A horse has died after after a gang of children allegedly savagely battered it with a fence post.
The children, aged between nine and 12, are believed to have launched the merciless attack on 11-year-old Caesar, leaving him with multiple injuries including a badly broken jaw.
He was taken to Liverpool University's Leahurst Veterinary Hospital on the Wirral where vets tried for a week to save him.
But Caesar had suffered horrendous injuries and had to be put down. It is believed that Caesar's injuries were caused by a metal fence pole that had been pulled from the ground.
He belonged to Sarah Whitehead and was in a field at Castle Hill Farm near Knutsford in Cheshire. His owners were said to be devastated by the loss of their beloved horse.
"They are absolutely bereft by this shocking, shocking attack. It is such mindless and senseless cruelty," said a friend.
"For a horse to be attacked in a field by a bunch of yobs is one thing but to be beaten to death by children is much more shocking. Everyone in the horse world is stunned that young children could have been responsible."
Police have begun an investigation into the incident, which allegedly happened during a meeting of a car rally club on land at Castle Hill Farm on July 21.
One eyewitness told police they saw about four young children running around the field on the farm.
But a police source said: "No one has come forward who actually saw the horse being assaulted by any of the children. However it soon became clear the animal had suffered a serious injury to its jaw from what is believed to be a metal fence post.
"Obviously this is a shocking incident and we are endeavouring to find out exactly what happened."
Leewood Motor Club, a member of the National Autograss Sport Association, was holding one of its meetings that day at the farm. It said in a statement that it could not comment due to the police investigation.
Inspector Catherine Mitchell said the investigation was ongoing but stressed that it had not yet been clearly established how the injuries were caused.
"Inquiries are continuing into what actually happened to the horse and if anyone was responsible for inflicting the injuries," she said.