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

The steer became stuck in the mire of the River Arun in Greatham Bridge, near Coldwaltham last night.

A technical rescue crew based at Horley arrived at the scene at 9.22pm after a member of the public called 999.

About 15 people stood around to watch before it got dark.

The protracted operation did not end until this morning at about 2.50am.

The incident took place in the catchment of Storrington Fire Station, though the fire service deployed its rescue unit due to the nature of the call.

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

The rescuers saved the beast with a couple of hours to spare after a heavy lifting tender from Crawley arrived.

Callum Young of the Horsham branch of Westpoint Veterinary Group was in attendance to sedate 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 belonged to the RSPB, which has cattle on its land to keep vegetation under control.

It is fine following the ordeal.