A RUNAWAY cow sparked travel mayhem for thousands of motorists in Bournemouth today.

Police were called at 10.25am after the farmyard animal was spotted wandering on the carriageway at Blackwater junction after clearing a barrier near Matchams.

The police helicopter took to the skies above the incident as officers on the ground attempted to locate the cow and initiated rolling road blocks.

See how the chaos unfolded in our rolling coverage

Sections of Avon Causeway and the A338 Spur Road were closed in the midst of the operation and traffic backed up for miles along the Wessex Way.

Truck driver Russell Pickard, who was driving along the A338 when the incident happened, said there were “huge tailbacks” to the Boscombe exit.

“There was a farmer’s tractor parked on the other side of the carriageway and the police helicopter was above as well searching for it,” he added “All the patrol cars went past us. We don’t know where the cow went after.

“The only cows I have ever seen were penned in a field. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this.”

Drivers switched off their engines and got out of their vehicles as the cow continued to evade those attempting to capture it and further delays were reported on Castle Lanes East and West as traffic built.

Chris Nicholls, who was travelling to Southampton on a National Express coach, said the Spur Road looked like a car park, with a lot of people getting out of their vehicles to get some fresh air.

He added: “All you can see is traffic, no-one has any idea what is going on.

“I wish I had got the train, I would have been there by now. There has been no information given to us whatsoever and people are getting annoyed.”

Shortly after 1pm, police confirmed the cow had been tracked down and had been safely returned to a nearby field.