French horse owner surprises animal attackers in the night

The horse owner scared away two individuals armed with knives on his property, after they had already stabbed a horse. This comes following at least 15 other macabre horse attacks in France this year.

27 August 2020
A brown horse in an enclosure. French horse owner surprises animal attackers in the night. This year around 15 attacks on horses in France have been recorded. Horse owners are increasingly worried about how to protect their animals from the attacks.
By Joanna York

The horse owner was alerted to the unexpected visitors on the night of August 24, after his dog's barking woke him.

He managed to scare away the armed attackers on his property in Montholon (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté), but only after they had already stabbed a horse multiple times. 

The wounds suffered by the horse were skin deep, and it will survive the attack.

At least 15 attacks in France, police mystified

Other animals have not been so lucky. This attack is thought to be linked to at least 15 other incidents in France since February 2020, which have seen horses, ponies and donkeys killed and mutilated. The attacks have some common threads: the dead animals are often found with an ear and other body parts removed as well as mutilations on their genitals and other areas. 

Read more: More horses found dead and mutilated in France

National equine association, the Fédération Française d’Équitation announced last week that “faced with a series of acts of cruelty towards equine animals all over France” it would file a civil case alongside owners who have had animals attacked in the past few months.  

However, the motivation behind the attacks is unclear. The incidents often happen on large rural properties at night, and are only discovered in the morning.

A spokesperson for the national police said: “We don’t understand what is behind this. Is it a satanic rite, some macabre trophy hunt or an internet challenge? We don’t know. It’s very traumatising.”

It is also not clear how many people are carrying out the attacks and how or if they are coordinated. Lionel Pascal is a public prosecutor in Jura (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté), a commune which has seen four attacks. He told news source France Info: “The operating method seems to be the same, in that it essentially targets the horses’ genitals, but there are no elements that allow us to say we are looking for one individual or one group.”

Advice for horse owners

 Police have issued advice for horse owners to help them protect their animals. These include:

  • Daily checks on horses in fields
  • Removing harnesses from horses in fields
  • Installing surveillance cameras
  • Reporting suspicious behaviour (such as unexpected vehicles or individuals on private property) to police by calling 17
  • Reporting attacks to police as quickly as possible by calling 17

The Fédération Française d’Équitation have added that owners should keep animals inside when possible, and ask their neighbours to be vigilant.

However some horse owners fear these suggestions will not work in practice. One owner with 45 horses in Hautes-Pyrénées (Occitanie) asked news source Le Figaro: “How can we monitor entire hectors?” As installing infrared cameras on the property would be too expensive, she has increased the number of checks she does each day and night. 

Another owner with four horses in Haute-Savoie (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes), saw two suspicious individuals on her property one evening. She told Le Figaro: “We moved our van to sleep next to our horses, we take turns to check on them in the night.” The owner has also bought a gun for protection, as have others. She said: “Our whole village is mobilised, it feels like we’re in a western.”

Owners are also sharing information on the Facebook group Justice Pour Nos Chevaux (justice for our horses) which currently has 12,000 members.

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