Aside from severe weather and overzealous fans wearing nothing but their birthday suits, nothing can bring a professional sporting event to a grinding halt like an unexpected appearance by an animal scampering, strolling or flying around a playing field.

Animal delays at large-scale matches are a relatively rare occurrence but when they do happen, a sense of shock and disbelief quickly sets in amongst not only the rudely interrupted players, but also the spectators who are in the stands or watching the events unfold on television. How in the world did that [insert critter here] get on the field? And how are they going to get it off the field?

We’ve rounded up a motley menagerie of critters — from cats to bats to doves with really bad timing — that have famously invaded a variety of sporting events, ranging from minor league baseball games to first-round matches at the U.S. Open.

Feisty pine marten vs. Swiss soccer match

In North America, sporting events are usually halted by dogs, cats and, on occasion, non-domesticated interlopers. In Switzerland, they get slippery — and rather feisty — mustelids. A March 2013 soccer match between Swiss Super League teams FC Zurich and home team FC Thun erupted into chaos when a rogue pine marten — a cat-sized cousin of the weasel with a particularly sharp set of chompers — darted onto the pitch. Chase gave way as players from both teams attempted to nab the little guy. At one point during the pursuit, Zurich defender Loris Benito managed to almost catch the critter after tackling it, rugby-style. This just resulted in a rather nasty bite on the finger. “In hindsight, I was probably a little foolish. You don't know what sort of disease it might be carrying. It was painful,” Benito told Swiss television.

Following Benito’s ill-advised attempt at pine marten containment, David Da Costa, Zurich’s gloved goalkeeper, managed to wrangle the animal. His team won, 4-0.


Pooping beagle mix vs. minor league baseball game

While the Internet is rich with viral videos of canines interrupting sporting events — it’s a seemingly semi-regular phenomenon in South America — only one pooch that we know of has managed to get loose on the field during a Minor League Baseball game and pause briefly to make a big old poop. Talk about a relief player.

During a 2010 Northwest Arkansas Naturals game, a bandanna-clad beagle mix from a local shelter featured as part of an “Iams Adoptable Pet of the Game” promotion managed to escape from her handlers not once but twice and gallivant around the field at Arvest Ballpark. It appears that the pooch, Mona, had a grand old time and, to mark the occasion, she popped a squat. (Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go.)

And this tale of baseball diamond defecation has a perfectly happy ending. Not only was Mona taken in by a loving family who had witnessed her enthusiastic and very public number two — three more animals from the same shelter were adopted as a result of Mona’s hijinks. Proclaimed Naturals GM Eric Edelstein: “The promotion was put together to do good things. We wanted to help homeless pets — that was the whole point. That one dog might have saved its own life and three more."


Dove vs. Randy Johnson

Spoiler: This notorious baseball moment from 2001, however important, doesn’t have a happy ending. And really? A dove, the international symbol of love and peace? (Not that murdering a filthy pigeon or seagull with a 90 mph hour fastball would have been any better, but still).


Runaway pig vs. Mexican baseball game (plus fursuiters!)

Although it isn’t clear how a speedy little piggie managed to make its way onto the diamond of a Mexican baseball game, it’s perfectly evident that sometimes all you need to take charge of an out-of-control situation is a trio of mascots dressed in a cut-rate chicken costumes.

That being said, we’re going to go ahead and just assume that the porcine trespasser wasn’t gravely injured when Omero the Rooster removed his head and spiked it at him before going in for a pig-capturing tackle.


Swooping bat vs. college basketball game

Binge drinking, body paint, excessive amounts of toilet paper… of all the somewhat alarming things that one would expect to see at a college basketball game, dive-bombing winged mammals probably wouldn’t make the list.

However, a menacing — but completely harmless — bat did make an unexpected visit during the second half of a 2013 NCAA showdown between Marquette and Providence and, in the process, managed to both delay the game and scare the bejusus out of players, referees and coaches alike. Swooping over the court in a fashion that was a touch too close for comfort, at one point petrified/peeved players began throwing towels at the beast in an effort to down it (when they weren’t cowering and ducking for cover, of course). Admitted Marquette point guard Junior Cadougan: “I think everyone was scared the bat was going to bite them. At one point we got so mad that everybody was throwing towels at the bat. We were all scared, even the refs were scared.”

Alas, the towel-throwing tactic didn’t do the trick. Eventually, officials turned off the arena lights in the Bradley Center, main scoreboard included, and started blasting Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”  (along with the "Batman" theme, natch) over the sound system. And with that, the winged intruder was gone.


Rascally rabbit vs. minor league baseball game

In which the Quad Cities River Bandits’ pitcher Chris Notti serves double duty as a (rifle-less) Elmer Fudd …


Cheeky squirrel vs. The U.S. Open

While it would seem that squirrels are normally in the habit of interrupting baseball games (rally squirrel!), this frisky little fellow hailing from the borough of Queens decided to expand his game-crashing horizons to tennis during a first round match between France’s Julien Benneteau and Olivier Rochus of Belgium at the 2012 U.S. Open.

While it’s unclear if a frustrated Benneteau and Rochus were trying to maim the fame-hungry little guy or simply trying to spook it, attempting to pelt an adorable furry-tailed rodent with tennis balls probably isn’t the best way to get it to vacate the court (or win admirers). “That's nasty Julien, don't try to hit it with the ball,” commented a Scottish lilted announcer before the squirrel managed to abscond through a crack in the fence. “He'll think its food. Poor little thing is scared now.”

The last time that we checked, tennis balls didn’t bare much of a resemblance to acorns, but the announcer’s concern for the squirrel’s welfare was very much appreciated. And although the U.S. Open squirrel escaped unscathed, it’s worth noting that birds and tennis balls haven’t fared too well in the past.


Trespassing skunk vs. minor league baseball game

Sure, just go ahead and send the poor batboy after it …


Stray tabby vs. British soccer match

Cat on the pitch! Cat on the pitch! Sure, a bit of a match-delaying annoyance but how perfectly handsome is this gray-and-white tabby that casually sauntered onto the Anfield turf during a 2012 Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur Premier League football match? Pretty darn handsome, we must say.

Nicknamed Shankly after a legendary Liverpool manager and bestowed with his very own 62,500 follower-strong Twitter handle (but of course), the slightly portly stray was caught and relocated to Freshfields Animal Rescue Centre in Merseyside after his star-making appearance. “Shankly will remain in our care for a number of weeks as he recuperates after his life on the streets,” explained a spokeswoman for Freshfields to BBC News. “Shankly will be up for rehoming and any potential adoptee will be asked to go through the same adoption process as with any of our other cats.”


Playful puppies vs. Turkish soccer match

Honestly, we have no words …

Related cat and dog stories on MNN:

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

10 videos of critters invading sporting events
Animus interruptus: Because nothing spells chaos like a bat at a basketball court or a skunk on the baseball field.