You’ve heard of catching a tiger by the tail? Authorities in northwest Iowa are hoping to catch a thief holding a horse’s tail. In the past week, at least three horse owners in the Storm Lake and Sioux Rapids areas report someone’s snuck onto their properties and sliced off their horses’ tails. Some of the tails were three feet long.

Buena Vista County Sheriff Chuck Eddy says it’s a puzzle: "We’ve never had anything like this before. It seems a little unusual. We have heard that this is taking place in other parts of the United States but it’s new for us."

Sheriff Eddy says the animals weren’t physically hurt, but the horses are probably annoyed about not having tails with which to swish away pests. Eddy says: "I would think so. They don’t have very much of a reach now with the tails cut off. I think the flies and gnats would really bother them."

Only the thief knows the motive for the tail travail, but the sheriff has his suspicions. Eddy says horse hair is used for braiding into whips and belts so it’s assumed that’s what they’re being used for, though he says the tails may also be used as hair extensions for the tails of show horses. As for the conclusion to the tail tale, deputies are still on the trail.

AUDIO: Radio Iowa’s Matt Kelley report on horse tails. :37 MP3