FIREFIGHTERS spent more than five hours hauling a castrated bull out of a river.

The animal became stuck in the River Arun in Greatham Bridge near Coldwaltham on Tuesday evening.

A technical rescue crew based at Horley were called by a member of the public and arrived at the scene at 9.22pm, during which time about 15 people watched the protracted operation, which did not end until about 2.50am.

The tide was out when the animal got stuck and it was a race against the rising water to winch it free.

The rescuers saved the bull with a couple of hours to spare.

Callum Young of the Horsham branch of Westpoint Veterinary Group sedated the animal.

Crew commander Mick Lewin of the rescue unit said: “It was very dark and the banks of the river were wet, slippery and muddy.

“Like any animal, you still have to be careful because they are unpredictable.”

Because they are castrated, steers can have a calmer demeanour and be less muscular than bulls.

Even so, a spokeswoman for West Sussex Fire and Rescue service said it was a difficult rescue.

The steer, which was unharmed, belonged to the RSPB, which has cattle on its land to keep vegetation under control.