Witchcraft could be behind a spate of mysterious plaits in horses’ manes which has left police baffled.

At least ten horse-owners in Sussex have reported finding plaits in their horses’ manes over the last two months.

Police have received reports from places as far apart as Westergate in Chichester, Rother and East Grinstead - reflecting similar reports across the country.

Officers in Dorset have been contacted by a warlock, or male witch, who claimed the plaits are used in rituals by followers of “knot magick”, also known as “cord magick”.

But Kevin Carlyon, the Hastings-based self-proclaimed High Priest of British White Witches, told The Argus some plaits or knots could be evidence of devil-worship or black magic.

He said mostly the practice by “white witches” is harmless and intended for the witch to benefit from the horse’s natural power or as a gift or tribute if they see horses as sacred animals.

Mr Carlyon said plaiting has also been known to precede ritual mutilation of horses in black magic.

Mr Carlyon said: “It still goes on unfortunately.

“If it is normal plaiting, like a girl’s hair, that is beneficial witchcraft.

“With more complex, more tightly knotted plaits, you’re looking down the darker side.

”It is like they are marking the horse to say, this is our chosen one.”

PC Peter Child said the possibility of witchcraft has not previously been considered as part of the Sussex Police investigation.

Police are urging people to contact police if their animals have been plaited, and to challenge strangers hanging around farms or places where horses are kept.

Anyone with information about the plaiting is asked to call PC Child on 0845 6070999.