Horse owners in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island say their animals' tails are being targeted by thieves. 

Duncan-area farm owner Krista Batty says three of her show horses have had hair from their once long tails bluntly hacked off and stolen in the past week.

"They must be giving them some good treat because my grey horse that had her tail [hair] cut off, she's very untrusting of people," said Batty.

Batty said the thieves are probably striking in the daytime, because her horses are kept in stables at night and they would not take well to strangers with flashlights.

"It just looks like someone petting them across the fence and I think that's why no one's noticed any suspicious activity," said Batty.

Several other local horse owners say thieves have targeted their animals too — and it is not the first time. A similar incident was reported to the RCMP last March. There has also been at least one case in Langley and multiple cases across the United States.

Hair used for arts, instruments

North Cowichan and Duncan RCMP Cpl. Krista Hobday said police are aware of the incidents, and are seeking tips from the public to stop the cutting.

"This cruel act of theft will have a negative impact on the comfort and well-being of the horses, who rely on their tail for fending off biting and stinging insect," Hobday said.

Hobday said police haven't determined the exact motive for the recents thefts, but noted that horse hair is used in the manufacture of craft products and ceremonial masks.

Batty said she knows that horse hair can also be used to make violin bows, but she also doesn't know exactly why someone has stolen her horse's tails.

"If [the thieves] came forward, we would give them all of the hair we didn't need. But stop taking the hair they do," she said.

Some horse owners in the Cowichan Valley say they will now invest thousands of dollars to build and electrify fences. 

With files from the CBC's Chad Pawson