Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Shaggy Donkey Story: Delightful Donkeys In Vendee

I dare you to look at this donkey and not feel good! It's the unmistakable Poitou donkey, larger and bigger boned than the average donkey and with the most wonderful shaggy coat. Not only that but it's a donkey with a lovely temperament and that makes it ideal for children to be around.

I took this photo of a dozing Poitou donkey when visiting the Île de Ré in the Vendee.

If you don't know Île-de-Ré, it's just off the coast from the lovely, historic and medieval city of La Rochelle. You reach it by the most amazing curved bridge which stretches out up and over the sea to reach the island.

Île-de-Ré is extemely busy in the summer but in late Spring or early autumn it is much easier to get around, easier to park and find a good restaurant or just sip a glass of wine or coffee at a small bar.

Now, back to the donkeys! Ever since reading 'Ned The Lonely Donkey' as a child I have been captivated by this breed of animal but when I saw the Poitou donkeys on Île-de-Ré, I realized this was a donkey a cut above the rest. So I studied a bit about their history and was amazed to find that they were bred to be as they are purely to ensure a stronger, bigger breed of mule for the Poitou landowners, merchants and farmers.

Apart from their size and shaggy coat, you might ask what's with the trousers? Again, to understand this you need to delve into the history of the Poitou donkey. When working in the salt flats of the Vendée and Charente Maritime, they needed protection against mosquito bites and the trousers was what their owners came up with. So if anyone thinks they've been dressed up for fun, think again - it was out of love for their donkeys that their owners originally took up the idea.

Photos and more detail on the Poitou donkey's history can be found on the following pages: