The Year of the Beast

From Foster the vulture to Cocoa the poodle (and not forgetting Marlon Brando?s pet raccoon), it?s been a wild 12 months. Julia Stuart presents her animal annual
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Tuesday 2

An Egyptian sheep destined for sacrificial slaughter has pushed its owner to his death from a three-story building in Alexandria. Waheeb Hamoudah, 56, had tethered the sheep on the rooftop and was feeding it when it butted him off.

Monday 15

A tortoise called Thomas put in a cardboard box under a sun-lamp to be kept warm is recovering after the box caught fire and set the dining room alight. Firemen took Thomas to a vet for treatment to burns on his legs and face. His owner, Noleen Hagger, from Wirksworth, Derbyshire, was treated for shock.

Wednesday 24

More than a century after his birth, Nipper, the fox terrier, symbol of EMI records and HMV music shops, received recognition in the form of a statue and blue plaque in Bristol, his place of birth.


Monday 5

A leading St Bernard's breeder at Crufts has been offered £1,000 per puppy by three Vietnamese men, who want them on the menu at their gourmet restaurant.

Wednesday 7

A parrot called Smarty who wolf-whistles at blondes, head bangs to Status Quo and sings along to Laurel and Hardy tunes has been stolen from his home in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

Wednesday 14

Anton Brieszov becomes trapped in Moscow Zoo's lion enclosure when the ladder he has climbed down to retrieve a toy dropped by his child topples over. Mr Brieszov manages to outrun the lions and climb to safety. However, he then drowns in the moat surrounding the enclosure.

Monday 19

A five-mile exclusion zone is imposed around an Essex farm and abattoir after the discovery of Britain's first outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease for 20 years.

Tuesday 20

News hits of a monster 5ft catfish regurgitating 57 fish bodies as it is hauled out of a lake by Environment Agency staff carrying out a routine survey of fish stocks at Shillinglee, West Sussex. It now resides at Brighton's Sealife Centre, no doubt muzzled.

Sunday 25

Burning of carcasses begins in Northumberland as foot- and-mouth spreads across the country.


Thursday 8

Shepherd Mokhtar Fadl, an Egyptian Bedouin, has been shot dead by one of his sheep which kicked his gun, causing it to fire accidentally. Police confiscate the gun.

Saturday 10

Bungle the Bear (aka Stanley Bates, 58), from the children's TV show Rainbow, is bound over for 12 months by magistrates after he appears before them on a charge of assaulting Christine Marconi, 40, in a "road rage" incident.

Thursday 22

A Berlin judge has ruled that a motorist in an accident should have run over a dachshund, instead of slamming on his brakes. "According to the rules of the road, emergency stops are normally only allowed when the driver or other road users are in serious danger," he says. "This risk does not include a dachshund running across the road, because such a small dog can be run over without any danger. Dachshunds do not provide a reason to perform a dangerous braking manoeuvre."

Monday 26

A pair of rare African giant land snails, which can grow up to a foot in length, have been found by cleaners at the Hilton in Leeds after a guest left them behind in a bedroom. The owner has not been traced.


Sunday 8

Romanian Carolina Barna, 65, who has been married for 45 years, has filed for divorce after her husband throttled her pet cockerel. She found The King hanging by its legs in the garden shed. Her husband Sandor, 67, claims it was self-defence after the bird attacked him.

Saturday 21

Police dogs in America are being given titanium teeth to make their bite stronger and to make it more difficult for suspects to escape their jaws. Many Alsatians break their teeth during training, and fitting false ones is cheaper than training a new dog.

Wednesday 25

Phoenix the calf is to be saved after the Government announces a sudden U-turn over its foot-and-mouth slaughter policy. The Charolais, which survived for five days next to its dead mother – among a herd of 15 slaughtered cattle at a farm in Membury, Devon – has become a symbol of the seemingly bungled crisis.

Saturday 28

Porky, the 20-stone Vietnamese pot-bellied pig condemned to death because he lives within three kilometres of a farm infected with foot-and-mouth in Dumfries and Galloway, is also granted a reprieve after his plight is highlighted by Brigitte Bardot.


Tuesday 8

A lynx, four times the size of a domestic cat, spotted sitting on a garden fence having roamed the back gardens and streets of Cricklewood, north London for six hours, is caught after a dramatic operation involving armed police, vets, zoo-keepers and the RSPCA, and is carted off to London Zoo. No one knows where it has come from.

Monday 14

Bolstering their reputation for missed or wrong targets, news is out that US marines on military exercise in Australia have blasted to death an emu that strayed into their sight-lines, less than a month after the country celebrated National Emu Awareness Week.

Monday 28

Scientists have devised a fitness regime for fruit bats at Chester Zoo, which have become lazy and overweight because they simplystroll to their food supply. A new feeding device mimics the movement of tropical trees, forcing the bats to fly and limiting the amount of food available at one sitting.


Friday 1

Posters scented with dog urine are due to appear on lampposts today. They will publicise the TV channel Animal Planet's pet awards, and will be sited at dog-eye level, with a second, non-scented, positioned at owners' height.

Monday 18

Foster the vulture goes AWOL from Banham Zoo in Norfolk during a falconry display. In subsequent days, hourly updates of Foster's tour of the East Anglian coast dominate satellite television broadcasts around the world. Failed attempts to catch him include a baited noose made of falcon feathers and dead chicks, nets, water hoses, toy owls and the charms of his vulture soulmate, Vomit. He is finally captured on 24 June in the garden of a Suffolk rectory by his favourite handler, 21-year-old Jo Lobb, who tempts him with food and then, rather unromantically, grabs one of his scaly legs. He is later signed up for an advertising deal. He will be used as the mascot for the government's Learning and Skills Council, urging people to "spread their wings".

Monday 25

Conjoined crocodiles with two heads, two tails and eight legs – and joined at the stomach – have been born at a private zoo at Samut Prakarn, Thailand.


Sunday 8

Now Sydney, an African vulture, goes missing from the English School of Falconry in Old Warden, Bedfordshire, during a flying display. He is eventually caught 11 days later, in Biggleswade, three miles from home.

Wednesday 11

A Turkish man is injured by a cow falling through the roof of a coffee house built into the side of a hill in Nevsehir. Ethem Sahin suffers a broken leg, and needs seven stitches in his head. The cow, however, is unhurt.

Monday 16

Huw Kennedy, a retired Royal Lancers officer in his sixties, is censured by the RSPCA for catapulting dead cows and pigs – and at least one horse – on his reconstruction of a medieval trebuchet.

Thursday 19

A bloody and headless cow filled with fireworks is dropped on Berlin from a helicopter as the highlight of a show by the Austrian artist Wolfgang Flatz, who hangs naked from a crane before the cow plunge. Opinion is divided on which of the two events is the more stomach-churning spectacle.

Wednesday 25

Word is out that Cocoa the poodle made it on to the Palm Beach electoral role, the constituency where Al Gore and George W Bush fought the battle of the chad last year. His owner, Wendy Albert (a Republican), found herself in trouble after Cocoa was summoned for jury service. However, Wendy later evades fraud charges.


Monday 13

A pigeon trained to courier drugs between the Netherlands and Germany has been caught after an unscheduled stop with marijuana attached to its feet. A German pigeon breeder from Bunderneuland, near the Dutch border, took the bird to the police after it landed at his home.

Friday 17

The Norwegian army troops into Edinburgh Zoo to promote one Nils Olav, a 30lb king penguin, to the rank of the country's honorary regimental sergeant major. Nerves, however, get the better of Nils, who succumbs to a slight flutter of the wings during the 10-minute ceremony.

Thursday 30

A new biography reveals that Marlon Brando is in the habit of sharing his bath with his pet raccoon, Russell. Requests for interviews with the star are directed to his dog, Dr Tim.


Sunday 9

Japanese researchers announce that the hitherto humble earwig has two functioning penises.

Saturday 22

An Argentinean man identified only as Roberto, who wishes to co-habit with a sheep, has tied himself to the much-loved ewe in protest at being refused accommodation by 20 landlords. "I don't really see why I shouldn't be allowed to live with my sheep, as I did for all of my life," says Roberto, who has moved from the country to Buenos Aires.

Monday 24

Scamp the dog is recovering at his Liverpool home after having chased an ambulance for almost two miles when his owner, Harry Scanlan, was taken to hospital following an asthma attack. The ambulance made the mile-and-a-half trip in four minutes at an average speed of 24mph. The exhausted dog hitched up a minute or so later.


Thursday 4

The Sun reveals that the Queen shares her bath with a yellow rubber duck.

Wednesday 10

The Swiss buck their reputation of being the second biggest bores of Europe (the first, of course, being the Belgians) by forming a political party to represent dogs. Hunde Partei, or the Dog Party, wants leads banned for all but dangerous dogs, and the cessation of dog breeding for their meat. Other demands include the right for dogs to have their droppings cleared up, the right to live anywhere – even when a tenancy agreement specifically bans them – and their right to lawyers and bank accounts.

Wednesday 17

A short-sighted greyhound is winning races after being fitted with contact lenses. Before being treated by leading British animal eye-specialist, Pip Boydell, at the Animal Medical Referral Centre in Manchester, the dog would always stay behind the leader to avoid getting lost.

Saturday 27

Fears about the spread of foot-and-mouth have led to reindeer being banned from Santa's grottoes across the UK. Cairngorm Reindeer Centre, home to Britain's only herd of 150 reindeer, is expected to lose thousands of pounds.

Sunday 28

It is reported that an alcoholic Russian bear has kicked its vodka habit after a millionaire animal admirer paid for him to be treated at a drying-out clinic. Potapych developed his habit after his keeper started sharing his daily bottle of vodka with him by pouring it into his food. The bear then started helping himself, and the pair would often be seen staggering around the park.


Sunday 4

News is out that the CIA tried to turn a cat into Cold War spy in the 1960s. Code-named project "Acoustic Kitty", the animal, fitted with listening devices, was meant to sidle up to targets or perch on a nearby window sill. But it was run over by a taxi as it made its way towards its first assignment and the project was abandoned.

Saturday 10

The heir to a bookshop fortune has left more than £10m to an organisation devoted to rare farm-breeds. The bequest by Miles Blackwell, who died in August, is thought to be the largest ever made to a British animal charity.

Monday 12

A white tiger cub's naming ceremony in India has been postponed because children voted to call it Osama bin Laden.

Friday 16

Godzilla the ostrich went on the run in Romford. Mystified locals spent two hours trying to corner him by using cars to block roads, bread and grass to attract him, and even putting a towel over his head, before his owner, 12-year-old Buster Cook, finally lured him home.

Monday 19

To the delight of picture editors everywhere, President Bush is "goosed" by Liberty the turkey while giving the annual presidential "pardoning" of the Thanksgiving bird. Despite her faux pas, Liberty will live out her days at a children's farm.


Tuesday 4

Terence the turkey, destined to be gobbled up on Christmas day, is found at the entrance of a New Forest bird sanctuary after a three-mile trek to safety, dodging foxes and traffic.

Thursday 6

Driver John Lomax has escaped a fine for not having a tax disc by showing police officers how his parrot clawed it out of its holder and ate it. Armed with the chewed remnants of the disc, Mr Lomax brought Jake, an African grey, to the local station in South Tyneside, where it demonstrated its penchant for shredding and eating paper.

Tuesday 11

Joey the cat has been treated for liver problems after regularly getting drunk on secretive trips to his local pub in Cleveland, where customers would slip him the odd tipple.

Wednesday 12

A rooster has been banned from having sex during pre-Christmas fasting by his Orthodox Christian owner. Romanian Pompei Muntean, 81, from Creaca in Salaj county, says: "Making love during Christmas fasting is one of the biggest sins. My animals should abstain, too."

Thursday 20

Douglas and Susan Legge and daughters Kelly and Stacey were awaiting sentence after pleading guilty to causing suffering to more than 100 pets kept at their three-bedroom home in Chatham, Kent. Inside the terraced house were found 12 dogs, 15 cats, 11 rats, 23 spiny mice, plus tortoises, tarantulas, a young salamander, a chinchilla, a piranha fish and ­ in the basement ­ a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. Their lawyer said: "They were devoted to their animals to the extent that they were blinded to what was obvious to an outsider, that there were just too many animals to look after."