A miniature horse stabbed 41 times in a vicious attack in Waitati has died.
The owner of Star, a 10-year-old calf-sized horse, said this morning one of the wounds had punctured his bowel and he had died overnight.
Veterinarians were yesterday optimistic about his chance's of recovery, after Star survived the stabbing attack in his paddock in the small seaside town.
Police have launched an investigation and are appealing for information following the midnight attack on Sunday.
Otago Equine Hospital veterinarian Peter Gillespie believes more than one assailant was responsible.
Star, a 10-year-old calf-sized horse, was tethered in his usual paddock in the small seaside settlement near Dunedin.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, his owner said her friend was walking a dog near Star's corner paddock at the intersection of Brown and Pitt Sts, when he heard whinnying.
He discovered Star was no longer tethered, and a trail of blood led down the road.
Following the trail, the owner said he found the "little bloodied horse'' still alive a short distance down the road.
The man went to alert the owner, and together they managed to get Star into a float and transport him to the equine hospital in Mosgiel.
Despite Star suffering 41 puncture wounds and a huge loss of fluid, veterinarian Stephanie Bransgrove managed give hope he might survive, operating for about five hours through early yesterday.
Once the horse was treated, Dr Bransgrove discovered the wounds were too clean and deep to have been sustained during a dog attack, as they initially suspected.
Dr Gillespie said when Star was admitted, about 3am, he, too, thought it was a dog attack.
It eventually became clear the wounds, including one near the jugular, were created with a sharp knife, not with a dog's teeth, Dr Gillespie said.
"Far too clean and far too deep - teeth would actually tear the skin.
"The edges are like what we would create when we do a surgical incision.''
He had seen nothing like it in his long career, and believed at least two people may have been involved in the attack as the horse would not have stood still while being stabbed.
"I've been doing this for close on 40 years and this is just the worst, most distressing thing I've ever seen."
The owner said she was shocked and frightened to discover someone would attack her beloved miniature horse.
"He's tiny, he's cute, he's about the size of a calf, and some [person] just went to town stabbing him.
"Whoever this [person] was actually cut the horse free. He was tethered in the paddock - he ran down the road leaving a trail of blood.''
She had no idea why someone would have attacked Star.
The horse was on fluids yesterday recovering from surgery and blood loss, but Dr Gillespie said yesterday he was hopeful he would pull through.
"But he'll be a sore wee guy for a while.''
A police spokesman said police understood the injuries were "caused by a blade or similar''. Police asked for anyone with information to come forward.
Dunedin police (03) 471-4800, Crimestoppers 0800-555-111.