On Tuesday, police launched an investigation into the origin and deaths of five dead cows that washed ashore during the past week.
"This is a highly unusual case," Jimmy Modén, spokesman for the Skåne Police Department, told The Local. "The first report came on New Year’s Eve, and then another on January 4th, and then a third cow was reported on the 5th. Yesterday we received a call about yet another."
The first cow was found in Gislöv harbour, and since then bodies have washed up in Smygehamn, Beddingestrand, and Falsterbo, stretching over 56 kilometres of the southern Swedish coast.
"I was out looking for amber stones on Falsterbo beach when I saw that there was a dead cow there," Mikael Lönnström told newspaper Expressen. "It looked very fresh. The stomach looked a little swollen. The whole thing was very strange."
Several of the cows had their feet bound, indicating that the animals were dumped and didn't wade into the water. The question is if they were dead before being thrown into the water. Dumping slaughter waste in water is illegal, and depending on how the cows died an owner may also be charged with animal cruelty.
"Our hypothesis at the moment is that the cows were dumped from a ship", Modén told The Local. "But we can’t say for sure how the ears were damaged, how they died, or if the cows are Swedish."
Police spokeswoman Ewa-Gun Westford speculated that the ears might have been cut off to avoid identification of the cows. If the cows had been sick, the owner may have wanted to avoid connection with animal disease.
"Parts of the identification tag on one of the cows is still intact," police Ewa-Gun Westford told Expressen. "The ear is cut off, but not entirely – a little bit is left."
Westford said the tidbit may be enough to help police trace the cows' origins, and will be the focus of the investigation.
"It will be interesting to discover what exactly this is all about. I've been a policewoman for 40 years and never stop being shocked."