History of Tail Docking - The "tail" of woe

Initially, tail docking was performed on horses that worked in harness pulling wagons and large farm machinery. Sometimes the reins could become tangled with the tail. If the reins slipped under the tail, which is a very sensitive piece of anatomy on a horse, the animal would clamp down, thereby trapping the reins and the driver’s ability to handle the rig.


Over the years, this procedure became cosmetically fashionable and was continued, primarily, for showing horses and to maintain the “look” of a working draft horse.


The Animal Welfare Council of Belgium conducted a review and concluded that tail docking was not necessary for draft horses, consequently it supported a national ban. Docking has also been described as cosmetic in the veterinary literature.


  • Lefebvre D, Lips D, Odberg FO, Giffroy JM. Tail docking in horses:  a review of the issues. Animal 2007;1:1167 – 1178

  • Neumann S. Cosmetic surgery:  customer service or professional misconduct. Canadian Vet J 2008;49:  501 – 504.

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