Mt. Ainos semi-wild horses

Mt. Ainos wild horses

The semi-wild horses of Ainos live on the S.SE slopes of the great mountain of Kefalonia, above the village of Arginia. Their natural habitat is the area surrounding the monastery of Zoodohou Pigis (The Source of Life). Ainos one and only freshwater spring is there, with a scant supply of spring water to quench the thirst of sheep, goats, people and horses alike.

They owe their existence to the ancient peasant custom of keeping herds of horses running wild in the mountains so that they would not have to look after them. Abandoned after the second World War, they lived wild in small groups until up to about 10 years ago. There is only one herd left now. Their numbers have decreased so dramatically that they are considered as being under threat of extinction.

The Ainos horses belong to the mountain breed of Greek horses. They are descended from the Pindos breed of horses, which the local peasants acquired from cattle fairs held in Aetoloakarnania and Arta.

Isolated for decades up in the mountains, they adapted to the exceptionally adverse climatic and territorial conditions, such as the high altitude, rocky ground, lack of natural shelter to protect them from the cold and snows of winter, drought in summer, poor vegetation and scarcity of food. The way they have adapted, however, to the above conditions, combined with unchecked breeding in the wild, has meant that through the process of natural selection, the Ainos horses have evolved into a pure breed.