Messara is a rare and beautiful horse breed that is native to the island of Crete in Greece.

They are small, but strong and powerful, and are raced annually on the island.

If you want to learn more about this unique breed, keep reading!

Here are some of the key things you need to know about the Messara horse:

Height (size) 12.2 – 14.0 hands high
Colors Dark brown, bay or grayish color
Country of Origin Greece (island of Crete)
Common Uses General riding and farm work, local races

Messara Horse Facts & Information (Breed Profile)

Messara horses are a rare and unique kind of domestic horse that can only be found on the island of Crete off the coast of Greece.

The name of this light draft and riding horse originates from the Messara Plain, which is where the majority of these horses can be found.

Skeletons of horses belonging to this breed have been discovered in excavations that date back to before 1700 BC, and as a result, this breed is believed to be one of the oldest breeds in Europe.

While Cretan horses have survived for generations because of their adaptability to the hard labor in the island’s remote and unforgiving environment; today their primary purpose is to compete in the annual equestrian contests.

Some researchers claim that the Messara horse is a descendent of the Russian Tarpan breed, while others say it was brought to Crete from Egypt.

The horse was used by the Minoans (as shown by paintings, coins, and sculptures).

In the 17th century native Cretan horses were crossed with Arabians brought during the Ottoman occupation in the 17th century which improved the breed’s characteristics.

In World War II they were used throughout the Greek territory in defense operations, and very few came back.

A studbook and conservation initiative have been in place since 1994.

Although there were just 80 animals remaining on Crete in the early 1990s (down from 6000 in 1928), the future looks more promising even though their numbers are still low.

They are the pride and joy of the Cretan people.

If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating breed, keep reading!

Alternative Names

“Cretan horse”





Intelligent, lively, docile and willing

Physical Characteristics

The head is small, and the chest is narrow.

The body is smaller, but muscular and very strong.

They are gaited and can pace like camels alternately lifting the two right and two left feet.

The Turks called the gait ‘rah van’, but today in Greek it is called ‘aravani’.

They are very surefooted on rocky ground or uneven surfaces.


Dark brown, bay or grayish color

Height (size)

12.2 – 14.0 hands high







Blood Type


Common Uses

General riding and farm work, local races



Popular Traits

They are gaited, and performa very fast ‘side trot’



Country of Origin

Greece (island of Crete)


Local horses, Arabian