Pet of the week: The Poitou donkey


What is it? It's a donkey of the species Equus asinus. The Poitou is a very rare breed with a long shaggy coat, and the most prized are the ones with the nattiest dreadlocks.

Donkeys kick, don't they? You'd be in more danger of being nuzzled to death by this chap. The Poitou is a most docile, loving and fun creature, though he is quite sizeable, capable of growing to about 1.5m, or 16 hands in the correct unit of height. Basically, more horse than donkey in stature, if not in temperament.

What does he eat? The usual stuff – hay, grass, carrots, apples, Polo mints, hedgerows, that sort of thing.

All right, smart ass, tell me something I don't know. The male is known as a jack, and the female is a jennie.

So, where do they live? You need a fair bit of space to accommodate donkeys. A paddock on your estate should do it, no less than an acre per animal, and they are great herding animals, so you will need a few to keep each other company. They will need shelter throughout the colder months, so a barn or stables is essential.

Can I ride him? In theory, yes, but no galloping.

How much is that donkey in the window? £2,500 – a tad steep, but worth every penny.

Why does he deserve a home? Their numbers are dangerously low – there are fewer than 800 Poitous worldwide – so they need all the help they can get.

Why you might think twice. Could be a little tricky to keep in a terraced street or second-floor flat.

Who would own a Poitou? Rock stars-turned-farmers – it's a hair thing.

Where can I get one? Unlikely you'll spot a Poitou on the pleasure beaches of Margate or Scarborough. Annie Pollock of Woodford Farm in the New Forest is the breeding supremo of the UK. She knows all there is to know about them and will arrange special tours of the farm by appointment (woodfordfarm.co.uk; 01590 626224). If you love donkeys, but your flat's a bit poky, contact thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk (01395 578222) to find out how you can get to know these lovable beasts.

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