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Top Ten Animal Tales

Following the peculiar story of Kurt Maflin being bitten by a worm last week in China, it’s time to recall ten more snooker-related animal incidents…

10. Splinter harms Whirlwind
Jimmy White has suffered more than his fare share of agony at the Crucible, but nothing as physically painful as the injuries he sustained while out walking his pet bulldog Splinter. Sighting a rabbit, the canine set off Jimmy Whitein hot pursuit, his owner desperately trying to restrain him by pulling on the lead. White was dragged along and pulled head first into a tree.

9. Bats in the belfry
At the UK Championship in Preston back in the 1980s, tournament staff were setting up the arena at the Guild Hall when they spotted a bat flying around the ceiling and hanging upside down in the lighting rig. Various attempts were made to lure the winged crusader out of the main hall, but with no success. The council was contacted and World Snooker was advised that the bat belonged to an endangered species, and they should wait for a trained conservationist to arrive. Eventually the tiny mammal was caught and then set free.

8. Of mice and men

Chris Small

Chris Small

Chris Small was in the prime of his career when he was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a degenerative spinal disease. He tried some bizarre treatments to reduce the effects of the condition, including placing magnets in his shoes and under his mattress, and having extract of mouse drip-fed into his body. Amazingly, Small won the LG Cup and climbed into the top 16 while battling the disease, but was then forced to retire from snooker. He is now a leading coach and still has a penchant for cheese sandwiches.

7. Fancy a flutter?
John Higgins and Neil Robertson were engrossed in a safety battle during the second frame of their Betway UK Championship clash last season when a winged spectator decided that the best way to view the action was to sit on the table itself. The butterfly boldly landed on the baize and initially escaped capture from the hands of referee Jan Verhaas. But when the insect returned for a second look, Big Jan made no mistake, carefully scooping it up and giving it to a colleague to be released outside the York Barbican. Watch here:

6. Plane nasty
On his way to a ranking tournament in China, former World Snooker tournament director Gordon Regan was bitten by a poisonous spider while sitting in his aeroplane seat. He was taken to hospital and remained there for several days. Arachnophobic officials have been carefully prodding seats on aircraft ever since.

5. Curiosity revealed the cat
World Snooker Services chief Pete Godwin received the shock of a lifetime during the rigging stages of the 1985 Mercantile Credit Classic at the Spectrum Arena in Warrington. The previous visitors to the venue had been a circus, and when Godwin arrived, a large tarpaulin remained in the loading bay. Curiosity got the better of him and he lifted the cover to look inside…finding an enormous tiger starting back at him, just inches from his face. Fortunately, the metal bars of the predator’s cage separated the two.

4. Bite worse than bark
Three months after winning his first World title in 2000, Mark Williams was at home with rottweiler Megan, attempting to feed her a pig’s ear, when she bit his left hand several times. “There was quite a bit of blood,” said the Welshman. “I tried to practise afterwards and I couldn’t hold the cue it was just so painful.”

Stephen Maguire3. Pocket jaws
Growing up in Glasgow, Stephen Maguire was denied permission by his parents to have a dog in the house, so instead bought three baby sharks and kept them in a tank in his bedroom. Perhaps living alongside the cold-blooded killers helped Maguire to develop the ruthless edge which has given him five ranking titles.

2. Monkeying around
Darren Morgan launched his career by winning the World Amateur Championship in Bangalore, India in 1987, but not without a frightening experience in his hotel room. Preparing for the final, Morgan took a shower but, when he stepped out, heard a banging on the bedroom window. Dressed only in a towel, he opened the curtains to see a giant baboon swinging on a tree branch and trying to get inside. Terrified, he called hotel reception and they send a guard to scare the huge primate away.

1. Hurricane taken for a ride
Attending an exhibition for injured jockeys in Carlisle, Alex Higgins arrived late but made a spectacular entrance. He spotted a Grand National-winning horse being led on a lap of honour around the arena, and promptly ran up to the horse and leapt on to its back. The steed did not appreciate its new passenger, throwing Higgins to the floor, as well as making a deposit from its rear end which landed on the shoes of a horrified Master of Ceremonies.

No animals were harmed in the writing of this article.