The Poitou donkeys (Baudet du Poitou), perhaps the most recognizable donkey in the world because of its shaggy coat and long furry ears, is also the least known and most endangered. From only 44 Poitou donkeys worldwide counted in 1977, there are now an estimated 600 pure and 1000 part-bred Poitous in the world today. These numbers are growing due to the concerted efforts of the French government and French breeders, as well as the Poitou breeeder in the United States, England, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Australia.
The Poitou donkey is instantly recognizable for a number of unique characteristics: the dark brown or black long shaggy coat hanging in long 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 the Poitou 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 bred with Trait Mulassier-Poitevin Horse, a massive bay, black, sorrel and dun draft horse. Like the Poitou donkey, the Mulassier horse is also critically endangered. Both breeds, thorugh 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 donkeys. The first is Livre A, for Poitou donkeys 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 in Livre A) male and a female of unknown or Livre B status. Part-bred Poitou jack (male) are not allowed to breed jennet (females) of any percentage. By French law, on animals properly inscribed in the Stud Book of France are allowed to be called Baudet du Poitous or Poitou donkeys, and only these donkeys are given official French papers. In Montarsiccio, Bedonia, (PR) Italy today (2012) we have 2 Poitou donkeys inscribed in Livre A Stubook. Through supporters and donations we hope to grow the numbers of pure Poitou donkeys in Italy.