OF all the things patrons can expect to find when stepping into a pub, a python, tarantulas and an albino hedgehog are unlikely to come top of their list.

But that, and much more, is just what awaited punters at Yates’s pop-up mini zoo over the weekend, with its collection of 14 different species of reptiles, arachnid and other exotic animals.

Customers young and old made their way into the ‘enclosure’ to have a go at holding Roy the Royal Python, Boris the pygmy hedgehog or observing – many from a distance – Karl Bird’s pet tarantulas and scorpion.

The zoo was the brainchild of Yates’s manager Paul Mellor, who decided a display of unusual creatures would be in keeping with the animal-themed party held at the pub on Saturday night.

He said: “It was really to promote our fancy dress weekend. I just thought ‘What can we do that is different, to set us apart?’ We couldn’t get a lion or elephant so we thought instead we would bring in tarantulas and reptiles.

“It is fun for kids and the whole family. It is probably one of the craziest ideas I have had but it’s been popular. Karl had a lot more animals like cockroaches but we set the limit at that.”

Hazel Williams, of Wichelstowe, discovered she had a certain affinity with snakes at the event.

“I have had snakes on me before but I didn’t know about albino hedgehogs,” she said.

“It’s not every day you walk into a pub and see reptiles and spiders. It’s been quite interesting. It’s nice to get something that is so different in Swindon. And it’s benefitting not just the kids but the grown-ups. The parents are touching everything.”

Stefan Yon-Francis, 14, was one of the many to handle Roy, although he steered clear of the tarantulas.

He said: “It is my first time holding a snake and it’s really cool. I think it should happen more often. I love that kind of thing.”

Karl Bird, a Yates’ employee, was delighted to show off his pets to customers and his slightly apprehensive colleagues.

“These are all my pets and they live at home with me,” said Karl, 20, of St Andrew’s Ridge, who adopted his first snake at the age of six.

“I think people are very interested in looking at them and touching them but the staff are a bit scared.

“They are not dangerous and they won’t eat or kill anyone. They all have their little antics and things they could do but they were fine.”