The news just doesn’t get any better for a rare breed of donkeys that grow to be taller than most horses.
Just 44 Poitou donkeys were known to exist in 1976. Their numbers have since increased to an estimated 600 to 800 worldwide.
The four newcomers, Tilda, Tomas, Tarka and Tizer, have proved to be a big hit for Woodford Farm, in Hampshire.
The farm eventually had to put up “no entry” signs after being inundated by members of the public to see the photogenic little newcomers.
The mares and their foals also became media darlings, with BBC local and national news services carrying the story.
However, the publicity has had a plus side. “We have had some genuine interest from other people who want to help save the breed,” said owner, Annie Pollack.
“We have had a short film made about us by the BBC Natural History Department.
I just want more people to hear about Poitous and hence help save the breed.”
The first of the four foals was born on April 27; the other three following over the next 20 days.
The breed is much bigger than conventional donkeys, and can reach 16 hands. Poitous have a good covering of hair, with heat usually more of a problem than cold.
Life for the Poitous on Woodford Farm would be the envy of many horses. They have shelter from the rain and are fed twice daily, with lots of hay. They are groomed regularly and Annie says the foals get a lot of handling.
They are believed to date back to Roman times, with the records of the time referring to big donkeys.
“It was the whole industrialisation process that caused their downfall – railways, mechanisation, and a depression in agriculture.”
There is another reason for the Poitou‘s rarity.
“This breed was primarily used to breed mules – huge great 17-hand animals which were used for riding or as pack animals. They were crossed with a Mulassier mare, which is like a large, heavyweight French cob. They are also very rare.”
Annie says, “The Poitou are a lovely breed – gentle giants. Worth saving? I definitely think so.”