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Exploring the Mystery of Cattle Mutilation

Updated on January 20, 2020
Mamerto profile image

Mamerto Adan is a feature writer back in college for a a school paper. Science is one of his many interests, and his favorite topic.

This is a world of mysteries. I keep telling my friends that rationalizing life too much is a waste of time, as experience tells me that life is too complex and unpredictable to be too rational. In fact, it’s one big fallacy that could catch you off guard. Thinking about life too much is a waste of time at some point, and better try to live life instead.

But I also said “too much” because contemplating and learning about life is not that bad. In fact, there are aspects of our daily lives that are no longer mysteries. And we got to thank science for helping us decode and understand the mechanics of life. From life sciences, physics to cosmology, we know more about the universe now than we did before.

And now, it is up to science to help us solve an enduring mystery that baffled, and frightened people all the same.

It goes back in 17th century, when there was an unexplained outbreak of livestock deaths. And the way the animal died could only be explained as anomalous. They expire under unexplained circumstances with the carcasses mutilated and organs removed. Various explanations are offered, from the natural to the outrageous. Is this the work of someone not from this world, or just mother nature’s way of disposing dead animals?

The Cattle Mutilation

Close-up view of the mutilated animal.
Close-up view of the mutilated animal.

Though the general term for which is “cattle mutilation,” it is known to occur in different types of livestock as well, and even in wild games. Animals like sheep, goats, pigs, even rabbits, elks, dogs and bison will die suddenly, and will end up as mutilated carcasses. Body parts are missing, often the eyeballs, ears, jaw flesh, tongues, lymph nodes, rectums and genitals were sliced off. The incisions themselves appear to be bloodless, and it was said that the carcasses were drained of blood.

According to Dr. Howard Burgess, nearly 90 percent of the mutilated animals are between four and five years old.

People often point out that there are absence of tracks or footprints around the mutilated carcass. This was considered a hallmark of classic cattle mutilation. In this way, who or what was responsible remained unsolved due to the lack of traces. There are cases though that strange imprints on the site could be found. Later, we will discuss the “Snippy” case, where there are holes near the dead animal, while the bushes where flattened. In one case, cup like impressions were found leading to the mutilated carcass.

History and Anecdotes

The "Snippy" Case.
The "Snippy" Case.

The history of animal mutilation dates back in 1606 in London, where approximately 100 sheep were said to be slaughtered. The whole carcasses remain, including the fleece. But some of the tallow and innards are missing. In late 19th century, Charles Fort, an American writer and researcher reported the many cases of cattle mutilations in England. There were also incidents 1966, as was mentioned by John Keel in Upper Ohio River Valley.

One notorious case was the Snippy mutilation, involving a dead horse named Lady. On September 9, 1967, Agnes King and her son Harry found Lady dead, the head and neck skinned and with the flesh missing. The incisions looked precise and no blood was found. It was even reported that the air smell strongly of medical odor. When the story found itself to the press, they misnamed Lady as Snippy.

We will have more of the Snippy’s Case in a moment, but other cases of animal mutilation popped out in later years. In 1975, mutilations were said to number 130 in Colorado. Even in Indonesia, goats were dying and getting mutilated (200 goats) in May 2001. In fact, the case became world-wide after the Snippy mutilation, like in South America, where they have 3500 incidents since 2002. And as recent as 2019, five bulls were mutilated in Silvies Valley Ranch in Oregon.

Outrageous Explanations

People blame it on this guy.
People blame it on this guy.

In laboratory reports, some mutilated animals have high or low levels of vitamins, or with unnatural chemicals. Yet not all animals display this kind of anomalies, while the account between death and necropsy, and the lack of background information on each animal made investigators doubtful if this is connected to the animal’s death.

In 1978, a bull was found dead with classic signs of mutilations, from the clean incisions to the missing organs. The animal’s liver was completely devoid of copper, and with four times the amount of other minerals such as zinc, potassium and phosphorus. Such anomalies baffled the scientists performing the examinations. Its blood won’t clot for days, the hide was brittle for a recently deceased animal, and the flesh discolored. May be, a sudden burst of radiation was behind this.

The unusual and unexplained state of the carcass gave birth to various outrageous explanations. Some suggests cult practices. Probably some random cult members or individuals are killing animals and mutilating them as a form of ritual (including the draining of blood and taking the organs). The hypothesis was developed in the 1970s and 80s, at the time where cults like the People’s Temple is on the rise. Nevertheless, the hypothesis was dropped due to lack of evidence. Cult hysteria and high school jokes that helped fabricate stories are not helping either.

Charles T. Oliphant, cattle mutilation researcher mentioned in his article in 1997 how animal deaths were possible military experiments. There are eyewitness reports of unmarked aircraft and “black helicopters” loitering in areas where animal deaths were reported. As biochemist Colm Kelleher argued that the mutilation is a possible government clandestine operation to track the spread of mad cow disease. Others alleged that developments of chemical weapons were the reason.

UFOs are also blamed, and the mutilations are said to be alien experiments. And sometimes, unknown creatures like the Chupacabra.

And Science Steps In

The turkey vulture, the real life carcass mutilator.
The turkey vulture, the real life carcass mutilator.

Nevertheless, there are more down to earth explanations on the unexplained deaths of these animals. Going back to the Snippy case, it so happens that the death was the result of mischief. Two students from Alamosa State College shot the animal several weeks before the case was known to the public. And when the animal died several weeks before, this could explain the lack of blood and incisions, which will be tackled later. In the case of New Mexico mutilation, radiation was initially cited as the cause of animal death, as the blood won’t clot. The hypothesis was discarded when anti-coagulant was found in the blood.

Out of public pressures, Federal authorities also launched their own investigation. Headed by FBI agent Kenneth Rommel (the operation was dubbed “Operation Animal Mutilation”) they came up with results that eliminated various outrageous hypothesis. It was concluded that carcass mutilations came from natural process, like predation. As a variety of scientists, veterinary workers, farmers and agricultural workers pointed out, nature is also capable of alien like mutilations.

For the seemingly mutilated parts like the lips, anus and genitals, dehydration caused those parts to contract and be damaged, as the actions of burrowing parasites consume the rest. Carrion feeders like vultures, and insects like blowflies will consume the eyes and enter the bodily openings like the anus to take the organs, which explains the missing organs and eyes. Blood also pools to the lowest portion of the body when an animal dies, where it breaks down to its basic components. Outside the body, blood will be consumed by insects, or got broken by solar desiccation. This explained the lack of blood.

Seemingly surgical cuts can be produced upon bloating of the carcass and drying of the skin. As the skin shrinks and the flesh swells, splits appear. The linear splits are further exacerbated by actions of scavengers.

And it is also worth mentioning that the above conclusions were supported by various experiments.

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