A tiger was running loose on the streets of Sicily after escaping from a travelling circus.

The big cat, called Oscar, was spotted strolling through the town of Monreale, Palermo where the circus troupe was performing at the time.

He reportedly escaped his trainers at dawn and was on the prowl through the city until mid-day, walking through car parks and later resting outside a shop as terrified residents took refuge inside buildings.

Video footage shows the animal calmly strolling back and forth in a car park, as a crowd of people watched from a safe distance.

Following reports of a white Bengal tiger on the loose, emergency services scrambled to the scene and traffic was blocked for several hours as authorities tried to contain the animal.

Working with the circus trainers, the special police force finally captured the tiger after coaxing him into a series of cages. He was safely returned to the circus.

Monreale Mayor Piero Capizzi said initially he thought it was a joke when he was told a tiger was on the loose. The mayor says it is not known how the animal escaped from the circus, reported ANSA.

Police are also said to be questioning members of the circus over the potentially life threatening incident Mail Online reports.

After his escapade the tiger is due to perform at the circus on Monday (30 January).