove around the city to try and lure the creatures out. Eventually, 11 cobras were killed, and one was captured and taken to the zoo. Luckily, they never reproduced and never managed to hurt anyone.[4]

6 Millions of Australian Spiders Blanket a Town with Thick Webs

Unlike the good folk of Springfield, Australians are no strangers to deadly snakes or to many of the planet’s most terrifying creatures in general. So, of course, there is an Australian example on this list. And, of course, it is the stuff of nightmares.

In 2021, the state of Victoria was flooded following a winter storm. Homes had been destroyed, and the power had been cut off in some towns. Many locals probably wished they could fly away to somewhere dryer, and they were not the only ones. Millions—yes, millions—of spiders in the surrounding countryside also had that idea. But they could actually do it.

Using a technique called “ballooning,” they shoot their silk into the air to catch the wind. They then fly wherever the wind takes them until they snag onto something. This allows them to quickly get off the ground when heavy rain comes. During the 2021 storm, those millions of spiders landed all over a region called Gippsland, wrapping large areas in a thick, glossy, white web that would have looked like a Halloween decoration were it not for the uncountable number of real spiders on it.[5]

5 Colombian Crab Migration Gets Military Protection

Animal invasions are not always surprises. Some are recurrent, although they can still be unavoidable. Crab migrations are one example. This is when thousands of crabs journey from their homes to the sea to deposit their eggs. Once the eggs have hatched, they will head back home with their offspring. It seems the crabs have little regard for any people who have settled in their way.

Probably the most famous example of this is the migration of the red crabs on Christmas Island, but that is not the only place where it happens. The idyllic Colombian island of Providencia sees the yearly mass migration of black land crabs. To help them reach their destination safely, the crabs actually receive military protection.

The “crab watch division” establishes checkpoints around the island to stop vehicles traveling down roads while many crabs are using them. And they are deadly serious; the soldiers manning the checkpoints are armed with automatic rifles. On the roads they are allowed to use, locals can be seen performing a “crab-swerve” on their mopeds. This is their name for the last-second change of direction needed to avoid hitting a crab.[6]

4 A Real-Life Urban Cowboy Saved Newark from an Escaped Bull

Some escaped animals prefer to fly—or charge—solo. For example, in 2006, when a 600-pound bull was on the loose in Newark, New Jersey, it caused panic on the streets and, presumably, in China shops. The first sightings of the bull were reported around 10 p.m., but it would take the authorities all night to capture it safely. The bull was lively, running up and down streets as well as leaping over small fences and air conditioning units.

The police had to block off streets and keep onlookers out of harm’s way while some of the officers tried to chase the bull into a safe place and keep it away from the populated downtown district. It took ten hours in total, but they would eventually succeed with the help of a South African cowboy who had joined the local animal control team.

He corralled the bull in a parking lot and caught it with his lasso, bringing it under control so that it could be tranquilized. Even though it was captured, the bull’s bid for freedom worked. Had it not escaped, it would probably have been slaughtered, but instead, it was taken in by an animal refuge.[7]

3 A Bengal Tiger Terrified a Peaceful Houston Neighborhood

Unsolicited participation in the Spanish pastime of running with the bulls is certainly scary, but imagine stepping outside onto a scenic residential neighborhood and meeting the eyes of a Bengal tiger across the street. This nightmare became a reality for residents of a neighborhood in Houston, Texas, in 2021.

The tiger was actually being kept in one of the neighborhood’s houses, but it managed to escape by climbing the fence. When police arrived on the scene, they drew their weapons and ordered the apparent owner to get his tiger back inside. He did, but before they could give him a talk, he hopped in his car with the tiger and took off.

When he was arrested, the tiger was no longer with him. After almost a week of worrying about a tiger on the loose, the alleged owner’s wife handed over the nine-month-old, called India, to the city’s animal shelter. India was then safely moved to an animal sanctuary while his alleged owner was put on trial for an unrelated murder.[8]

2 A Missing Scottish Monkey Caught Due to Yorkshire Pudding

There are yet to be any confirmed sightings of the Loch Ness Monster, but some locals in Scotland’s Highlands did see another unusual creature scurrying about in February 2024. A red-faced macaque called Honshu had escaped from a wildlife park and managed to give the authorities the slip for five days before finally being caught.

During that time, he covered around four miles, heading north from the park to the nearby village of Kincraig before going south to the tiny hamlet of Insh. In both places, he had been trying to extract nuts from the bird feeders that many locals keep in their gardens. However, one resident of Insh left him an unlikely treat that he apparently found irresistible—a Yorkshire pudding.

The puffy, bowl-shaped piece of batter was a hit with Honshu, who then hung around at the house while the owner got in touch with the wildlife park. Experts equipped with thermal drones and tranquilizer darts arrived within a matter of minutes and brought him home safely.[9]

1 Cholmondeley the “Gentleman” Chimp’s Day out in London

The folks who came across Honshu the macaque should think themselves lucky; missing monkeys are not always harmless. Nor are escaped apes, as Londoners learned in 1951 thanks to Cholmondeley the chimpanzee. Despite his keeper describing him as being always “a perfect gentleman,” Cholmondeley was anything but when he escaped his enclosure at London Zoo one chilly January day.

He clambered out over the fence while his keeper was bringing him grapes, and the first thing he did was boldly stop a bus by raising his hand. He then boarded the vehicle and bit a passenger on the leg before hopping off again. His next stop was well suited to his status as a gentleman and television actor—Les Ambassadeurs Club, one of London’s most exclusive private gambling clubs.

There, he bit a steward before taking off down a side street. By that time, his keeper had arrived and was able to coax Cholmondeley into his arms before hitching a ride back to the zoo.[10]

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