Fauna of Crete

The Mammals

Crete is isolated from the rest mainland of Europe, Asia and Africa, which is strongly reflected in the genetic diversity of the fauna. From the proud Cretan ibex, the lynx and the spiny mouse, to the stenoendemic arthropods and bats of Crete, the fauna of Crete holds many secrets about the evolution of species.

There are no hazardous mammals for humans in Crete, in contrary to other places of Greece. Indeed, the ancient Greeks attributed this lack of large mammals such as bears, wolves, jackals- and poisonous snakes- to the labour of Hercules (who brought the Cretan bull alive into Peloponnesus), who wanted to honor the birthplace of Zeus by removing all "harmful" and "poisonous" animals. Later, Cretans believed that the island was cleared by the Apostle Paul, who lived in Crete for two years, with his exorcisms and blessings.

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Cretan marten

The Cretan stone marten (scient. Martes foina bunites) is a nice mammal, arboreous, night owl, carnivorous and fruit-eater that lives alone (except for the mating season) in rock fissures, in tree hollows, in raptors’ abandoned nests, in desert underground galleries, in sparse forests, in bushy places and in gorges.

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Edible Dormouse

The edible dormouse (Glis glis argenteus), squirrel tailed dormouse, myoxus or fat dormouse of Crete is a subspecies of the common dormouse species, met throughout Europe and western Asia. Crete is the southernmost point where we meet this species, with the largest population being limited in Samaria National Park and some individuals being reported in Psiloritis Mount.

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Shrew

The Cretan white-toothed shrew (scient. Crocidura zimmermanni) is the only endemic mammal in Greece, found only in Crete, but it is displaced by the introduced lesser white-teethed shrew (scient. Crocidura suaveolens). Moreover, the smallest mammal of the world, the Etruscan shrew, is the third species of shrew met in Crete.

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Cretan spiny mouse

The Cretan spiny mouse (scient. Acomys minous) a threatened species of mouse endemic to Crete and Africa. It is named so, after the coarse, stiff hairs on its back and tail.

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Cretan hound

The Cretan Hound or Cretan Tracer is the oldest hunting breed of dog in Europe, with more than 4000 years of history on the island of Crete. It is believed to originate from the ancient breed of hound Basentzi in Egypt, introduced to the island’s particular conditions. By the middle of the last century, only a few purebred dogs were remaining, mostly in east Crete, but today the situation has improved considerably.

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Rabbit

The European rabbit (scient. Oryctolagus cuniculus) is a closely related species to hare, which has been introduced on the island of Crete by humans (many confuse that with hare). Despite the many predators on Crete, the rabbit reproduced rapidly and is now spread across the island of Crete and several smaller islets around it.

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Hare

Hare (scient. Lepus europaeus) is one of the most widespread mammals throughout Europe, which also exists in large numbers throughout the island of Crete. It's a herbivorous mammal whose length can reach 55 centimeters and whose weight is approximately 2-3 kilos. Its color is hazelnut-grey to grey brown. It has long ears, its hind legs are longer than the front ones and its pads are covered with a thick coat leaving a characteristic trace on the snow.

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