Horses mutilated as police investigate claims it’s sick ‘online challenge’

At least 15 horses have been mutilated in separate attacks, with police now investigating whether the attacks could be part of a twisted fetish, sadistic ritual, or online "challenge".

The animals have been discovered across France since the start of the year with at least five incidents reported since the start of August.

Worryingly, the attacks have not been specific to any particular region, having been reported across the east, west and north of the country.

On Monday a mare which had previously died of natural causes was found with its nose, ear, and one eye removed in the Jura region.

Another horse in the same region was stunned before having its eye gouged out and a piece of bone removed, later dying from its injuries.

The local gendarmerie have now issued an appeal for information on anyone seen acting suspiciously near paddocks, breeding farms or equestrian centres.

"These cases are taken very seriously and are being investigated by the Jura police," they wrote on Facebook.

"Every effort is made to identify the authors and put an end to such actions."

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The attacks date back to at least February this year, when a horse was found dead at an agricultural school in Château-Salins, near the Alsace region.

One of the horses, which belonged to a school, had one of its ears "meticulously" removed, France Bleu reported.

A few days later, across the other side of the country, a racehorse was found dead with an ear missing in the Vendée region, south of Nantes.

Owner Philippe Boutin told Channel 3 that there were signs of a struggle in the field, and that it would have taken a team of people to bring the horse down.

"We can see that he tried not to get caught. There are traces of slipping in the field. A single person cannot do that," Mr Boutin said.

Police in Roanne near Lyon, where the most recent case was discovered, told AFP they had linked the latest horse mutilation to "about 15 other mysterious acts of torture and mutilations of live horses around France these last weeks".

"Is this a challenge on the internet? The impulse of an individual? All avenues are being investigated," Bruno Wallart of the police in Riom in the Puy-de-Dome region of central France, where several horses have reportedly been mutilated, said in June.

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