11 Popular Greek Horse Breeds

Greek Horse Breeds
Photo by Violeta Pencheva

Though horses have been an indispensable resource for most civilized societies, none of these cultures can compare to the Ancient Greek horse breeds.

The ancient greeks placed these animals on an equal footing with the deities and held horses in high esteem as representations of wealth, power, and social standing.

The prevalence and significance of horses in various aspects of ancient Greek life, including battle, chariot races, sport, hunting, and even myth, are abundantly shown in the artwork of that culture.

Despite its long and illustrious history, modern-day Greece does not have an exceptionally diverse collection of horse breeds.

1. Rodope Pony

Pony breeds from the Rodope region of Greece are among the country’s rare and unregistered horses. These ancient Greek horse breeds originated from the Rhodope Mountains in Thrace. The species has a cylindrical body and stands approximately 1.35 meters tall.

The breed can come in various colors and patterns, including roan grey, bay, and grey, as well as a patterning on the head and legs.

2. Skyros Pony

The Skyros pony is one of the world’s most endangered horses, with roots in the Southeast Skyros islands, where it got its name.

The breed has been around for generations, functioning as farm horses and riding horses throughout the summer months, even though its bloodline has no documented record.

Skyros ponies are the smallest of all Greek horse breeds and also have the most miniature horse-like features and temperaments(lively and friendly personalities). They are not only intelligent but also kind and powerful.

Unfortunately, after the advent of mechanization in transportation and agriculture, the population of these horses plummeted, and as of 2009, only 220 Skyros remains in Greece.

As a result of the fact that they are in danger of extinction, organizations such as the Skyrian Horse Society and the Skyros Island Horse Trust have increased their efforts in conservation, breeding, and education to revive and safeguard their bloodline.

3. Peneia Pony

The Peloponnese in southern Greece is the birthplace of a unique and endangered pony breed known as the Peneia pony. The “Peninsula pony,” also called the Pinia, Panela, Pinela, or the Elis is referred to as the “Peneia” in its English translation.

The origins of these greek horse breeds can be traced back to the Pindos breeds, which were then bred with Anglo-Arab, Anglo-Norman, and Nonius species. 1995 was the year when it first started maintaining its studbook.

As of 2002, there were only 231 mares and 69 stallions, as indicated by the Greek Ministry of Agriculture figures. Peneia ponies are versatile for drafting, sports, exhibitions, packs, and breeding.

4. Arravani

Because of its versatility, the greeks utilized the Arravani horse breeds for various tasks, including transport and agricultural labor.

In the Peloponnese region of southern Greece, about 1000 B.C., People crossed the Dorian ponies and Thessalian horses to produce this horse. After then, Roman horses made their way to Greece around 146 BC.

As a result, the Arravani strain created influenced to produce a breed of robust, surefooted horses and outstanding personalities.

Sadly, Greece’s industrial revolution led to industrialization and the advent of motor vehicles, both of which caused the reduction in the population of these equines.

In addition to losing their roles as animals used in transportation and agriculture, the Arravani experienced a massive decrease in population because people exported their flesh to Italy.

These greek horse breeds are in danger of becoming extinct as there are only approximately 200–300 Arravanis left in the world today.

5. Andravida

Andravida horses are a rare light draft equine species that are said to have originated in the Ilia region of Greece. They are also referred to by the names Eleia and Ilia.

The Athenians utilized the forbears of this breed as cavalry horses in the fourth century B.C. This was primarily due to the horses’ intelligence, bravery, and easygoing nature.

In the seventh century B.C., the Greeks also made use of these massive, durable, and dependable horses in battle.

During the 13th to 15th centuries, breeders began introducing Arabian blood into the stock of camels in an effort to create a lighter strain of the animal as it gained popularity for use in transportation and the hauling of goods.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century that the contemporary Andravida came to existence by crossing the Anglo-Norman breed with the indigenous breeds of Ilia and stallions from the Nonius breed.

Although not many of these horses are around today, these greek horse breeds feature in the studbook for the first time in 1995.

6. Cretan

The Cretan horse, also known as the Messara Horse, is a light draft equine native to the island of Crete, located off the coast of Greece. Crete has been home to this mountain horse for more than a thousand years, making it one of the oldest of its kind.

On the Messara plain, foreign Turkish Arabian stallions crossed with mountain-type native mares, which resulted in the creation of the contemporary Cretan variety.

The Greeks mainly utilized these horses for breeding so that they could produce hinnies, as well as for transport and light farm work.

After relocating to Albania, where most of them perished, the health of these horses began to deteriorate during the First Great War.

From 6,000 in 1928 down to approximately 80 animals by the 1990s, the Cretan horse population steadily declined over the years. Roughly 100 different Cretan horse breeds are left in existence today.

They are graceful, possess a natural pacing gait, are easy to ride, and stand an average of 12.2-14 hands, just like their Arabian forebears did.

7. Pindos Pony

The Pindos horse is a sturdy and surefooted animal originally from the hilly regions of Greece, also referred to as the Thessalian pony.

Because of their resilience and tremendous stamina, these horses are suitable for riding, driving, and farming when employed as pack and draught animals.

They can also pull heavy loads. In addition to this, they are well-known for breeding mules. As of 2002, there were only 464 Pindos mares and 81 Pindos stallions in existence.

The average height of a Pindos pony is 132 centimeters, and their heads are round but well-shaped, with thin necks, short and powerful backs, and short legs. As a result of the horse’s small, boxy, and tough hooves, the horse does not need foot shoes.

8. Zante

The Zante horses originate from the Zante Islands, which are in Greece. These horses are the product of Greek horse breeds and Anglo-Arab stallions bred together.

They stand between 1.44 and 1.55 meters tall and often seem black. The Zakynthian horse is another name for this type of horse. On the other hand, it is one of the unregistered breeds of Greek horses.

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