SCENES of crime officers were called out after a skeleton was found on Hayling beach.
The recent storms washed away so much shingle that the bones were sticking up near beach huts, close to The Inn on The Beach.
After ruling out human bones, it was expected to be a sea mammal or a horse.
But, after being examined by experts at Dundee University, it transpired it was a cow.
The exact age of the bones is not yet known.
Philip Goodwin, 68, from Waterlooville, was walking along the beach when he saw people gathering round the bones.
He said: ‘I couldn’t believe it. There were lots of people looking at it and taking pictures. You could see the ribs. It looked like a big animal.’ The initial call came in from a family who own a beach hut.
They called Havant Borough Council’s Beachlands office, which called in the police to investigate.
Sally Foster, a spokeswoman for the council, said: ‘Scenes of crime officers attended and e-mailed pictures to Dundee University who confirmed that it was an old cow. The bones have been removed and taken away by the crime scene officer.
‘It has been there for years and years – we don’t know the age of the bones.
‘It was more than likely washed up all those years ago from the Isle of Wight or somewhere like that and the shingle sea defences covered it, then owing to the extraordinary weather and wind movements it has just uncovered them.’
Susan Hay, 64, from Emsworth, who owns a beach hut nearby, said: ‘I’m not surprised in the slightest. Two or three horses drowned down there a few years ago.’
Local historian Ralph Cousins said: ‘There’s plenty of cows on Hayling. There’s been dairy farms on Hayling and there still is one at Northney.
‘They used to take them down on the marshes at Southmoor, so there’s a history of cattle being grazed near beaches. But I would have thought it would be most likely from a boat.’