Horse slaughter was forbidden during the Yuan dynasty, even for purposes of ceremonial banquets for senior officials. Sick and old horses had to be certified as being of no use before slaughter. If caught secretly slaughtering horses or cattle, each perpetrator would be sentenced to 100 strokes of the paddle and to a fine, which in turn would be given to the informer. Paddling was the major form of corporal punishment used for horse-related offences and involved beating the back, buttocks or legs with a paddle. Caning was another major form of corporal punishment for less serious crimes, when the buttocks would be beaten with a light bamboo cane. Neighbours who knew the offences were being conducted but did not report them to the authorities would get 27 lashes of the bamboo cane. Officials who failed to pursue offenders would be given 57 lashes. Witnesses who did not report crimes in order to blackmail the perpetrator were punished with 77 strokes of the paddle. If horses or cattle died of disease, the owners had to submit their horns and/or sinews to officials. If the animal’s skin and flesh were not retained for personal use and were sold, the owners had to pay a tax, or they would be pursued for tax evasion. Not submitting the horns and/or sinews to officials would earn the miscreant 27 strokes of the bamboo cane for one set, 47 strokes for more than five sets and 67 strokes for over 10 sets. In addition, each offender had to pay a fine equal to the value of the related animal parts, and the fine, once more, was paid to the informer. For slaughtering official horses or cattle, the crime’s ringleader would receive 107 strokes of the paddle and any accomplices would receive 87 strokes. Assisting in the slaughter of official horses or cattle would earn a sentence two levels lower than that handed out to the ringleader.
Harsh punishments were also handed down for horse stealing. Those convicted had to compensate nine heads of livestock for each horse stolen.
First-time offenders would get 97 strokes of the paddle and two and a half years of compulsory penal servitude; accomplices would receive 87 strokes of the paddle and two years’ compulsory penal servitude. Second-time offenders would get 107 strokes of the paddle and be sent for military service in remote border areas. In remote areas, offenders unable to afford compensation would also have to do military service on remote borders.
In the late Yuan dynasty, the punishments for stealing horses and cattle became much harsher. Robbery of horses would result in capital punishment. Anyone stealing a horse would get his nose slit or cut off. Stealing a donkey or mule would result in being indelibly tattooed on the face or forehead. If the perpetrator reoffended, he would lose his nose. Stealing sheep, goats and pigs meant an indelible tattoo on the nape of the neck; second-time perpetrators would receive tattoos on their foreheads or faces; third-time perpetrators would lose their noses. After that, a further offence would result in capital punishment.