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Big Book of Breeds
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[ INDEX ] Equine Type: Horse Breed: Thessalian   [ PREV ] [ NEXT ]
The Thessalian is an ancient Greek horse breed, which is known for being a legendary cavalry breed in Ancient Greece.

Back in the 4th and 3th centuries BC, Thessaly had rich pastures and fertile fields, which allowed the residents there to breed plenty of horses while giving them good nutrition. Therefore, horse breeding became a primary occupation in ancient Thessaly, and Thessalian breeders became famous for breeding the finest horses in Ancient Greece.

Thessalian horses were known for their courage, endurance, and performance as cavalry horses. Interestingly, they were also known for being around 13.2hh tall, a height which back then was greater than that of the average horse. Thessalian horses gained even more fame during the military campaigns of Alexander the Great in Persia. Even today, his horse, a Thessalian stallion called Bucephalus, is considered to be one of the most famous cavalry horses in history.

It is very likely that Ancient Greece obtained Persian horses from Persia, especially during the campaigns of Alexander the Great. Therefore, Greek horses, including the Thessalian, were probably crossed with Persian breeds such as the Turkmen (see the 'Teke-Turkmen' for more info). This means that some of the traits of these Greek horses could be attributed to the Persian breeds with which they were crossed.

Eventually, the fame of the Thessalian horse dwindled, and as centuries progressed its numbers decreased, especially when it came to its purebred form. In the mid-20th century, following World War II, Greek breeders crossed their Thessalian mares Arabians, Anglo-Arabs, and Lipizzans, in order to increase the height of the Thessalian horse. Nevertheless, the numbers of Thessalian horses continued to decrease, to such an extent that at some point it was believed that this old breed went extinct. Luckily, the Thessalian did not extinct, but rather continued to exist in Greece in small numbers. Today, this rare breed is on the verge of extinction.

Thessalian horses were always known for their challenging yet loyal personality; they are difficult to bond with, but once a bond is established they become cooperative and calm. These qualities are reflected in the story of Bucephalus, who started as a skittish horse that was difficult to tame, but who, once tamed by Alexander, became a loyal mount that carried Alexander to battle field time after time.

Thessalian horses come in the colors of bay, brown, black, chestnut, and grey, and always have a solid coat. They stand between 13.1hh and 15hh.


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