February 18, 2016 03:20 AM

Pythons and horses and sharks, oh SI!

Sports Illustrated‘s newest swimsuit issue has made many headlines for its history-making triple covers, but some underappreciated rookie models are the exotic animals that a few of the girls got to pose with.

Ruven Afanador/Sports Illustrated

Chanel Iman had a Britney Spears at the 2001 VMAs moment when she posed with a python for one of her shots.

“I started off with one python snake and then they brought out the second one,” the 25-year-old told People. “It was really easy because their mouths were taped, but there’s always that fear that the tape might come off and they might just squeeze the crap out of you … especially when they’re around your neck, and they’re on your arms, you don’t know what they’re gonna do, so there’s always a little bit of fear that something could go wrong on the shoot.”

And while we imagine Iman is certainly used to male attention, her non-animalistic photo shoot in Zanzibar featured some Maasai warriors who tried to win her love…with cows.

“It was funny because the Maasai warriors were basically trying to get me to move to Africa and bidding on cows,” she said. “Like the more cows that you hunt, the man wins the woman or something like that.”

So naturally, we wanted to know how many cows Chanel was worth.

“I think my bid was 50 cows,” she said. “Something crazy.”

But Iman wasn’t the only one with a modeling partner for her shoot. Hannah Ferguson shot with a horse in the ocean.

“I basically had to jump on it, we were in the water and it was a lot of fun,” Ferguson, 23, said. “But it was a bit challenging because then I had to take my top off so I was trying to tuck in my boobs and hold onto the horse while we’re in the water, and at one point, I slid off into the water. It was fun, but it was hard.”

Ferguson said at one point, the horse tried to go even deeper into the water — with her still on top (and topless).

“It was crazy, but it was a lot of fun,” she said. “I love horses so I enjoyed it.”

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Another animal lover was Irina Shayk, and for her 10th anniversary with SI she was thrilled to go in the water, accompanied by sharks and stingrays.

“I love sharks,” Shayk said. “I’m a diver in open water and when I heard they were gonna make a picture with sharks, I was like ‘Yeah! That’s amazing. Why not?”

The only problem was Shayk, 30, almost became shark bait.

“I had this little fish as a bait and I had to hold it to touch the sharks and stingrays,” she said. “And then I decided to put it in my bikini and then after the shot, the photographer was like ‘Oh my God, it was really dangerous because the shark could come and eat your booty off. And your bikini!’ But I’m alive, I’m here and yeah, it was a really fun shoot. It’s not like these boring shoots where we just have to stand there and look pretty.”

And from the pages of SI to the big screen, future star of the Baywatch revamp, Kelly Rohrbach got into some trouble with the bird she was shooting with.

“It was a little nerve-wracking because it had really long talons and they put blinders on its eyes so it doesn’t get scared, so it was a little disoriented,” the 26-year-old said. “I felt really bad for it, actually. I felt like I was hurting it and then its talons were digging into my hand so it was a lot harder than it looked.”

Nina Agdal also found herself with some battle wounds when she became turtle soup while shooting in Zanzibar.

“I thought it was gonna be really fun and then I got in it and I hated it,” the 23-year-old said.” They would throw lettuce on me to make the turtles come over and they would be eating my fingers, my hair and my toes. It was the craziest experience ever.”

Other wild, but non-wildlife-related highlights? Sofia Resing had a bit of a language barrier with a Maasai local in Zanzibar.

“I did a shot with a Maasai, a local guy, who didn’t speak a word of English, but I used body language to explain to him, like ‘You have to turn!'” Resing said. “It was fun. It was amazing to see such a different culture.”

Resing, 24, also had a pretty close encounter with the largest modeling partner of the SI case, an airplane.

“The airplane had to go in circles and almost touched the water right behind me,” she said. “It was a little [nerve-wracking]. I was kind of like this (putting both of her arms in the air) and I could feel the wing pass behind me.

The models certainly got their fair share of adventure — and some new friends (and maybe a couple enemies) — while shooting for the 2016 issue, on newsstands now.

–Blake Bakkila

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