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Dec. 10, 2021

A Strange Harvest: Unexplained Cattle Mutilations with Linda Moulton Howe

A Strange Harvest: Unexplained Cattle Mutilations with Linda Moulton Howe

My special guest is Emmy Award winning journalist Linda Moulton Howe. She joins me to discuss her research into cattle mutilations and the mind boggling details in which organs and other body parts are removed from the animals.
The bovine corpses stunned the ranchers who found them. The animals’ ears, eyes, udders, anuses, sex organs and tongues had routinely been removed, seemingly with a sharp, clean instrument. Their carcasses had been drained of blood. No tracks or footprints were found in the immediate vicinity—nor were any of the usual opportunistic scavengers.
Between April and October of 1975, nearly 200 cases of cattle mutilation were reported in the state of Colorado alone. Far from being mere tabloid fodder, it had become a nationally recognized issue: That year, the Colorado Associated Press voted it the state’s number one story. Colorado’s then-senator Floyd Haskell asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to get involved. 
Throughout the 1970s, cases had continued to mount throughout the American heartland. And in 1979—after thousands of reported cattle mutilations, causing millions of dollars of livestock losses—the FBI finally opened an investigation into a series of cases that had reportedly taken place on New Mexico’s Indian lands. Pressure came, in part, from a heated public symposium on the subject that had been convened by that state’s science-minded U.S. senator, Harrison Schmitt, who had a Ph.D in geology from Harvard and had walked on the moon as an Apollo 17 astronaut. 
Ultimately, the FBI’s inquiry poured cold water on the idea that something strange was afoot. On January 15, 1980, the Bureau closed the investigation, putting out a statement saying that, “none of the reported cases has involved what appear to be mutilations by other than common predators.”
Locals sharply disagreed.
“I've been around cattle all my life and I can sure tell whether it's been done by coyote or a sharp instrument,” Sheriff George A. Yarnell of Elbert County, a rural area south of Denver, told The New York Times in the fall of 1975.

Mysterious livestock mutilations weren’t confined to the 1970s, or to the United States. Similar cases involving sheep, cows or horses have been reported as far back as the early 17th century and as recently as 2019. The ‘70s cases, however, brought the most widespread attention.
Broadly speaking, the debate about cattle mutilation falls into two camps: those who see the mutilations as unexplained phenomena, and those who see them as normal cattle deaths, repackaged as something mysterious or paranormal. 
For those in the unexplained camp, opinions have diverged about the possible explanation. Some law enforcement communities opined that the animals were being mutilated by people in strange, quasi-religious rituals. In 1980, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police blamed the mutilations on an unidentified cult. The Department of Criminal Investigations in Iowa, meanwhile, asserted that the mutilations were being conducted by satanists.


Cattle mutilation (also known as bovine excision[1] and unexplained livestock death,[2] or animal mutilation) is the killing and mutilation of cattleunder unusual, usually bloodless circumstances. This phenomenon has been observed among wild animals as well. Worldwide, sheep, horses, goats, pigs, rabbits, cats, dogs, bison, deer and elk have been reported mutilated with similar bloodless excisions; often an ear, eyeball, jaw flesh, tongue, lymph nodes, genitals and rectum are removed.

Since the first reports of animal mutilations, various explanations have been offered, ranging from natural decomposition and normal predation to cults and secretive governmental and military agencies, to a range of speculations, including cryptid predators (like the chupacabra) and extraterrestrials. Mutilations have been the subject of two independent federal investigations in the United States.[3]

The earliest known documented outbreak of unexplained livestock deaths occurred in early 1606 "...about the city of London and some of the shires adjoining. Whole slaughters of sheep have been made, in some places to number 100, in others less, where nothing is taken from the sheep but their tallow and some inward parts, the whole carcasses, and fleece remaining still behind. "Of this sundry conjectures, but most agree that it tendeth towards some fireworks." The outbreak was noted in the official records of the Court of James I of England.[4] Charles Fort collected many accounts of cattle mutilations that occurred in England in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. John Keel mentioned investigating animal mutilation cases in 1966 (while with Ivan T. Sanderson) that were being reported in the Upper Ohio River Valley, around Gallipolis, Ohio.[5]


The "Snippy" horse mutilation[edit]

Animal mutilation was relatively unknown until 1967, when the Pueblo Chieftain published a story about a horse called "Snippy" that was mysteriously killed and mutilated in Alamosa, Colorado.

On September 9, 1967, Agnes King and her son Harry reportedly found the dead body of their three-year-old horse. The horse's head and neck had been skinned and defleshed, and the body displayed cuts that, to King, looked very precise. No blood was at the scene, according to Harry, and a strong medicinal odor was in the air.

The story was republished by the wider press and distributed nationwide; this case was the first to feature speculation that extraterrestrial beings and unidentified flying objects were associated with mutilation.[6] A subsequent investigation by Wadsworth Ayer for the Condon Committee [7] concluded that "There was no evidence to support the assertion that the horse's death was associated in any way to abnormal causes".[8]

When the Lewises phoned Alamosa County Sheriff Ben Phillips, he told them that the death was probably due to "a lightning strike" and never bothered to visit the site. Early press coverage of the case misnamed Lady as Snippy. Snippy was Lady's sire and belonged to Nellie's husband, Berle Lewis.[4] Later press coverage mentions that the horse had been shot "in the rump".[9] However, two students from Alamosa State College confessed to sneaking out into the pasture and shooting the horse several weeks after the case was publicized.[10

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