Saturday, August 18, 2012

Poitou Donkey

Poitou Donkey
We've talked about several Horse breeds in the past, but today just might be the very first Donkey breed. And what an interesting breed it is!

Like many equine breeds, the precise origin story of the Poitou Donkey is unknown. They date back at least a few centuries though, and we do know they were established in Poitou, France by 1717, as a memoir of a French royal official discussed the breed.

They are large Donkeys, just about Mule-sized, and traditionally could be easily identified by their long shaggy coats. Their hair is finer than that of other Donkeys, and if left to grow it will form long cords (like dreadlocks). Modern Poitou Donkeys are sometimes shorn for hygiene purposes, but such a thing was not allowed for showing in the past.
Poitou Donkey and Foal

Poitou Donkeys were developed for one purpose, and no, it wasn't their hair style! Because they are so large and sturdy, they were important in the creation of very large Mules. The male Donkeys were bred to Mulassier Horse females, and the resulting Mules were large, powerful, and highly prized.

The downfall of the Poitou Donkey came about when Europe began to industrialize. Their was less of a need for Mules, and so Donkey husbandry fell into a decline. By the 1970s there were only 40 of them left, but careful conservation has now increased that number to around 200 (which an equal number of hybrids). They are still a very rare breed, and are listed as Critical by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

Status : Domesticated, listed as Critcal by the ALBC
Location : Originated in France
Size : Height up to 14.3 hands (1.5m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Perissodactyla
Family : Equidae -- Genus : Equus -- Species : E. africanus -- Subspecies : E. a. asinus

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