REMOVAL men John Needham and Matthew Rowland could hardly believe their eyes as they drove past a field.
For standing in the middle of it, happily chomping on some grass, was a 6ft ostrich.
Stunned, the colleagues, who both live in Leigh Park, drove back around to get a close look and, sure enough, it was the huge powerful bird.
John, 42, said: ‘We were driving along the main road in Odiham when my colleagues and I looked across and saw a large animal in a field.
‘We went off to do a job and it was still there on the way back so we stopped to get a closer look.
‘We were shocked. At first we thought it was an emu but when we got closer we realised it was an ostrich.
We mainly see pheasants when we’re out on the road so this was a bit of a shockMatthew Rowland
‘It was awesome. It was just standing there, grazing. It was about six foot.’
When the men returned home they did some research and discovered the ostrich has been on the run for almost three years, surviving harsh winters in the north Hampshire countryside.
It has so far eluded police, the RSPCA and the landowners.
The bird, which can run at up to speeds of 40mph and is capable of disembowelling a human with its powerful 6in claws, has been nicknamed Ron and is actually a rhea, a type of ostrich native to south America.
Matthew, 45, said: ‘We stopped because it was such an unusual sight.
‘We mainly see pheasants when we’re out on the road so this was a bit of a shock. We pulled up and got to about 15ft to 20ft away.
‘I didn’t want to get any closer in case I scared it.
‘Then it suddenly noticed us and ran off a few feet but then stopped and carried on grazing.
‘No one believed me when I told them – I had to send them the pictures.’
John added: ‘We were looking at it online and people have been posting when they see it.
‘The last time was October 2014. So at least now we can confirm it’s still going strong.’
Rheas have a distinctive cry like a big cat’s roar rather than a bird call.
In the wild, they live in the pampas regions where it is hot in summer and very cold in winter, meaning they are ideally suited to the changeable British climate.