Use: Poitou Donkeys are mainly used as draft animals. Some breeders in the United States have trained their donkeys for harness. They don’t make good riding donkeys, because of their slow movement. Jacks are usually kept exclusively for breeding.
History: Some historians believe that the Le Baudet de Poitou, as it’s known in France, existed as far back as during the Roman occupation in 54 BC. Owning this prestigious donkey was a considered a status symbol among the nobility of the Middle Ages. The Poitou Donkey was typically used for breeding, and often was crossed with the Mulassière horse to produce the Poitou Mule. The region, at its peak, produced 30,000 mules per year of very high quality and bred for France and the rest of Europe. These prized mules regarded as the finest working animal in the world. Poitou Donkeys were not gifted riding animals and were used purely for bloodstock. Their coat, called a cadanette, was highly prized by breeders. Genuine efforts were taken to ensure that the donkeys were not crossed with other donkeys or sold out of the region. As a result, the breed was kept pure for hundreds of years. The United States has a number of animals that are pure bred but not inscribed in the Studbook. FABBA (The Franco-American Baudet Breeders Association) was formed in 1999. They are linked with the ADMS (the American Donkey and Mule Society) as the official breeders liaison between the French Studbook and the American and Canadian breeders of Poitou Donkeys. In 1977, just 44 registered purebred donkeys were left in the world. Fewer than 400 currently exist worldwide. The Studbook of France, as stipulated by French law, must be properly inscribed for a donkey to be called a Baudet du Poitous or Poitou. All other donkeys, regardless of purity of breeding, may not use the name if they do not have official French papers.
Conformation: The Poitou is notable for its long, soft shaggy coat, which is a rich dark brown or black. The coat hangs in long cords, and bears no cross or stripe. The underbelly is gray and the nose and eye rings are white. The Poitou typically stands from 1.31 to 14.3 hands high. It has a large head and ears proportionate to its body. The donkey’s withers are low, and the back is flat and long. The haunches are round with a flat croup.
Special Considerations/Notes: Today the Poitou Donkey is one of the most endangered breeds in the world.