The Mules of Hydra Island, Greece

Το βασίλειο του αγωγιάτη

Τα γαϊδουράκια και τα μουλάρια «σηκώνουν στην πλάτη τους» το νησί

Στην Ύδρα τα μουλάρια είναι συνυφασμένα με την εικόνα του νησιού. Τα συναντάς στο λιμάνι, στα στενά να είναι φορτωμένα με κάθε είδους αντικείμενο από ψυγεία και πλυντήρια έως τρόφιμα και υλικά οικοδομής. Τα μουλάρια στην Ύδρα είναι το απόλυτο μεταφορικό μέσο στη στεριά. Είναι απαραίτητα γι΄αυτό και απολαμβάνουν της φροντίδας και της αγάπης ντόπιων και επισκεπτών.

Photos Efi 2018

Almost everywhere in Greece, cars, trucks, and motorcycles have taken over.

Everywhere, that is, except for Hydra.

For on this picturesque island, a short hydrofoil trip from Greece’s sprawling, congested capital, the donkey — and the mule — keep the town running. With motorized vehicles banned from the island the only form of land transport is equine.

The main town sweeps up from the port to the hills above, stately homes rising in a series of winding, narrow lanes and steps that only pedestrians and animals can negotiate.


Whether it is tourists looking for a way to get their luggage to their hotel or residents moving house, the only way to transport anything is on the back of an animal. Donkeys even carry out much of the island’s garbage.

Four-legged drive

“Here we have only mules and donkeys as our land transportation. This is a remarkable fact within Europe,” said Ed Emery , who organized the weekend donkey conference on Hydra to examine the reasons behind the massive drop in population and what can be done to stop it.



At the edge of the dock in the town’s harbor, the donkeys and mules stand patiently in a row, their owners and handlers waiting for the boats to sail in. As visitors and locals stream off the latest passenger ship, workers load building materials onto the animals’ backs.

Door frames and long planks of wood are strapped onto the traditional wooden saddles; bags of cement are secured by rope; furniture is carefully balanced on either side.


“They transport everything, from sewing pins to electrical refrigerators, anything you can imagine,” said Yiannis, a mule owner waiting at the port for someone to hire his animals — tourists looking for a brief ride through the town or residents who need help transporting shopping or moving materials. He would give only his first name.

“I keep them because I’ve had them since I was a child, and I love them,” he says of his two mules — a 15-year-old and a 20-year-old. He charges about 10 euros for a tourist ride , and up to four times that much for removals.

Only two vehicles

Hydra has roughly 1,200 donkeys and mules, the island’s mayor says — nearly 10 percent of the country’s total population. Only the town hall has motorized transport — one garbage truck and a small pickup truck used sparingly.



“The donkey and the mule in Hydra has been woven into the fabric of our way of life,” Mayor Kostas Anastopoulos said. “Without these sympathetic animals, I believe it would be impossible for us to live,” he said.

But Hydra is an isolated case in a country where progress and modernization have often encroached on the traditional way of life. In the rest of the country, the future of the donkey appears bleak.

“This is a worrying phenomenon,” said Arsenos, the veterinary professor at the conference. “We are trying to see … what can be done regarding the use of these animals, to what extent their use can change, so they do not constitute pitiful remnants of a culture that is being lost.”

One comment on “The Mules of Hydra Island, Greece

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s