pony is an unique breed of pony only existing here in Greece and is at the
moment in great danger as you will understand when you read on. We have started
a refuge here on the Island of Corfu and are trying to save the race.
Skyrian ponies are on the verge of
extinction by LAW!
Skyrian ponies may be the ones depicted on the Parthenon
frieze, not carved in small proportion to emphasize the stature of the riders,
but naturally diminutive. They are certainly the ponies 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 a fertile north where
agriculture dominates, and a mountainous and arid southern section which rises
to 792 metres.
|No-one knows how
long the ponies have lived on this island, and no records exist to pinpoint the
start of there cooperation with man. During the winter, when food and water are
plentiful, the ponies live wild on the southern mountain. But when the summer
comes, and nourishment is scarce, they migrate north in search of food and
water and in return let themselves to be approached by farmers for threshing
and other agricultural work.
However this symbiosis came under threat in the mid 1960s, when modern
threshing equipment was introduced and ponies were gradually replaced by four -
wheel drive vehicles and combine harvesters. At the same time European Union
grants encouraged farmers to keep sheep and goats, resulting in overgrazing of
the mountain grounds. Now redundant, having lost their habitat and function,
the Skyrian ponies are on the verge of extinction.
Among those who are trying to help are Sylvia
Dimitriadis Steen, living on the Silva Estate on Corfu and Alec Copland,
formally lecturer in Veterinary Anatomy in the Veterinary Faculty of Edinburgh
University of Scotland. Alec has worked all his life with ponies, but it wasn't
until 1994 that he heard of the Skyrian ponies and went to examine the
situation. "my immediate impression of the Skyrian ponies , was that in
conformation, action and temperament, they resemble miniaturized Englands
Exmoor ponies of ten and a half hands high (105 cm). The bay coloured animals
present a mealy muzzle, circle around the eye, the prominent toad
eye, low set tail and hard black feet. Subsequent examination of blood samples
indicated that like the Exmoors, they represent an example of mountainous
ponies of the Speed - Ebhart type 1, which evolved in America about a million
years ago and migrated by way of Alaska and along the Asiatic mountain chain,
arriving in south - eastern Europe during the early Holocene period.
The law in Skyros does not permit the Skyrian ponies to
leave the island and there is great concern about their future. A census last
year revealed 140 ponies left on Skyros, but not all are pure - bred!!! If you
have an outbreak of African horse sickness or something similar on the island
of Skyros, the entire population will be wiped out. Hopefully this will not
happen, but still there is great danger that the breed will slowly but surely
cease to exist due to the same law that is mentioned above, why?, because it is
not forbidden by law to export mules!!! so in effect the locals are mating pure
- bred ponies with donkeys. This is the major reason for the Silva project.
|| We need to create
refugees of genetic material outside the island of Skyros, not only in Greece
but also abroad, in order to secure the survival of this rare breed.
The information in this section was provided by the Silva Project, Corfu.
If you would like more information on the Skyros pony or if you can help in any
way please visit the