Crimes beyond explanation: horse hair theft

We’re talking horse manes. Seriously. Last summer, 63 horses in Wyoming got their manes and tail hair cut mysteriously. According to this report in the Billings Gazette, three more horses were victimized in February, again near Casper. Horse hair is used for musical bows, hat bands, paintbrushes, bridles, and even jewelry.

This Toronto Star account says there’s also a growing trade in horse hair used to make show horses tails and manes appear fuller.  Thefts have been reported in Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, and British Columbia, but likely also occur elsewhere. Regrowing the hair can take years.

If you’re inclined to make such a purchase, consider asking for assurance that the horse hair was collected legally and humanely.

Go ahead. Use that in fiction. I dare you.

15 thoughts on “Crimes beyond explanation: horse hair theft

  1. You can bet I will! Seeing that I write mysteries set in the horse world, this tidbit might find its way into a novel.
    IMO, however, this needs a little clarification: show breeds that want their horses to have full flowing tails often trailing a couple of feet on the ground (noteably American Saddlehorses and Morgan Horses) keep their horses tails braided and wrapped up in socks when they are not in the show ring to encourage the hair to grow.
    2. It’s an accepted and completely legal business to do the braid and wrap thing on “ordinary” horses and when 3+ feet long, cut it off and sell for very good money to folks that make them into tail switches. Not terribly different from girls and women who let their hair grow long than chop it off to make wigs for cancer victims.
    3. Cutting off mane and tail hair does not hurt a horse any more than cutting our hair does. However if the horse has never been handled, it would be a process much like cattle branding but without the burn of a branding.
    4. Many breeds, (like Appaloosas) naturally have skimpy tails and have gotten along in the wilds for many generations.

  2. We kept all the hair off the tail of our horse when we put her down. We were going to make bracelets out of it. It still sits in its bag.
    There is a folk song about making a rope for hanging out of horeshair and a mystery story where hair was stolen to use in clothing design.

  3. Tom Russell sings about hanging a couple of horse thieves with a horse hair rope in The Sky Above, The Mud Below:
    (last verse)
    Now the fancy horsehair bridle, it hangs on Deacon’s wall
    Next to that wanted poster of the brothers Sandoval
    And he twisted rope so shiny black, the artifact that broke their necks
    Their craftsmanship he did respect, but they shoulda stuck to braidin

  4. A number of years ago, at the Royal Sydney Show (Fair) in New South Wales, Australia, a rival cut short the tails of an Arabian horse team, so they couldn’t go in the ring and beat them out. The authorities allowed the victims to wear false tails in the ring and from that time on, false tails were allowed as long as the judge was aware of which horses were wearing them! Just a little trivia for today 🙂

  5. I love the unusual crimes you come up with, Leslie. I’ve seen some horses, mostly draft horses, I think, who always have their tails docked. Not sure how they can keep the flies off. Did you come up with this because of all the horse stories running now on the Guppy list serve?

    • Thanks, Gloria. Complete coincidence that the Guppy discussion group is discussing horses (and their use in mystery plots!) right now. I wrote and scheduled this post a few weeks ago after seeing the Billings Gazette article about the shorn horses in Wyoming.

  6. Like Patti, I’m pondering the plot possibilities of mane and tail stealing. Also, I noticed these incidents occur mostly out west, not in the east, maybe where geography allows more isolation? Also, I know some equestrian disciplines, like hunting, jumping and racing, prefer horses with shorter manes, more of an even fringe along the neck, which is easier to keep neat and then braid into tight little knots for showing. So, those manes would be on the short side, and not worth taking. I wonder if there isn’t some vandalism behind it. Could mane and tail stealing be the new cow tipping?

    • Rhonda, you may be right about the greater ease of horse hair theft where horses spend more time in wide open spaces. Doesn’t make it impossible back east — just a greater plot challenge!

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