The Poitou (pronounced pwa-too) is the most endangered
breed of donkey
in the world. In fact, there are less than 200 purebred
Poitou donkeys existing today. The breed are native to Poitou
, and are believed to have existed for over 2000 years.
The Poitou's physical characteristics include its huge head and long ears, along with a very thick, shaggy black coat. They feed on grass and usually grow up to be around 5 feet tall and 1200 lb in weight.
Back in medieval times, the breed were crossbred with Mulassier horse mares to produce the Poitou mule. This animal was considered to be a sign of prestige -- only the wealthy could afford them.
In the 1970's, it was discovered by a group of French citizens that there were only 60 purebred Poitou donkeys left in the world. This led to breeding programs all over the world, and fortunately the Poitou numbers are slowly but steadily climbing. Most Poitou's are situated in France, however there are a few in European Zoos, 20 in America, 3 in Australia and 1 in Canada.