France horse attacks: Owners doubt police figures

Police say 80% of reported incidents against horses since summer were not caused by humans, despite the macabre nature of multiple attacks

7 December 2020
A brown horse eating grass next to a tree. France horse attacks: Horse owners doubt police figures  The strange attacks on horses are happening less often since September but are still being reported
By Joanna York

Police figures regarding incidents involving horses have left many horse owners angry and confused, as it is claimed that only 20% of the injuries reported against horses were inflicted by people.

This follows a series of attacks over summer which left many of horses left injured and dead throughout France. The macabre nature of the mutilations, in which many horses had ears and genitals removed, also left horse owners worried and scared for the safety of their animals.  

There are no exact figures on how many horses were attacked in this way but at the start of September, it was known to be over 30.

Local and national police investigations are ongoing but have failed to find a culprit so far. However, the police have released a portrait of the suspected attacker and have raised concerns that the attacks may be related to “sexual deviance and acts of bestiality”. 

Owners say wounds must have been caused by humans

But horse owners are now perplexed over police figures regarding the attacks. 

This year 460 incidents against horses have been recorded by the centralised police body investigating the attacks, l'Office central de lutte contre les atteintes à l'environnement et à la santé publique.

But only 84 of these incidents have been attributed to humans, with the rest being put down to natural causes and accidents. These include attacks from wild animals and instances of the animals injuring themselves by breaking out of their enclosures, for example.

In a statement, the interior ministry said that only 20% of attacks against horses have been carried out by humans - a figure that many horse owners feel plays down the threat to their animals.

Léon, a horse owner in the Pays de Loire, told news source Le Figaro: “Do they think [the attacks] were done by badgers? With cuts that are so clean and so cruel? That’s impossible.”

Another horse owner, who preferred to remain anonymous, said “I don’t believe it. It’s impossible. I won’t let my guard down and I will continue to watch over my horses. They’ve made a mistake.”

A third, who also stayed anonymous, said: “Seeing how [the attacks] was done, only a human could have operated in that way."

Attacks going down, but owners still worried 

Police and horse owners agree that attacks have decreased in general since the end of September, although they have not disappeared completely. 

The last recorded attack was on December 2 near Niort, where a mare was found alive but with her genitals mutilated.

Support groups and information-sharing networks for horse owners on social media are calling on owners to remain vigilant. 

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