Police are investigating the possibility that the mutilation of a two-year-old pony on Dartmoor may have been the work of a Satanic cult.
The animal, which was found dead on moorland at Yennadon Down, Dousland Yelverton, by a horse rider at around 6.50pm on Tuesday, appeared to have been "deliberately mutilated" in "some kind of ritualistic way," police said.
The pony had its genitals, right ear and tongue sliced off, and eyes gouged out. Its stomach had also been cut open and the animal had traces of white paint on one of its legs.
The area where the killing took place also had circular burn marks on the moorland perhaps suggesting it was part of a ritualistic ceremony involving candles.
Karla McKechnie, Dartmoor’s Livestock Protection Officer, told the Telegraph that she feared “witches or devil worshippers” could be behind the slaughter.
"We do get strange things happening from time to time, normally when it’s a full moon”, Ms McKechnie said.
Inspector Andy Oliver, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "This was a particularly nasty and distressing incident.Someone will know who is responsible.
This behaviour is bizarre and of concern and I would ask anyone with information concerning the incident to contact the police."
Police also revealed that this was the fourth such incident in the force area in the last 12 months.
Inspector Oliver told the BBC that his officers would be speaking to "experts in the field as it was not in the normal remit".