Authorities in France are investigating a series of horse killings that involve the mutilation of the animals’ bodies that resemble the untold number of cases of cattle mutilation that have plagued livestock owners in North America for decades. While it is still unclear as to who is behind the mutilations–or their motives for carrying out such gruesome attacks–at least 30 mutilations of this nature have been reported since 2018, and appear to have been occurring since 2014 in neighboring countries.

The most recent incident occurred in Roanne (Loire, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes) on the night of August 17 involving a horse that had suddenly died a few days earlier of apparent natural causes, and had been left in a field while the owners were waiting on professionals to arrive to tend to the carcass. On the morning of the 17th the owners discovered that the corpse had been mutilated, with an ear, eye and its nose having been removed sometime in the night.

“Police have found similarities between this case and around 15 other mysterious acts of torture and mutilation of live horses throughout France in the past few weeks,” according to a spokesperson for the Roannee public prosecutor’s department. At least 30 attacks have been documented since 2018, according to Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie. “All means are in motion to end this terror,” Denormandie stated on Twitter.

Another incident occurred on the night of August 7, when a horse in Cortambert, a village in the Saone-et-Loire region, was found dead with its right ear and genitals cut off, along with one eye having been gouged out. “This is absolutely barbaric,” a local official remarked.

A spokesperson for the Paris police said they were aware of at least 10 similar cases having been reported this year alone, and that the mutilations resembled a spate of cases in Belgium and Germany that occurred between 2014 and 2016. France’s recent rash of killings is, however, unprecedented.

“We do not understand the motivation,” the police spokesperson stated. “Is it a satanic rite, insurance fraud, some macabre trophy hunt or an internet challenge? We don’t know. It is very traumatising.”

The public prosecutor’s department in Roanne said: “Police have found similarities between this case and around 15 other mysterious acts of torture and mutilation of live horses throughout France in the past few weeks.”

No single type of horse appears to have been singled out, with not only ponies but also a donkey having been targeted by the culprits, although no draught horses appear to have been involved in the killings. Each case typically involves the removal of the creature’s right ear, with some of the stricken animals having been found to be drained of blood or missing other body parts, such as eyes, nose, or genitals, with each piece having been cleanly cut off; once case even saw the removal of a “chestnut”, a callous-like growth found on the inner leg of some horses from a horse in Jura. To date, no meat has been removed from any of the animals involved.

Despite the close similarity of these cases to their genuinely mysterious North American cattle mutilation counterparts, at least a handful of these cases are due to more mundane factors, with two human perpetrators having been confronted by the owner of the Ranch of Hope animal refuge in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, and another horse having found to have been shot with a firearm.

The Roanne case was the first of these mutilations known to have been done post-mortem, according to Claire Juillet, head of the Agricultural Union Coordination Rurale; all of the other mutilations appear to have been performed while the horses were still alive. The horse in the Roanne case died suddenly on August 14, with no obvious signs of abuse, and wasn’t mutilated until three days later, leading Juillet to speculate that that the animal’s death and subsequent mutilation may have been linked, “as if it was done in two stages. It’s the first time that’s happened, or at least the first time we’ve realized it.”

While there is speculation that the mutilations are being carried out by satanic cults or other malicious groups, Juillet points out a number of odd details that deepen the methodical strangeness of these cases.

“What’s weird is that, in many cases, these attacks have happened at similar times, but physically very far apart,” said Juillet. “Which makes you think it’s probably not just one single group behind this.” The attackers would have to be working in groups of two at the very least: “The average man weighs 80 kilograms [176 lbs], while a horse weighs 500 [1,100 lbs]. If you’re able to immobilize a horse with a lasso – as they’ve apparently done in several cases – it would be awfully tricky to cut off an ear so cleanly with your free hand.”

The attackers also appear to have an advanced knowledge of horses, having been able to both approach and placate the animals without harming them–at least before the mutilations were carried out. Juillet suspects that the perpetrators used what is called a “nose twitch”, a restraint device used on the horse’s upper lip that produces an anesthetic effect on the creature.

“To use a nose twitch, you firstly have to know it exists, and to use one correctly you have to have a fairly advanced knowledge of horses,” according to Juillet. “Most riders have never used one.”

Editor’s note: Although the circumstances of these cases closely resemble the still-unexplained phenomenon of cattle mutilations, there aren’t enough details available to determine if the situation is a mix of classic cases of an esoteric nature and mundane killings by human copycats, or if all of them are perpetrated by humans mimicking the mysterious mutilations that have afflicted farmers in North America for the better part of a century. Hopefully the future will shed more light on the issue, and French authorities will be able to arrest any humans involved in the killings.

Further details of individual cases of these horse mutilations in France, along with others that have been documented over the course of this year, can be found at Linda Moulton Howe’s

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