The owner of a Taiwan cock and Shamo hen stolen from the Avebury area may never be able to replace it, police have said.

Police believe that the exotic bird could have been targeted by thieves to use in illegal cock fighting matches.

It was stolen from its coup between midnight and 6am on Tuesday, January 21 and and is worth between £500 and £600.

This breed is used in the bloodsport, where two roosters are pitted against each other in a ring and are bet on.

The Shamo hen, worth about £200, was also taken at the time of the incident while other, more common, breeds of chicken were left behind.

PC David Tippetts, of Marlborough Neighbourhood Police, said: “One of the possibilities is that it has been taken to be used in cock fighting but the other possibility is that it has been taken for breeding purposes because it is quite rare.

“This type of incident isn’t common but it isn’t unheard of.

"Cock fighting does happen in England and although we don’t know of any incidents in Wiltshire that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

“It could be that someone just noticed them as they were driving past and took them.”

The birds were locked up overnight and were kept as pets on a smallholding.

“The owner is very upset,” said PC Tippetts.

“Because of the value of the birds he probably won’t be able to afford to replace them.

“If anyone has been offered this type of bird of at a knock-down price they should get in contact with the police.”

Police can be contacted by calling 101.