The skyrian pony.

It was on this part of the island, too, that until quite recently the last of that extremely rare and renowned “Pikermic” breed of small horses, dating from the Palaeontological Age, lived in small herds and in a half-wild state. These tiny ponies, no higher than 1.10 cm. at the most, are to be found nowhere else in the world except in Skyros and the Shetland Islands, off the coast of Scotland.

Only a few years ago, “... the native ponies of Skyros spent their whole life roaming the mountains, uncared for and neglected by their owners. Living in herds, they cropped the grass and ate the tender branches of bushes and scrubs. Often during winter, alone in the wilds, they would become weak through cold and hunger; they grew emaciated and many of them eventually died. But in March and April, when nature comes to life and the green grass is plentiful, those that survived the rigours of winter slowly regained their strength, grew lively, mated, and so perpetuated their species. In summer, when the crops were harvested and ready to be threshed, these little ponies were “invited” to prove their usefulness to man. At that time, threshing-machines had not yet made their appearance on the island.

Shortly before the threshing began the Skyrians would remember “their” ponies and their welcome help in the crushing of grain. The ponies, however, could not be easily found, nor easily caught when found, since they were scattered all over the island, roaming free.

So a search would be mounted, each man looking for “his” ponies. If he happened to recognise those of a fellow-farmer by its characteristics, and markings made on a pony's ears when first caught, he would let him know of its whereabouts. In this way, every man knew within a few days in which part of the island “his” ponies could be found. But because of the animal's wild state, it was often impossible to capture them in the ordinary way, and the efforts made to catch them were not always easy. The farmers would start by lying in wait for them at the water pools, or else by throwing a “noose”, a kind of Skyrian lasso, over the ponies' heads and so capture them. Another of their methods was to drive the scattered herds into a kind of corral, called the “Apokleistria”, where they could neither go forward nor retreat, and so were lassoed there. The ceaseless hard work on the threshing floors somewhat tamed the ponies, but it also weakened and sickened them. Nevertheless, in September when the threshing was over, the ponies were turned loose again, free to return to their familiar haunts, with little possibility of coming across a human being.

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