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Equus caballus Skyriano
The Skyros Pony comes from Greece and is the smallest of the Greek Pony breeds. Although they are small in stature, they display more miniature horse like characteristics rather than those typical of pony breeds. The Skyrian Horse comes from the southeast of Skyros Island that gave them their name, their exact origins are unknown, but they have been there for centuries. One theory is that they are descendants of the breed of horses used by the cavalries in Greece in the 5th century BC. The local people used a few of the animals for farm work during the summer months, but the ponies wintered without the aid of people. The mechanization of farming & transportation has dented their numbers considerably & their numbers are low. There are several herds on Skyros Island and they can be found running wild on the central plateau and placidly foraging in farms, as the efforts for the conservation of the Skyrian horse started in 1995, and have been intensified since 2011 with the creation of the non-profit organisation « Skyrian horse breeding and conservation centre » which owns the greatest number of horses worldwide. Another group of Skyros ponies is kept at a University Farm in Thessaloniki and also some private breeders, keep their own horses. Unfortunately, the species numbers have declined to a 190 horses in Skyros island, and 270 horses in total, worldwide. It is a small-sized breed unique in the world, and scientifically called Equus caballus Skyriano.Due to its size inferior to 1.48m, it should be classified as a pony. But despite its maximal size of 1.15m, the anatomy of its body shows clear characteristics of a horse and sets the Skyrian horse in a category of its own. The Skyrian horses are characterised by a long and thick mane, a peculiar body-type, and a calm nature which makes them very friendly to people and particularly adapted for Equine-assisted therapy and as children mounts. The horses usually are named after common human Greek names, and they are considered part of the family which take care of them/ belong to, or been "adopted" by them. The pictured pony was "adopted" by the Skyros Palace hotel, and was living in the hotel's grounds, in Skyros island, Greece.
Several Skyrian families, local businesses, and individuals, "adopt " the horses by providing them, food, medical care expenses and sometimes even a shelter (during the harsh winter months), but the rest of the year most of the animals return in their wild environment, in Kochylas mountain, where they roam freely. Some of the ponies live in large farms all year round, as in the "Mouries farm", where the "Skyrian horse breeding and conservation centre" is located.
During the 1970s there was a short-lived breeding program focused on the Skyros breed. This program brought publicity to the breed, and resulted in them being declared critically endangered in 1991. The Silva Project is currently working to promote the foundation of Skyros herds elsewhere in Greece and abroad. The Skyros Island Horse Trust based in Skyros is running a highly successful breeding, conservation, education and welfare project with the Skyrian horses. Another key organisation working to protect the Skyros pony is the "Skyrian horse society, which has created a stud book and is setting up a pedigree for the Skyrian horse. Also another non profit organisation Hippolytus est.2010 (Ιππόλυτος) based in Falani Larissa is making efforts towards promoting the breed culturally and at the same time helping with its preservation.