So… Istria Is Just Goats, Right?

What’s a goat doing there on our flag? Last week we found out that Croatians are literally obsessed with martens. If you missed it, check the post here. We even saw that there is a marten on the coat of arms of our region Slavonia and there is a small marten on our flag.

Can you see it? Coat of arms of Croatia is a red-white checkerboard with a crown of five arms, representing five historical regions. Slavonia and its marten are in the fifth arm… Apparently, there’s like a small animal kingdom on our flag. Let’s find out more about the “region of goats”…


This article is part of our April 2020 section “Croatian Thursday”. Every Thursday we present one aspect of our history, culture and traditions… This April 2020 all guided tours are cancelled, but Rilak’s Zagreb Guide is continuing online, with…

The goat on our flag represents the region of Istria. Istria is the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea. It is shared by three countries: Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy. To simplify, we can say that Istria is a region between the Italian town of Trieste and the Croatian town of Rijeka. Most of the peninsula is in Croatia, more precisely in our Istrian County.


The region got its name from Histri, an ancient tribe that lived there before the Romans came. During many centuries it was under many different rulers: Romans, Venetians, the Habsburgs, Italians, until it finally became part of Croatia only in 1943, first as part of Yugoslavia and then in the 1990s as part of independent Croatia. All these historic facts contribute to the mix of today’s Istria, visible in languages that are spoken in the region (Croatian, Italian, Slovene…), but also in many different historical monuments from various periods.

The most impressive monument is definitely Arena in Pula, a Roman amphitheater that preserved the entire circuit of its walls.

arenapula arena 1pula arena 2

Arena from the air. Photo by Jeroen Komen. Arena up close and inside the amphitheater, my photos.

Besides Pula, very popular tourist destination is the town of Rovinj, a picturesque city that invites you to the Venetian period.


Rovinj, cloudy day in 2018. My photo

Maybe you already know that I’ve spent a part of my childhood in Istria, in the town of Pazin, before I moved to the region of Opatija and later Zagreb. Located in the center of the peninsula, the town is famous for its cave and a medieval castle.


Panoramic view of the cave and the castle, Pazin. Photo by K. Korlevic, 2004

Now, let’s get to the “animal” and “coat of arms” business. The animal that represents Istria is the goat, as you could see above on our flag and on the coat of arms of the region.


The goat was the symbol of the region already in the Roman period. However, since the region was always split between so many powers (Venice, the Habsburgs, later Italy), there was never an “official” flag of the region. There is one coat of arms from the 19th century, of the Istrian Dutchy within the Habsburg Empire, where we can see – of course, a goat. Very nice coat of arms, in fact, very “Habsburg-style”.

istria habsburg

No one knows exactly why. Of course, there were and there are goats all over Istria, but there are all other farm animals as well. It’s not that we have a large number of goats in comparison to other animals. Why choose a goat, then? Some suggest that there was maybe a “cult of a goat” already in the pre-Roman times, that it was like some sort of a sacred animal, like many other “goat-like gods and creatures” from other parts of the world, but there’s not enough archaeological objects found to support that theory.


It’s maybe interesting that the goat in question is not any wild goat, but a domesticated kind called the “Istrian goat”. That makes the coat of arms of Istria and in fact the flag of the entire country unique in the world to have such animal as a symbol.

Also, goats are very resilient animals, they can easily escape any harm, unlike other domesticated animals. Because of its resilience, it represents perfectly the region of Istria, a region that survived many “harms” during its history, many different kingdoms and empires… The Venetians fell, the Habsburgs fell, but Istria, like a goat, still stands.

See you in Istria soon… For now, stay home, stay safe, stay healthy… The safest way to travel to Croatia now is by dreaming and reading…

GUIDED TOURS IN MAY – UPDATE: It seems the “lock-down” in Croatia will continue in some form in the month of May as well. We are all currently waiting new information from our governments… Nevertheless, I am almost 99% sure that I won’t be doing any “live” guided tours for now. I am preparing new “online” tours for the month of May, some of the current sections will continue on this blog, brand new posts will appear here but on other platforms as well. Check Monday Report next Monday for more details!

This article is part of our April 2020 section “Croatian Thursday”. Every Thursday we present one aspect of our history, culture and traditions… This April 2020 all guided tours are cancelled, but Rilak’s Zagreb Guide is continuing online, with…




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