A dove had to be put down after it was shot with a two-foot arrow.
An RSPCA officer said he had never seen anything like it
RSPCA officers in Lancashire said on Friday it was a "shocking, horrific attack".
The dove - traditionally a symbol of peace - was pierced through both legs by the wooden arrow, when it was seen struggling to fly in a field Leachfield Close, in Galgate, near Lancaster.
The RSPCA was unable to save the dove and it had to be put down.
RSPCA animal collection officer Graham Carter was called to the scene on Tuesday to rescue the stricken bird, after local residents confined it in a box.
Mr Carter said: "I simply could not believe my eyes - I have never seen anything like it.
"The arrow had pierced both legs and was still attached.
"The dove had suffered appalling injuries from which it would not have recovered.
"The only humane option was to put the bird to sleep."
Mr Carter said there was a slight chance the injuries were the result of a freak accident as no witnesses have come forward.
But he added: "The more likely scenario is that this was a deliberate act of cruelty on a defenceless animal."
Lancashire RSPCA chief inspector Brian Jeffries said: "The RSPCA will not tolerate such brutality.
"The perpetrator should be made aware that deliberate cruelty is an offence and, if found guilty, the courts have the power to impose sentences that may include heavy fines and even imprisonment."
The RSPCA is appealing for anyone who knows how the bird was injured to contact them.
White doves are domestic varieties of doves that have been selectively bred from the rock dove - the same species as the feral pigeon that is now seen in towns and cities.