VERNON BRIDGE, P.E.I. -- Ten P.E.I. cows have been killed by a lightning strike so powerful it appears to have tossed some of the animals over a fence.

Veteran farmer Blair Henry said the grim discovery of six cows and four calves was difficult -- he thought fondly of the animals he considered pets, having raised some of them for the last decade.

"It was hard to believe that lightning could kill that many," he said from his farm Friday. "It's the animals themselves, you know, they're like your pets."

Henry had wandered out to the field in Vernon Bridge after he spotted an unusual cluster of his beef cattle off on its own sometime after 6 a.m. last Saturday.

He then saw the bodies laying near a fence on his almost 30-hectare farm, and knew instantly that a powerful lightning storm that raged through the night had struck the animals down.

Henry said the storm started last Friday evening, with thunder, lightning, hail and heavy rains. It subsided and then restarted more forcefully sometime after midnight.

He said his 65 cattle were out in the pasture through the night, but could have gone inside the barn.

Henry said it was so potent it appears to have tossed some of the animals over and on top of the fence. He said most of the dead animals were close to the fence under a stand of trees, but that one was laying about 27 metres away in the middle of a field.

He said it looked like "a war zone."

"There were two laying on top of the fence and a couple more went right over or fell over the top of the fence."

He says some of the surviving cattle were visibly affected by the deaths, with some crying and repeatedly searching the area for their missing parents or babies. He said they were upset for about three days.

"They would go to where the dead ones were and bawl and look around and then they'd come back up in the fields and then an hour or two later, they'd all run back down there again and do the same thing again," he said.

"We know every one of them and gave some of them names."

Henry, who has lost about six cattle to lightning over the 50 years he's been farming, estimates the loss of the animals will cost about $15,000.