WATCH: Remembering Sunderland’s runaway reindeer

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THEY came to bring festive joy – but one of Mowbray Park’s reindeer caused quite a stir on a previous visit to Sunderland.

Gnu the reindeer left shoppers, workers and guests at a Christmas party bemused after leaping over his 4ft-high fencing and bolting around town.

A reindeer in Mowbray Park. This isn't Gnu, he was too camera shy after his ordeal.

A reindeer in Mowbray Park. This isn't Gnu, he was too camera shy after his ordeal.

The animals can run at speeds of up to 50mph, and the two-year-old male led police on a merry chase after his escape in 2010.

Poor Gnu had been startled and bolted after a dog got into his enclosure, sparking a police warning to pet owners.

George Fraser, who runs Fraser’s Garage, in Toward Road, Hendon, with his son, also George, caught the fleeing reindeer on his security cameras.

“I was talking to a young lad and he said ‘we’ve got some daft police in this town. They’ve just asked if I’ve seen a reindeer pass – fancy a police officer saying something like that’.

Reindeer in Mowbray Park this year. Handlers Abby Saunders and Ryan Ward with 'Byron' and 'Hornet in  Mowbray Park, Sunderland on Friday

Reindeer in Mowbray Park this year. Handlers Abby Saunders and Ryan Ward with 'Byron' and 'Hornet in Mowbray Park, Sunderland on Friday

“I told him ‘actually, there’s one just gone past’,” he said at the time.

Gnu also took Sunderland City Council’s then-culture chief by surprise.

Councillor Denny Wilson, who was responsible for Sunderland’s festive attractions at the time, was leading a visit around the East End at the time of Gnu’s escape.

“We were talking about going back up to see the reindeer in Mowbray Park when all of a sudden one walked down the street – that was quite a surprise.”

Gnu was left quite traumatised by the incident, and was returned to the Cairngorms early for some rest and relaxation.

He was certainly in no fit state to be pulling Santa’s sleigh that Christmas Eve.