Poitou donkeys are a rare breed
Saving the Poitou donkey
An endangered breed of rare donkey is alive and well in a New Forest farm and, thanks to the dedication of one Lymington farmer, the Poitou donkey has just increased its number by four - and all were born to separate mothers.
A New Forest farmer working to preserve a rare breed of donkey has just seen a very unusual event - the birth of four new foals.
Poitou donkeys are very tall animals
Annie Pollock's Woodford Farm in Lymington has been breeding the Baudet du Poitou donkey for two years, and it's the only farm in the South to do so.
Originating from France, the Poitou donkey was once bred for crossing with large horses, called Mulassieres, to produce mules suitable for heavy work on farms.
The development of farm machinery such as tractors rendered the animal redundant, and so many Poitou donkeys ended up as food.
Annie Pollock is a retired vet
Thirty years ago, there were only 44 left. With this realisation, the French implemented a rescue programme to raise the numbers and save the endangered breed from extinction.
And the birth of four new fouls on Annie's farm, all to separate mothers, and in such a short space of time is extremely unusual - and they're keeping her on her toes.
She says: "When I come out and check them in the middle of the night they like to jump on me in the dark."
With her new arrivals, including Tomas, Tilda and Tarka, Annie now has 22 Poitou donkeys, two of which are male, or Jack, Poitou donkeys.
Izzy has just given birth to Tizer
The latest to give birth was a Poitou donkey named Izzy, after a 12 month gestation period. The foal has been named Tizer.
And increasing the numbers of Poitou is exactly the plan. Rarer than Giant Pandas, there are now around 40 Poitou donkeys in the UK alone.
Local conservation hero Annie says: "There are probably about 600 to 800 in the world, and until they reach about 1,000 they really could die out at any time.
"If anything happens to the French herd then that could be it and they could die out. So the more foreign breeders there are, the better."
Annie, a vet who retired to Lymington seven years ago, loves working with the donkeys, who, with their distinctive thick shaggy brown coat, are one of the largest breeds of the animal. They can stand between 13 - 16 hands high.
"They are fun to work with, ever so affectionate, and they are just fun. And I just love them, and I love their size. I love the fact that they are so big.
"I just adore them."
last updated: 11/03/2008 at 15:27