You’re probably aware that horse theft still exists in Canada. Likewise, you probably know your expensive equine items such as saddles, show tack and horse trailers also appeal to criminals.
But I’m willing to guess you don’t lay awake at night, worrying that someone will steal your horse’s tail.
Maybe you should.
In late November 2012, Patty Cole of Killam, Alta., went to her barn to prepare for a trail ride only to discover that her bay Paint mare, Jewel, was missing her thick black tail. “Jewel’s dock wasn’t injured, but every hair below the tail bone was gone,” Cole explains. “I had four other horses in the same pasture, and they were fine, so at first I wondered if Jewel had somehow accidently cut or pulled out her tail. My friend and I thoroughly checked the entire pasture, but we couldn’t find a single hair, or any signs of a struggle.”
After double and triple checking the situation, Cole phoned the local RCMP detachment. An officer took her information, and then shared some of his own. Theft of a horse tail may sound odd to you, but the officer had heard of it a number of times before in Alberta. “I learned this sort of things was becoming more common, especially in urban areas,” Cole says.
A few weeks earlier the Calgary Herald had reported on two horse tails removed from animals near Taber. The horses were not physically injured, but one horse had been listed for sale, and the owners note his value was now decreased because a tail-less horse looks odd and unattractive. Likewise, theft of horse tails has been recorded all across Canada and the United States. In the fall of 2012 62 horse tails were reported stolen in Wyoming alone.
So why would anyone steal your horse’s tail? Because it’s valuable, that’s why. One source notes horse hair can sell for more than $350 per pound, depending upon its colour and length. There are two main uses for horse hair. First, the strands can be worked into Western items such as belts, hat bands, bridles, bracelets and other jewelry. Secondly, long tails are used to create tail extensions and switches to allow show horses to compete with thick, flowing locks. Reputable crafters buy horse hair from overseas, or from local slaughter houses, but with the closing of many such facilities in the U.S., horse hair has become a premium item. This has led to a black market for quality horse tails.
“My horses are all quiet, so a thief wouldn’t have had difficulty cutting off Jewel’s tail,” Cole says. “And while they didn’t hurt her, they’ve now left her defenceless against flies and mosquitoes. I expect it will take Jewel four or five years to grow her tail to its full length, if it ever does.”