Police fear devil worshippers have marked the summer solstice in Lancashire with a series of sickening attacks on horses.
Five animals were slashed with a blade in the Garstang area in what officers suspect were satanic or Pagan rituals.
And owners across the county have been warned to be on their guard in case the “horse-rippers” strike again.
“Apparently across the UK attacks on horses go up around this time of year to coincide with the solstice,” said a Lancashire police spokesman.
“It’s hard to understand why these people do it. But they need catching. It’s cruel and very distressing for both the horses and their owners.”
The first attack came in Winmarleigh where a mare was slashed twice across the legs. Shortly after four more female horses were discovered in Over Wyre with cuts across the buttock area.
Police are appealing to other owners to get in touch if they believe their animals have been cut.
“The owner of the first horse thought at first they were wounds from barbed wire,” said PC Dave Kerfoot, the community beat manager for Garstang. “But the cuts were very clean and have clearly been done with a sharp blade like a Stanley knife or a razor.
“Then we were called in when four horses in a field not too far away were also discovered with cuts. They were all on the left back leg around the buttock area, so it was obviously a deliberate attack.
“It is possible other horses have been targeted and their owners haven’t reported it, perhaps thinking it was accidental. So if they suspect they have been attacked I would urge them to get in touch with us. Otherwise just be vigilant.
“We have been researching the subject of Pagan or satanic attacks on horses and there have been quite a few across the country over the last few years linked to the summer solstice.
“Apparently it’s something to do with collecting blood. It’s weird. But it is also very upsetting. We would like to apprehend whoever is doing this before they can do any more damage.
“There was a spate of attacks on horses in Lancashire in 2008 and we arrested someone in Blackpool but that was slightly different.”
Mike Stygal, president of The Pagan Federation England and Wales, said:
“These terrible attacks upon horses are not a feature of any recognised Pagan path. Pagan paths find the sacred in nature and harming nature is, consequently incompatible with Pagan paths. Spending any extended period of time investigating Pagan links to these crimes is extremely likely to be a waste of police time and funds. Satanism is not a form of Paganism. Unfortunately, when horrible crimes of this nature occur, people often recall fictional accounts of evil doers who are sometimes portrayed as Pagans by fiction authors and film directors.