A unique race in the world.

Eguus Cabalus Skyros Pony
On the Path of the Skyrian HorseWatch Video

The Skyrian horse: Sociable, intelligent, friendly

The Skyrian horse is an ancient Greek breed which survived only in Skyros! Νowadays, it numbers around 190 members on the island and 300 worldwide. It is a small-sized breed unique in the world, and scientifically known as Equus caballus Skyriano.

Due to its height, the Skyrian horse is often classified as a pony (ponies usually reach heights of 1.55m). However, the anatomy of its body resembles that of horses, which means the Skyrian horse is one-of-a-kind.

Skyrian horses are normally around 1.10m in height and feature long and thick manes, a unique body type and a calm nature which makes them very friendly to people. This means the Skyrian horse is perfect for children's activities and hippotherapy sessions.

They constitute an important part of the island’s tradition: their participation in social and economic life in Skyros used to be crucial since horses were part of agriculture for decades.

Picture: Danae Christodoulou

The history of Skyrian horses

Skyrian horses (Equus Cabalus Skyriano) are related to the small horses of Pindos Mountain in Greece and are historically tied to the horses used by Achilles during his expedition to Troy, as well as to the horses of Alexander the Great. Moreover, Skyrian horses are said to be depicted on the Parthenon frieze.

The small horses of Skyros are related to small-sized horse breeds that migrated to Europe from Alaska crossing the mountainous regions of Asia 12,000 years ago!

The breed that developed into the modern-day Skyrian horse is rumored to descend from horses brought to Skyros by Athenian settlers during the 5th century BCE.

Although Skyrian horses are often referred to as “ponies” or “hipparions” (meaning little horses in Greek), they are not in fact closely related. Hipparions were small-sized, three-toed horses that went extinct around 1,000,000 years ago and are a different breed.

At Mouries Farm, you can find out more about the history of Skyrian horses and get to know all about their day-to-day lives!

(info extracted from the Skyrian Horse Society)

Picture: Danae Christodoulou

The natural habitat of Skyrian horses

Mount Kochilas on the southeastern part of Skyros island is the natural habitat of Skyrian horses. This is where the Skyrian horse lives freely.

The area of Mount Kochilas (or Kochylas) is home to a great variety of flora and fauna. It is a region of unique ecological importance and diversity. As such, the natural habitat of Skyrian horses has been designated as a protected area both for horses and bird species and is part of the NATURA 2000 network (more than 4,000 hectares).

The horses of Mount Kochilas on the southern part of Skyros live in small herds. They find refuge on mountain plains, right next to small, forest-protected lagoons.

During the warm summer months, when food and water becomes scarce, Skyrian horses descend from the mountain and head to the farms of their owners, where they receive proper care.

(info extracted from the Skyrian Horse Society)

Picture: Elena Kanaki

Skyrian Horses - Extinction Threats

The gravest problems Skyrian horses face nowadays are unregulated grazing in their natural habitat, lack of breeding regulations, challenges related to the ownership of Skyrian horses, as well as low-standard horse care practices.

Apart from the Skyrian horses’ natural habitat, Mount Kochilas in Skyros is also home to approximately 20,000 goats and sheep. The large population has caused excessive grazing, hence leading to deterioration of the natural diversity, as well as a decrease in available food resources for horses. The issue was amplified as a result of the EU regulations controlling ownership of sheep and goats, as it led to even bigger populations.

Moreover, owners of donkeys and mules in Skyros have traditionally been allowed to release their animals in the wild. As a result, breeding cannot be controlled and cross-breeding has increased. There should be a systematic and planned relocation of donkey and mule populations to help protect Skyrian horses and provide the best breeding environment for horses, donkeys and mules alike.

The lack of proper motives for Skyrian horse owners is also central to the problem. Even though there have been impressive protection attempts in the past years, it is worth noting that back in 2006 there were less than 100 Skyrian horses living on the island.

Yet another great threat to the status of Skyrian horses on the island is the plan to install wind turbines on the southern part of Skyros. The natural habitat of Skyrian horses and the mavropetritis hawk, as well as of many more animal and plant species including the maple forest of Skyros is in danger of extinction due to the wind power plant.

You can help by donating to save Skyrian horses or working as a volunteer at Mouries Farm in Skyros.

(info extracted from the Skyrian Horse Society)

Picture: Elena Kanaki