French police are investigating a spate of mysterious ‘barbaric’ killings of horses involving mutilation of the animals’ bodies that have stunned rural France.
The latest in Cortambert, a village in the Saone-et-Loire region, occurred overnight on Friday.
The one-year-old filly’s right ear was cut off, one of its eyes was gouged out, its neck slashed and its genitals had been cut away.
But police are struggling to identify the perpetrators or find a motivation behind the cruel killings, and are probing possible satanic links.
A woman discovered the horse over the weekend in a secluded meadow while walking near the village in the Burgandy region.
A Paris police spokeswoman said there had been about 10 similar cases across France since the start of the year, most in the north and many taking place in secluded meadows.
Jessica Martin, a police captain, said: ‘Everything leads us to conclude that the horse was tortured. It’s utterly barbaric.’
She said there were also cases between 2014 and 2016 and that similar killings and mutilations of horses had been reported in the past in Belgium and Germany.
But the high number in France was unprecedented over such a short period.
‘We do not understand the motivation. Is it a satanic rite, insurance fraud, some macabre trophy hunt or an internet challenge? We don’t know. It is very traumatising,’ she said.
She said several different breeds of horses had fallen victim, as well as one donkey, and that mutilation of an ear was a common factor. No meat had been taken from the carcases.
The latest series of killings began of February 12 of this year, when a staff member at the agricultural college in Moselle, near France’s eastern border with Germany, found the corpse of a horse lying in its paddock.
Thee days later, the son of a racehorse trainer found the body of Démon du Médoc, with an ear removed.
The trainer, Philippe Boutin, said ‘I think they made him gallop and he died of heart failure, and then they cut off his ear.’
Mr Boutin said that he has known some cases of horses being shot and killed illegally for their meat, but noted that this motive had been ruled out in the recent cases.
In one instance, a horse had been electrocuted, believed to be with a portable generator, while others appeared to have been stunned or killed by a blow with a large stone before then being mutilated.
In April, a two-year-old horse was found dead by the daughter of a woman who breaks in horses.
Stéphanie Gachelin said: ‘At first we thought it was a natural death, then we discovered traces of wounds, and one of her ears was missing.’
Two other horses were found with wounds – on on the head and the other on the haunch, according to The Daily Telegraph.
National police are assisting local investigations of cases, and France has sent alerts to other European countries’ forces, police captain Martin said.
In France, those who commit ‘acts of cruelty or mistreatment of an animal’ face up to two years in prison and a fine of €30,000 (£26,973).