A herd of runaway water buffalo has forced a nine-hour closure of the A3 motorway near Leverkusen in both directions. The animals had to be sedated before they could be moved from the carriageway.
One of Germany's busiest autobahns witnessed hours of traffic chaos late on Sunday after five escaped water buffalo ended up on the carriageway.
The three adult and two young animals ventured onto the A3 expressway near the western city of Leverkusen after escaping from a nearby field.
Their surprise trek forced the closure of the motorway in both directions for up to nine hours, including during Monday morning's rush hour, local media reported.
At one point, one of the largest buffalo tried to jump over the concrete crash barriers and got trapped in between.
Authorities and fire crews worked through the night to round up the animals, and even called in a veterinarian from Cologne Zoo after being astonished at their strength.
"These animals are very large and very strong," explained Christoph Emsländer from Cologne police to public broadcaster WDR, when asked why it took so long to reopen the autobahn.
Local media described how traffic on the A3 became stalled for up to 10 kilometers (6 miles), and even when police organized alternative routes, long jams ensued.
Water buffalo can weigh up to 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) and can grow to as much as three meters long (9.8 feet) and 1.8 meters high.
Police said they built a temporary enclosure with two trucks and police cars to prevent the buffalo from moving. They were then sedated before being removed from the site by crane.
Public broadcaster WDR said the road was reopened just before 8 a.m. local time (06:00 UTC) on Monday.
Investigators will now decide whether the farm owner will face prosecution over the escape.
The 778-kilometer A3, which connects western and southern Germany, is often packed with traffic. It runs from the Dutch to the Austrian border, past the cities of Dusseldorf, Leverkusen, Cologne, Frankfurt and Nuremberg, among others.
mm/ng (AFP, dpa)