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St. George • Sheriff's deputies are searching for a thief who cut off a horse's tail in what's being called the first known case of its kind in Utah.

Eddie Zawacki of Washington County's Dammeron Valley said the tail of her horse Naja was cut just below the muscle and bone section this week, netting the thief about two feet of hair.

"They managed to get over the fence and get her tail, the whole tail," Zawacki told KUTV-TV ( ). "She had a very beautiful tail. It was very thick, long."

Other states, including Colorado and Wyoming, have seen increased cases of horse tail theft. Investigators theorize it's because of a black market for horse hair. Bows for musical instruments, belts, pottery, American Indian headdresses and Western apparel all use horse hair.

"It's a very lucrative business," Zawacki told KUTV. "They can get up to $500 a tail."

Matt Bartlett, chairman of the Utah Horse Council, questions if horse hair needed for smaller crafts is driving the black market. Horse hair still can be bought commercially from China.

The Washington County case is the only tail shearing his group is aware of in Utah, Bartlett added.

Zawacki called the sheriff's department, which said it's the first such case reported to it. Deputies found footprints along the back fence of the property but no other evidence to point to a suspect.

Zawacki said horses need a tail, and her veterinarian instructed her to weave a tail extension into Naja's remaining tail hair so she can swat away flies and biting bugs.

Sadly, Zawacki said, Naja has acted "totally different" since the tail shearing.

"She'd come up to anybody. (She) was a very friendly horse, loved children and now she even backs away from me," she said.