The Baudet du Poitou, the oldest of the donkey breeds in France

In 1925, the Baudet du Poitou was described as constituting a aristocracy in this case, a very few privileged caste subject to particularly supervised breeding and fruitful trade. Who is this donkey whose race was saved from a extinction certain?

Baudet du Poitou: its origins

The Poitou donkey breed comes fromSpain where it had been imported from Africa during the Moorish invasions. In France, writings attest to the practice of mulass hybridization from the Xe century. The animal forged a good reputation in the 13th centurye then in the XVIIIe century, and is exported to many countries around the Mediterranean and America. In 1717, we find a description of the breed corresponding to its current type and in 1884, the genealogical book du Baudet du Poitou, the first stud-book of all donkey breeds. After the Second World War, following the evolution of techniques and mechanization of the agricultural world and of the armies, mulass production is falling into disuse to the point that the Baudet du Poitou is close to the disappearance.

Safeguarding of the Baudet du Poitou

While in 1867 it was estimated that more than 18,000 mules and mules were sold in Poitou, in 1977, a study established the Baudet workforce at 44 specimens only. The combined efforts of the breeders, the Sabaud (Baudet du Poitou safeguard association), the national stud farms and the interregional park of the Poitevin marshes, are helping to increase its population. In order to speed up the backup process and fight against consanguinity, a continuous absorption crossing began in 1982 at the Asinerie Nationale de Dampierre sur Boutonne (Charente-Maritime) with the acquisition of donkeys portuguese of large size intended to be covered by purebred Baudets du Poitou. At each generation, the female obtained (the males not being selected) must mate with a purebred Baudet. The goal? Beget, in the seventh generation, a subject to 99% poitevin likely to be reinstated in the breed of origin.

The standard of the Poitou breed

The Stud-Book regulations establish the standard du Baudet du Poitou as such: large and long head, long and wide ears, furnished with long hairs. A strong neckline and a faded withers. His back should be straight and long, his hips not protruding and his rump short. Its powerful limbs, with very wide joints, extend into wide and open feet, covered with hair. The dress with the long curly hairs takes on a color dark bay, sometimes going up to the shade “fern”, with the circumference of the mouth, the nose and the eyes of a silvery gray tone bordered by a halo carmine. Its coat must not be dotted with white hairs (rubican) or bear a black band along the dorsal line from the withers to the tail (mule stripe). The underside of the belly and the inner thighs are light grey. The male must display a minimum height of 1.40m, and the female of 1.35m. Its weight in adulthood is between 320 and 430 kg.

The uses of Baudet du Poitou

The use of Baudet du Poitou is based on its genetic value of reproductive. By mating with the Poitou mule mare, it allows to design the Poitou mule whose qualities of robustness and strength, once made it one of the economic pillars of Poitou. Today, the equine is valued as an animal of pack and in hitch. The Baudet du Poitou is above all an animal iconic from an entire region, often featured in local rural events. Created in 1980, as seen above, the Asinerie Nationale Experimental du Baudet du Poitou is responsible for genetic improvement and the improvement of breeding techniques. Open to all, this protected natural space of 55 hectares, located in Charente-Maritime, also acts in favor of the collection of traditions and information on this breed of donkeys considered to be the most Ancient and the most original. Visit of the site and activities (riding in a packaged or harnessed donkey) are offered to the public.

Baudet du Poitou: its breeding

If the cradle of Baudet du Poitou is in the region of Melle in the Two Sevres, its breeding extends over the south of the department, west of Vienne, south of Vendée, north of Charente and Charente-Maritime. A third of births occurs in the rest of France and 9% abroad (England, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Brazil, India …). However, its population remains modest : the Baudets du Poitou are today 2,800 across the world.