The Poitou Donkey
The Poitou Donkey (Baudet du Poitou), perhaps the most recognizable donkey in the world because of its shaggy coat and long ears, is also the least known and most endangered. From only 44 animals (worldwide) counted in 1977, there are now an estimated 400 to 600 pure and part-bred animals in the world today. These numbers are growing due to the concerted efforts of the French government and French breeders, as well as breeders in the United States, England, and Australia.
The Poitou is instantly recognizable for a number of unique characteristics: the dark brown or black long shaggy coat hanging in long cords or shaggy dreadlocks; long manes that fall to one side; a well haired tail; and exceptionally large and beautiful shaggy ears.
The origins of the Poitou, as with many ancient breeds, is vague, although it is said that this donkey was first introduced to the Poitou region of France by the Roman army. The Poitou was never used for work, but prized as a mule-breeding animal. The dam of the Poitou Mule was the Trait Mulassier horse, a massive bay, black, sorrel or dun draft horse. Like the Poitou donkey, the Mulassier horse is also critically endangered. Both breeds, through careful management and rebreeding efforts, are finally beginning to recover from near extinction.
The French government has taken the lead in reviving the Poitou donkey in France. There are two official registration books for the Baudet du Poitou. The first is Livre A, for animals that are purebred. In order to be inscribed in Livre A, both parents of a foal must be Livre A, inscribed in the Studbook and recorded with SIRE. The studbooks are regulated by the French Ministry Of Agriculture. The Livre B is open only to part-bred females who are the offspring of a pure-bred (inscribed Livre A) male and a female of unknown or Livre B status. (Partbred males are not allowed to breed female Poitous of any percentage.) By French law, only animals properly inscribed in the Studbook of France are allowed to be called Baudet du Poitous or Poitou Donkeys, and only these donkeys are given official French papers.
The Franco-American Baudet Breeders Association (FABBA), formed in Nov 1999, in conjunction with the American Donkey and Mule Society (ADMS) is the official breeders liaison between the French Studbook and the American and Canadian breeders of Poitou Donkeys.
The Poitou donkey is a member of the equine species known as the Equus asinus. The ass, commonly referred to as the donkey, is a different species from the horse. The donkey has several primary differences including: a different number of chromosomes, a tufted tail; braying voice; a different pelvic shape, different hoof shape; and different hair and skin texture.