The wild horses living in the region of the Axios River Estuary, northern Greece, have originated from domesticated horses that were freed by their owners in the early ’60s and managed to survive and reproduce, coexisting with other farm animals.
A total of 67 wild horses have been registered in the region, including 13 young animals, and according to the Greek Society for the Protection of Indigenous Species of Farm and Domestic Animals their number is smaller compared to the previous decade.
However, the existing population appears to be in good condition but the fact that the stallions outnumber the mares is an indication that they are faced with problems that threaten their reproduction. The shrinking mare population is most likely due to human intervention considering that many horses are captured and moved to other areas.
The region’s wild horses are of average size (1.45 – 1.55 meters tall) bearing strong similarities with the domesticated horses in Thessaly and Mt Pindus and the British thoroughbreds.
One of Greece’s, and Europe’s most important wetlands, and situated on the western shoreline of the Thermaic Gulf just five kilometers from Thessaloniki, the Axios River Delta is protected under the Ramsar Convention. It has a wealth of fauna and flora, and is home to more than 270 bird species, 60 of them rare and/or threatened, which find shelter in the wetland. It is also an important habitat to wild horses and water buffalos, as well as species threatened with extinction, such as the European ground squirrel, the European otter and Hermann’s tortoise.