Police in France probe 153 cases of horse mutilations, killings

Horses stand in an enclosure in Plailly, northern France, on Monday.
(Thomas Samson / Pool Photo)

Investigators in France have made numerous arrests since a macabre series of attacks left scores of horses mutilated or killed this year and have opened more than 150 investigations into such cases, the French government said Monday.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin announced the start of night patrols by gendarmes to reassure horse owners and to try to catch would-be attackers. He said police had opened 153 investigations on the horse attacks, about 30 of them involving deaths or “extremely violent injuries.”

Despite numerous arrests, there have been no known breakthroughs in the probe. Darmanin warned owners against taking justice into their own hands.

“The drama within the drama would be an owner ... wanting to take vengeance, do justice, take out his rifle, fight with someone who goes after his horses,” he said.

Darmanin spoke after visiting the owner of a horse that was a victim of the mysterious attacks in the Oise region, north of Paris.


Knives have been used to slash the horses and, in some cases, mutilate them, with organs sometimes being removed. A horse’s face was disfigured in one case and blood drained in another. Often, a right ear is cut off as a gruesome hallmark or trophy.

A man was being questioned Monday in the Haut-Rhin region of eastern France regarding a late August attack in Burgundy, after the director of an animal refuge went after two men who were slashing two of his ponies. Nicolas Demajean’s arm was slashed as he wrangled with one of the attackers, and police produced a composite drawing based on his description.

The man held for questioning is reportedly 50 and has no connection to horses, according to the newspaper Le Parisien. Darmanin declined to comment on the arrest, the only one reported so far in the French media.

For authorities, it’s clear there are numerous attackers going after horses around the country, but investigators don’t know if the attackers are carrying out cult-like rituals, acting in copycat style or answering a morbid “challenge” on social media.

“No one line is being favored,” Darmanin said of the investigations.