Tiny but Mighty: This Ancient Greek Horse Still Exists Today

September 27, 2016 - These tiny horses may have once taken Achilles to Troy.

Existing primarily on the secluded island of Skyros, the Skyrian horse, or Skyros pony, looks as if it were meant for a child. Although it shares many of the proportions of larger horses, the breed stands at a mere 100 to 110 cm (3.2to 3.6 ft). Some legends connect the small but mighty Skyrian horse with those that Achilles took to Troy, while other theories link the breed to the small horses that appear on the frieze of the Parthenon temple in Athens. There is no concrete proof for these claims, but evidence suggests that the breed has survived relatively isolated in Greece for several thousand years.

Due to declining use of horsepower, overgrazing of livestock on Skyros, and interbreeding with donkeys on the island, the number of Skyrian horses has decreased. Only about 300 horses are left. To preserve the rare breed, organizations such as the Skyros Island Horse Trustare working to increase the population and encourage locals to protect the horses. The hope is to increase the genetic pool of Skyrian horses on the island to prevent their numbers from dwindling.

Read more about the origins of the semi-wild Skyrian horse and the effort to save it from extinction.