Monday, September 22, 2008

How Bizarre is This?

While I was away, this terrible incident hit the news back at home:

Vandals hack off hair from North Saanich stallions
Stolen tail hair was a valuable selling point for breeding
Sandra Mcculloch, Times Colonist
Published: Sunday, September 14, 2008

The vandals who hacked off the tails of two stallions at a North Saanich stable Friday afternoon took more than just a metre or so of coarse black horsehair.

The horses' owners, Jan Sutherland and Kristy Rowlandson, say the thieves robbed Fiddler and Lad of their very identities.

The stallions are gypsy cobs, also known as gypsy vanners, and the small pony-type breed is best known for the flowing hair of its mane, tail and legs.

The two horses were fine at noon Friday in their paddock at Bodicea Farm on busy McTavish Road. A few hours later, Sutherland was told their tails had been roughly cut with a blade.

"I was like 'You're kidding, right?' Then I went out and I just about vomited," Sutherland said yesterday.

The tails had been in protective bags, and someone had cut them off and taken the bags full of hair. What remained was ragged stumps of hair, bluntly cut in varying lengths.

Sutherland said it's distressing to see Fiddler and Lad, both breeding stallions, in this state. "You want to grow their hair as long as you can get it. You never cut a gypsy horse's hair." Now it will be next to impossible to sell the stallions' services, since owners of breeding mares want to know the offspring will have the best traits of a gypsy cob -- and that's primarily lots of hair.

Showing pictures of how the stallions used to look won't be the same, Rowlandson said.

"It's like taking away what the breed is," she said.

Added Sutherland: "For a gypsy horse to not have a tail is totally insulting. If they had cut off the tail of any other horse on the property, it wouldn't be such a big deal." It's a baffling case, said Cpl. Marlene Martin of the Sidney/North Saanich RCMP.

"I wondered why somebody would want to do this," she said yesterday.

"The first thought is it's just malicious." But upon investigation, Martin discovered horsehair is used in First Nations artwork.

Sutherland added that there's a big market for the coarse hair of stallions -- it's popular with makers of bows for string instruments -- with 500-gram bundles selling on the Internet for $200 to $300.

Her two horses were recently at the Saanich Fair, and they had the longest manes and tails of any horses there.

Ironically, Sutherland had a bag full of horsehair she would have given away to anyone who wanted it.

"They didn't need to practically dismember my horses," Sutherland said.

She estimates it's going to take two to four years for the tails to grow back.

Police are looking for witnesses who might have driven past the crime scene Friday afternoon.

Anyone with information can reach Saanich RCMP at 250-656-3931 or Crime Stoppers at 250-386-8477.

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008