Those not up with the play will be amazed that mayor Hamish McDouall's rooster is picking soccer World Cup winners.

The world's greatest sporting extravaganza is unfolding thousands of miles away in Russia, yet here in a Whanganui backyard Grizzles the rooster is divining the results with five out of six correct calls over the weekend.

Those not astonished by the fowl's fortune-telling feat may well dismiss it as dumb luck but, in fact, there is plenty of form for animals predicting results at football's biggest show.

Porcupine, tamarin and a pygmy hippo have all had a go as soccer soothsayers, but the star turn was Paul the Octopus at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

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Paul — described unfairly as a "common octopus" — read the runes from his home at an aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany, and was on the money for 12 out of 14 games, an 85.7 per cent success rate.

The method was simple (and is the same one being used by mayor Hamish and his feathered forecaster) — two servings of food, each one with the flag of one of the competing teams. Whichever dish the animal oracle nibbled first carried the flag of the victorious nation.

Paul's tentacled trickery became so famous that a parakeet from Singapore called Mani, who also had an impressive track record of predicting results, was put up against him when Spain met the Netherlands in the 2010 final.

The match became more octopus versus parakeet, with Paul taking the glory by correctly picking a win for Spain.

The tournament in South Africa should also be noted for featuring New Zealand, who were the only team from the 32 competing nations to remain unbeaten.

The animal kingdom's ties to the World Cup actually go back quite a way, and perhaps originate in 1966 and England's sole triumph in the great competition.

The World Cup trophy was stolen on March 20, 1966, after being on public display before the start of the tournament in England.

Scotland Yard was baffled and it took a collie dog called Pickles to find the famous trophy, wrapped in newspaper at the bottom of a garden in suburban London.

Pickles went on to appear in films and television and was rightly named "Dog of the Year".