It's happened in other states and maybe they thought there was a higher black market than there is. A tail like this might be $10 to $50. If you get anything out of it, I would be surprised. It is not like scrap metal or copper. —Sheriff Brian Nielson

MANTI — State agriculture officials are cautioning horse owners to keep an eye on their animals after two horses had their tails cut off.

A horse's tail was cut off in Washington County last week, and it happened to a horse in Sanpete County sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning, officials said. The tail that took years to grow was gone in a matter of seconds.

Jerolyn Smith feeds Benny, a horse that to her is like family. Benny is 27 years old, and Smith has had her since Benny was 10. Benny has had a distinguished career as a show horse.

"She has won enough trophies and tack and awards to fill a barn,” Smith said. "She is one of those horses that everyone wants to have but not very many people get to have."

Benny's tail was grown nearly to the ground, but now Benny's tail is shorter than it has ever been.

"You could see clearly a pair of scissors,” Smith said. “Someone grabbed her tail — whack, whack — and that was the end of that."

For horses, a tail isn't just for looks. It protects them from flies and mosquitoes.

“And now it is a health issue for her, especially at her age," Smith said. "She will never live long enough to grow her tail back. It takes four to five years for a tail to grow the length hers was.”

The Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident. Sheriff Brian Nielson said he fears the person who cut Benny’s tail mistakenly believed a horse’s tail is worth its weight in gold.

1 comment on this story

"It's happened in other states and maybe they thought there was a higher black market than there is,” Nielson said. “A tail like this might be $10 to $50. If you get anything out of it, I would be surprised. It is not like scrap metal or copper."

Smith fears the loss of her tail it will make the last years of Benny's life much more uncomfortable, especially during the hot, dry summer months.

“It just really makes you angry that someone would come on your property and violate your animals,” she said.

E-mail: spenrod@ksl.com