Ten years after a video of the horrific act was circulated around the internet, I talked with the journalist who made a documentary about the community of zoophiles the victim belonged to.
"The only intimacy that separates the proud horse owner from the perverse horse fucker is the act of sex." –Charles Mudede
This article contains a bunch of disturbing details about men having sex with horses.
You can find anything on the internet, even if you don't want to. The video "Mr. Hands" is testament to that—the gruesome 30-second video that was circulating on the grimmer corners of the internet in the mid 2000s shows a man willingly submitting himself to the romantic attentions of a horse. I've seen it. Please don't go looking for it.
Ten years ago this month, a resident of Enumclaw, Washington, named Kenneth Pinyan was pronounced dead due to "acute peritonitis [that resulted from the] perforation of the sigmoid colon during anal intercourse with a horse." A surveillance camera captured the license plate of the car that dropped the man off at the hospital after his horrific erotic encounter, leading detectives to 54-year-old James Michael Tait, who lived next to a 39-acre farm. At the man's trailer, the police confiscated the recording of Pinyan, or "Mr. Hands" as his zoophile friends called him, being fucked by a horse they referred to as "Big Dick."
At the time, bestiality was legal in Washington, and since there was no evidence of the men abusing the animals, Tait was only charged with trespassing. The scandal was so salacious, however, that Washington State made bestiality a Class C felony—punishable by up to five years behind bars and a $10,000 fine—shortly after Pinyan's death, with the state senate voting unanimously for the bill.
The accident, as well as the video documenting it, became national news and a viral sensation that bubbled out of creepy 4chan boards, seeping into the consciousness of internet users everywhere. Not only did the original Seattle Times report of the death become the publication's most-read online article that year, but the story of Mr. Hands and the group of male zoophiliacs who hung out together, got drunk, and lined up to get plowed by horses was the subject of a 2007 documentary called Zoo, which later went to Sundance and Cannes.
Charles Mudede was one of the writers of the nonfiction film, and he also reported on the accident itself for an excellent investigative piece published in Seattle alt weekly The Stranger in 2006. Zoo is a startlingly poignant film that portrays the "zoos" as tragic and lonely human beings rather than animal-abusing perverts. I reached out to Mudede to discuss the legacy of this wholly bizarre moment in American history ten years after it happened.
VICE: Were you aware that it was the ten-year anniversary of Mr. Hands's death the other day?
Charles Mudede: Yes, I'm actually in Enumclaw, Washington, right now to take photos and see if anything interesting is going on. The town got rid of the sign on the farm where it happened—that was the only act of erasure that I noticed. No one wants to talk about what happened, though.
Once the law changed, and bestiality was made illegal in Washington, everyone sort of said, "It's over and it will never happen again. And if it does happen again, we'll know what to do." No one has been arrested for bestiality in Washington since, to my knowledge.
Once the law came into effect, the whole Washington community of zoophiliacs moved to states where it was legal to do what they wanted to do. They were absolutely terrified of going to jail. When I talked to them, they weren't breaking the law, and they didn't want to. That's part of the reason this was never a for-profit animal prostitution ring type of thing. After James Michael Tait, the ringleader, was caught, he moved to Tennessee because there are no laws about bestiality there [Tait was arrested and charged with animal cruelty in Tennessee in 2009]. They don't want to be thought of like child pornographers or child molesters. They don't want to be treated like those criminals.
Everyone in Enumclaw is very close to horses. It's a quiet, rural suburb with a view of the mountains. Everyone is a horse person, and as you know, the town included all types of horse worship. It was a place where you could fuck horses, and no one could tell. The line was difficult to differentiate between passion and zoophilia unless you were caught. If Pinyan didn't die, those guys he hung out with would still be fucking horses today and no one would have suspected anything.
It was a paradise for a horse fucker. I'm sure they were so angry because they must have thought, We had it so good!
While making the documentary Zoo, did you look for other real zoo communities, either in Washington or elsewhere?
We did look for them, but we couldn't find any. The one thing this group had was someone who was a really good organizer. Tait really went out of his way to cultivate the community. He was very selective about who could join and did the whole territorial thing. If you don't have that, it will fall apart.
Other zoos are probably more individual. They were afraid that if they were outed, they'd lose everything—which is exactly what would happen. So unless you had an extremely organized leader, you likely wouldn't be sharing this private thing with other people. If you can play it safe, animals don't talk. Zoos keep it quiet.
How do you think Mr. Hands's death affected the zoophilia community on a larger scale?
It disrupted them—they lost a lot by his death. If you have a moral problem with horse fucking, you might not find this to be a cool way to look at things, but I think the truth is that they lost a lot: stability, a weekend vacation getaway place, something to look forward to. They lost a community. When the death happened, they were exposed. They were looked at, they were investigated. It was a major disruption!
The zoophilia community is largely an internet-based thing. There wouldn't be a community without the internet. If you were a zoo, you couldn't go to something like a gay bar. You had to go to the internet. For the first time in the history of mankind, zoos could get find each other and get together as groups. That was new! That was absolutely unprecedented.
When I was talking to the zoos in Washington, I got an impression that they thought Mr. Hands was a bit of a weakling: He was an intellectual, he worked for Boeing as an engineer. They could take a horse-fucking and not have to go to the hospital. He was effete and new to it. They thought he ruined it. If he wasn't so self-destructive, they'd still be fucking horses on weekends. Dumping him at the hospital was really dumping him into the media and mainstream, and also ending the thing they had going.
How exactly did they train the horses to fuck them?
They would literally bend over and wait for the horse to fuck them. They'd also put some type of scent on themselves—the pheromone people use to get horses to breed.
Did they ever fuck the horses?
No, that wasn't their school. There are all different sorts of flavors of zoos. Their thing was about getting fucked in the ass. There were others who liked that, but that was not their circle. They wanted the studs and the bulls. Never cows. There was this element of cocks, big cocks. They never talked about pussies.
If my memory stands correct, these men were also fucking each other. After they got fucked by a horse, they'd play games with each other and their stretched assholes.
Did they pick specific horses from the farm, or were they down to be fucked by any horse?
They had preferences! They would figure out which horse was too strong, which had the biggest cock, which was the quickest fuck. It was like going to a horse auction.
They were really into the cows, too. One of the guys literally said he planned on eating one of the bulls after it fucked him. I found that to be very problematic. Getting fucked by something you were going to eat? He was super darkly into zoophilia in a way that was unlike the others.
A lot of these guys wanted to see themselves as massive animal fuckers—guys who could take on huge things. They would even talk about fucking dolphins, which supposedly have big cocks.
[The sex writer and then Stranger editor-in-chief] Dan Savage and I would talk about if it was a fetish for animals, or a fetish for massive cocks. That question was there the whole time we were working on Zoo and I never found out the answer. This could undermine their claims of being zoo. I must admit it was on my mind, but we didn't explore these questions enough. We were mostly focused on Mr. Hands's actual death, and the community and culture of zoos he was involved with at the time. To me, it's clearer today that these guys had this worship of cock that may have had nothing to do with horses.
Based on your research, do you think zoophilia a fetish, or is it more of a lifestyle and sexual identity?
The horse that killed Mr. Hands was nicknamed "Big Dick," right? It wasn't called "Nice Horse," or "Beautiful."
Coyote, the narrator of our doc, was the real deal. He was a real zoo. He had this thing with dogs and other animals. He was making love to them, not just fucking them. That was his thing. It was actual passion and love for animals. The other guys, who were into big dicks, could have just had intense fetishes.
I don't think Mr. Hands was actually a zoophiliac. I think he was just into fetishes. He was into extreme things and hurting his body. We didn't get into this in the film, but he was involved in a motorcycle accident. He lost a lot of his ability to sense things and had bad neural damage. People in this zoophilia community thought that putting the horse cock in his ass was an effort to feel things again—getting into extreme stuff was a way to regain neural sensation. He was into fisting, he was into big dildos, he was into pushing things sexually.
I don't think Mr. Hands was actually in love with horses. While researching, I went to the house Mr. Hands was building in Washington. He was constructing a barn and he wanted to live with a horse. Maybe he was developing feelings for the animal, but maybe not. There might have been animal love, but when you really got down to it, they were just into horse cock.
Zoophilia is not a cohesive thing. There's a main road to it, but there are lots of other alleys.
Did you stay in touch with any of the men you interviewed in the film?
They loved [Zoo director] Robinson Devor and thought he was a real ally. They still email him and keep in contact. He was much more sensitive than I was. I met them and connected them to Rob, [but] he would listen to them and not laugh.
Have you noticed any attitude shifts about zoophilia since the media first covered Mr. Hands? Is it just as much of a taboo now as it was then?
It's absolutely as much of a taboo as it was ten years ago. No one wants to think about it or talk about it.... Zoophilia is so out there in terms of sexuality that it's very hard to broach, and there isn't support for it from other minority groups or sexual communities. There's already enough trouble about people deciding if we should keep doing tests on chimps, but to talk about if we should be allowed to fuck them, too?
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