Recent History

In more recent history, they are certainly the horses that facilitated agriculture on the island of Skyros for centuries.

Skyros, the largest and most remote of the Sporades islands, has two faces - a fertile north where agriculture dominates, and a mountainous and arid southern section which rises to 792 metres. As elsewhere in Greece, winter rains mean a good crop to feed the horses, while hot summer weather, moderated by the Meltemi winds, limits their water and grazing in the rocky scrubland of the mountains.

This symbiosis came under threat in the mid-1960's, when modern threshing equipment was introduced, and horses were gradually replaced by four-wheel drive vehicles and combined harvesters. At the same time, European Union grants encouraged farmers to keep sheep and goats, resulting in overgrazing of the mountain ground. In addition, a law in Skyros forbidding that purebred horses are exported off the island has resulted in the practice of mating the Skyros horses with donkeys, thus creating mules which may be exported. This practice is, of course, disastrous for the continuation of the breed. Now redundant, having lost their habitat and function, on the verge of extinction, the Skyros horses are in search of a new role.

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