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Home > Horses > Poitou Donkey: Pictures, Care Guide, Temperament & Traits

Poitou Donkey: Pictures, Care Guide, Temperament & Traits

brown poitou donkey

Height: 55–63 inches
Weight: 750–950 pounds
Lifespan: 30–40 years
Colors: Dark-brown or black shaggy coat
Suitable for: gricultural work, saddle, leisure riding, pet
Temperament: Docile, intelligent, friendly, affectionate

The “woolly mammoth of donkeys” is a perfect moniker for the Poitou donkey, a rare breed that sports a long, shaggy coat. It is one of the largest donkey breeds and was developed in the Poitou region of western France. These sweet, calm, and docile animals are also called Poitevin or Baudet du Poitou.

This beast has a kind and gentle nature, and it forms strong bonds with its keepers and other farm mates. It is also an animal with a life expectancy between 30 and 40 years. Therefore, its adoption is synonymous with great responsibility.

But as friendly as the breed is, it’s not for everyone. It’s a critically endangered breed,1 so anyone considering getting involved with Poitou donkeys should do extensive research to find out exactly what kind of commitment will be required to be a responsible owner.

Here is what you need to know about the peaceful and impressive Poitou donkey.

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Poitou Foals

poitou foal in the grass
Image By: Vince Scherer, Shutterstock


3 Little-Known Facts About the Poitou Donkey

1. The Poitou Donkey Is Currently Endangered

Their population is fewer than 500. However, conservation efforts in the past decades seem to have paid off, as in 1977,2 there were only around 40 of these donkeys left worldwide.

Today, Poitou conservation efforts continue and include careful record keeping of donkey genetics and breeding matches.

2. The Poitou Donkey Is a Breed That Dates Back to Middle Ages

These donkeys are known to have existed in France during the Middle Ages. They were described in 1717 in a memoir of the adviser to King Louis XV. At that time, donkeys were mainly used in agriculture to plow fields and harvest crops.

It was not until the 19th century that Poitou donkeys were sent from France to the United States.

3. The Poitou Donkey Is a National Treasure in France

France has long considered Poitou donkeys as national treasures because of their many qualities and above all, their rarity. In French, Baudet means “sire of mules.”3

Poitou Donkey
Image By: der niels, Pixabay


Temperament & Intelligence of the Poitou Donkey

The Poitou is one of the most docile, affectionate, and adorable creatures, despite its imposing stature. Moreover, a crucial aspect of a Poitou donkey’s personality is its great sociability. If you don’t have the means or space to keep a Poitou with a farm mate (ideally of the same species), your donkey will be sad and depressed, which will have a direct impact on its health.

Are These Donkeys Good for Families?

This animal is one of the largest donkey breeds in the world. Despite their size, they are docile and sociable and need plenty of love and attention. Poitou donkeys make great family “pets,” even if their needs are quite different from those of a Labrador dog or Siamese cat!

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?

It is not advisable to keep just one Poitou donkey, but since finding one available for sale is a challenge in itself, you may need to consider finding another farm friend for it.

If you have dogs, be aware that donkeys are not particularly predisposed to get along with these pets, except in cases where the animals have been raised together from a young age.

Poitou Donkey
Poitou Donkey 2863 (Image By: Amada44, Wikimedia Commons CC 4.0 International)


Things to Know When Owning a Poitou Donkey

If you are looking to acquire one of these unique donkeys, keep in mind that not all shaggy donkeys are Poitous. Some donkeys can be presented as purebreds, and unsuspecting owners buy these animals at great expense, only to find out later that what they have is not the real deal. So, be sure to do thorough research before settling on a particular breeder.

Food & Diet Requirements

The diet of donkeys is different from that of horses, as they can better utilize the nutrients in their food. Therefore, their food should be high in fiber and low in calories, as they are particularly prone to becoming overweight when kept in captivity. Barley or oat straw, hay, and grass are the mainstays of the Poitou donkey diet. You can offer treats occasionally, such as apples or carrot chunks, but don’t overdo it.


Like any donkey, the Poitou needs daily exercise, as this enables it to maintain a normal weight. Donkeys quickly gain weight if they are overfed, which can cause a variety of diseases.

It takes a large amount of space to accommodate a Poitou donkey, given its size. Their enclosure should be big enough for them to roam freely, and they will need shelter such as a barn or stable during the colder months.

Poitou-female-one-year-old donkey
Poitou-female-one-year-old (Image By: Sudorculus, Wikimedia Commons CC 3.0 Unported)


It is possible to train a Poitou donkey — for example, to move forward on demand, to accept a halter, and to be tethered. However, you must first build trust with your donkey; be firm but gentle, patient, and persistent. Also, it’s best to reward your donkey with praise rather than treats.


A unique characteristic of Poitou donkeys is that they look like they’re covered in dreadlocks! This amazing trait comes at a price, however: Grooming these beasts is no walk in the park. In fact, some donkey owners in France never groom their Poitous; their hair is simply left to form curls and mats.

If you do decide to groom yours, know that it will take time but will be a great deal of fun, and most donkeys enjoy it.

African Poitou Donkey
Image By: Dušan, Pixabay

Health & Conditions

Poitou donkeys are hardy animals, but they are prone to common donkey health problems, such as gastrointestinal diseases, colic, laminitis, and hyperlipemia. The most common problem that U.K. breeders have with this breed is dermatitis. However, this skin issue is resolved quite easily with proper treatment.

Minor Conditions
  • Dermatitis

Serious Conditions
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • Laminitis
  • Hyperlipemia

Male vs. Female

Male donkeys are called jacks, females are jennies, and baby donkeys are foals. Jacks are generally larger than females, but there are no other notable differences between the two sexes in appearance or behavior.

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Final Thoughts

The Poitou may not be a donkey for everyone, although everyone seems to fall in love with it. Unfortunately, there are not many left in the world, but conservation efforts could hopefully repopulate the species in the years to come. If you can’t own one, consider supporting the conservation projects to make these magnificent animals more accessible to donkey lovers.

Featured Image Credit: vieleineinerhuelle, Pixabay

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