EXCLUSIVE: Railtrack junior executive Eric Witherington (on right) demonstrates the company's latest plan to beat the signalmen's strike. These giant donkeys, each with liveried driver, are capable of carrying up to six commuters in comfort for distances of up to 60 miles. 'Once they're up and moving they can get a real crack-on,' said Eric, of Horsham. 'But we do advise bringing sandwiches.' Convinced? Actually, this is a Poitou ass, hailing from that region of France, which is used to cross with the local breed of horse to produce hybrid mules. Matched only in size by the Andalusian ass, the Poitou became almost extinct in the 1980s and is currently the subject of an urgent conservation programme.
It is featured in Rare Breeds (Laurence King Publishing, pounds 16.95). The photographer, Robert Dowling, assures the Captain that the fine French handler stood about 5ft 7ins tall. A big donkey.