Latest Crime Wave: Horse Tail Theft

The latest outbreak has occurred in a rural area southeast of Denver in Colorado.

An intruder broke into a pasture and unevenly cut off the hoof-length tails of half a dozen Belgian draft horses and ponies.

Other horse owners in Elbert County, Colorado, have also reported tail thefts, while similar cases have been recorded in recent years in Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida.

While the animals were not injured, as the tails were cut off below the fleshy dock, horses rely on their tails to swat away flies in summer and owners say they will take 10 years to grow back.

But police are puzzled as to the motive behind the crime. Horse owners said it would not make commercial sense to steal tails in such limited quantities, as horsehair fetches no more than $80 (£56) a pound.

Horsehair is used in upholstery, violin bows, belts, hat bands and tail extensions, but it is usually bought in bulk from China, where it comes from slaughterhouses.

Such a theft could bring charges of animal cruelty and trespassing, said Colorado police, who admitted they have no leads.

In the absence of a strong commercial motive, there have been suggestions that a cult may be responsible for the crimes.

There have been sporadic attacks on horses in Britain for years, including a series of mutilations by so-called "horse rippers" in south Yorkshire in 2004 that some blamed on followers of the occult. Some of the animals in Yorkshire had their tails removed and stones depicting five pointed stars were found in neighbouring fields; one horse had eight litres of blood drained from its stomach.
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