Skyros Island Ponies. Image by Horsefly Films via the Skyros Island Horse Trust.

Tiny real-life horses of Greek Myth headed for extinction

Skyros ponies, thought to have pulled Achilles’ legendary chariot, have declined to about 200 animals left on Earth.

Cross-posted from the National Geographic »
By Kristin Hugo
Published September 27, 2016

The issues facing these special horses are manmade and sound all too familiar. -Ed.


The breed that may have pulled Achilles’ legendary chariot is in danger of becoming resigned to the history books itself.

The horses depicted in this sculpture, Balius and Xanthus, were gifts from Poseidon to Peleus when he wed the goddess Thetis. The immortal horses later drew the chariot of the couple's son, Achilles. Photo source: Pinterest UK.
The horses depicted in this sculpture, Balius and Xanthus, were gifts from Poseidon to Peleus when he wed the goddess Thetis. The immortal horses later drew the chariot of the couple’s son, Achilles. Photo source: Pinterest UK.

The semi-wild Skyrian horse, or Skyros pony, has lived on the Greek island of Skyros for 2,000 years.

But due to overgrazing of sheep, disappearing habitat, and interbreeding with donkeys, the horse has declined to only about 200 individuals left on Earth, most of which live on Skyros, according to the Skyros Island Horse Trust, a nonprofit on the island.

Saving the horse is “very difficult within Greece’s economic situation,” says Amanda Simpson, who runs the trust.

“Even though it’s a rare breed and there’s status, there [are] no kinds of funding in terms of government resources.” (Read “Strapped for Cash, Some Greeks Turn to Ancient Source of Wealth.”)

Simpson, originally from England, founded the trust in 2005 after visiting Skyros and seeing that the horses needed help. The trust promotes awareness of the horse, monitors the wild population, and sometimes takes in ponies that are sick or injured. They also breed horses and use them for education.*

Another compelling reason to protect this animal is because of its role in Greek mythology, Simpson says. In addition to transporting Achilles, the Skyros may well be the small horses featured on a frieze in the Parthenon in Athens (see a video of the temple’s frieze.)

“These are sort of living museums,” says Simpson. “You actually have a living breathing piece of history. It would seem criminal to see them go into extinction.” <a href="http://” target=”_blank”>Continue reading »


RELATED READING
Linked to in the report is “Read Before Riding: Horses Have Consciousness“. How arrogant to think that only humans have consciousness. I think I’ll stop right there. Interesting reading. If you are a human.

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The Skyros Island Horse Trust
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