An endangered horse captures scientists interest
Vers l’Avenir, 20 April 2005, by Pascale Genard.

The zoology scientists from the Faculty of agronomics of Gembloux in Belgium have always had a passion for horses and their genetic heritage. The team of Professor N. Gengler got very naturally involved with the Skyros horse issue, since this horse also played a major role in Greek history.

For the moment, the Faculty plays an advisory role, but its objective is to propose as quickly as possible a specific project which will be part of a wider research programme concerning local breeds on a European level.

The main reason why the Faculty scientists are moved by the Skyros horse cause is because recent molecular studies provide evidence that this horse is not related to other equine species known today. This species is indeed a genetically different horse, yet another living example from the domesticated equine biodiversity.
Specific actions to preserve the Skyros horse should include the breeding and mating management of the horses so as to ensure that the Skyros species remains pure and that sufficient genetic material is kept for the future. More precisely, all horses living on the island and other areas should be analysed and microchipped. Stallions that are the closest to the original type - defined as the standard of the breed - should be identified and kept for breeding. Specific groups of breeding mares should be created with one stallion for each group so that distinct families are formed.

The Faculty is not the only community to be aware of the Skyros horse extinction problem and the urgency to provide scientific support for the preservation of the breed. The SILVA association in Greece was founded nine years ago for the breeding and preservation of this unique little horse. SILVA also offers to normal and handicapped children the opportunity to take care of and ride the horses within the appropriate educational and therapeutic framework. For the moment, the SILVA Project in Corfu, has in total 24 purebred horses, including 8 that are used for riding lessons and hippotherapy sessions.

Moreover, SILVA organises through the “Horse Art” exhibitions events that communicate on a larger scale the urgency of preserving the endangered Skyros horse. Together with the Faculty of agronomics of Gembloux, the Gembloux Town Hall and Cultural Centre, the Gembloux Twinning Committee, SILVA organises from the 7th to the 16th of May at the Athena Exhibition Hall, on the Faculty premises, an Art exhibition to the benefit of the Skyros horse.

The inauguration of the “Horse Art” exhibition will take place on Friday the 6th of May at 5:30 pm with the presence of a royal guest, Prince Laurent of Belgium.
There is no doubt that thanks to SILVA’s perseverance, this unique and rare horse will be saved from extinction.

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