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Poitou Donkey

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Scientific name: Equus africanus asinus

Other common names: Baudet de Poitou; Poitou Ass; Poitevin Donkey

The basics:
The Poitou Donkey is a breed of donkey originating in the Poitou region of France. One of the most distinctive donkey breeds, it is also among the rarest and least-known. As with many ancient breeds, the origins of the Baudet de Poitou are somewhat obscure. The Roman Empire is said to have introduced the donkey and the practice of mule breeding to the Poitou region of France from which the Baudet de Poitou takes its name.

According to the Northwest Poitou Donkey Institute, "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." Male Poitou Donkeys are called "Baudet", and females are called "Anesse".

Appearance / health:
The Poitou Donkey has a number of unusual characteristics which distinguish it from other asses. The Poitou has a large body; the Andalucian donkey is the only other European breed of donkey of comparable size. Breeders selected animals with large ears, heads, and leg joints with the intention of breeding larger and stronger mules. Today the ears of some Poitou Donkeys are so large as to lay horizontal. A standard Poitou should stand between 1.35 m and 1.50 m at the withers and have a large, long head on a strong neck. Its withers should be unobtrusive and the back flat and long. The croup of the Poitou should be short and it should have rounded haunches. Its feet are bigger than those of other donkeys and are covered with the same long hair as its legs.

Its shaggy coat, called a "cadanette", hangs in "long cords or shaggy hanks" when ungroomed because the hair is longer and softer than that of other breeds of donkey. Animals with great cadanettes of matted and tangled hair were most highly valued. Breeders prized the Baudet du Poitou's traditional coat so highly that a champion jack who had lost his cadenette was excluded from placement in a class at later shows.