WARNING - GRAPHIC IMAGERY
A miniature horse from Waitati has survived being stabbed more than 40 times in what a long-serving veterinarian is calling the most vicious and disturbing attack on an animal he has seen.
Police have launched an investigation and are appealing for information following the midnight attack.
The veterinarian believes more than one assailant was responsible.
Star, a 10-year-old calf-sized horse, was tethered in his usual paddock in the small seaside settlement near Dunedin about midnight on Sunday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, his owner said her friend was walking a dog near Star's corner paddock at the intersection of Brown St and Pitt St, when he heard a whinnying from nearby.
He went to investigate and discovered Star was no longer tethered, and a trail of blood led down the road.
Following the gruesome trail, the owner said he found the "little-bloodied horse" still alive a short distance down the road.
The man went to alert the owner, and together they managed to get Star into a float and transport him to the Otago Equine Hospital in Mosgiel.
Despite Star suffering 41 puncture wounds and a huge loss of fluid, a veterinarian managed to save his life, operating through the early hours.
Once the horse was treated, the veterinarian discovered the wounds were too clean and deep to have been sustained during a dog attack, as they initially suspected.
The owner said she was shocked and frightened to discover someone would attack her beloved miniature horse.
"He's tiny, he's cute, he's about the size of a calf, and some [person] just went to town stabbing him.
"Whoever this [person] was actually cut the horse free. He was tethered in the paddock _ he ran down the road leaving a trail of blood."
She had no idea why someone would have attacked Star.
Otago Equine Hospital veterinarian Dr Peter Gillespie said when Star was admitted, about
3am, he too thought it was a dog attack.
Veterinarian Dr Stephanie Bransgrove operated on the miniature horse for about five hours.
It eventually became clear the wounds, including one near the jugular, were created with a
sharp knife, not with a dog's teeth, Dr Gillespie said.
"Far too clean and far too deep _ teeth would actually tear the skin.
"The edges are like what we would create when we do a surgical incision."
He had seen nothing like it in his long career, and believed at least two people may have been involved in the attack as the horse would not have stood still while being stabbed.
"I've been doing this for close on 40 years and this is just the worst, most distressing thing I've ever seen."
The horse was on fluids yesterday afternoon as he recovered from surgery and massive blood loss, but looked set to pull through, Dr Gillespie said.
"But he'll be a sore wee guy for a while."
A spokesman said police also understood the injuries were "caused by a blade or similar," and inquiries were ongoing.
They asked for anyone with information to come forward.
Nearly $3000 has been raised on Givealittle to help Star's owner with the vet bill. It can be found here.