The necks of more than
20 horses were mysteriously slashed near their jugular veins at
Tanque Verde Guest Ranch in Tuscon, Ariz., beginning in July, 2003.
The attacks launched an investigation, and concern about area
horses' safety erupted. Tuscon law officials recently discovered the
culprit wasn't a criminal. It was a pasture mate of the
Dawn Barkman, public information officer and deputy at the Pima
County Sheriff's Department, said, "We didn't get involved until
Aug. 1 of last year, and by that point, they had already had 12
horses that were attacked." An additional 11 were attacked once the
department got involved.
Wounds on the victims were one to four inches long and about an inch
"All the injuries were on the same side of the neck of the horse,
the same type of injury, which led us to believe it might have been
caused by a human," said Barker. "At the end of the investigation,
we actually discovered it was a horse doing all the damage."
Deputies had been watching the horses at night during the
investigation. Witnesses at the ranch saw the offending horse
exhibiting aggressive behavior so the deputies began watching the
one horse and determined a few months ago that he was, in fact, the
Barkman said, "I think it's a relief for the department to complete
the investigation and determine what happened, and a relief for the
public because it wasn't actually human caused."
Once the offending gelding was separated from the herd, the attacks
According to an archived Behavior column by Sue McDonnell, PhD,
Certified AAB, "Grasping and holding onto other horses is a natural
element of stallion harem formation and maintenance behavior. It is
seen in stallions when they are gathering a harem or trying to get a
mare to stay with the group. This grasping behavior is also a
conspicuous element of play behavior among juveniles, as well as the
more serious sparring behavior among bachelor stallions. The grasp
is typically onto the crest of the neck and mane, but can be at the
throat or jugular area.
She further explained that if the targets are other geldings, the
behavior could represent "inter-male sparring typical of bachelor
stallions. Many true geldings retain this and other stallion-like
A representative from the ranch did not respond to inquiries.
The gelding has since been sold to a home where he will have no
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