Take one look at a Poitou donkey and you will fall in love. Meet one and you will be in love for life.
About an hour west of La Rochelle, in the quiet village of Dampierre-Sur-Boutonne you can find the the L’Asinerie du Baudet du Poitou. It is a public center on a historic farm dedicated to the conservation of the Poitou donkey.
In the 1970s, the Poitou population was down to only 44 individual animals. One of the largest herds belonged to Suzanne Auger on her farm, La Tillauderie, which eventually became the L’Asinerie du Baudet du Poitou. The 55-hectare facility is part of the Echappées Nature network, which guarantees that beautiful areas of natural beauty within the Charente-Maritime region of France are preserved and are available to the public year-round. There are wide paths throughout the historic farm enabling you to enjoy the donkeys and stroll through the biodiverse forests and fields surrounding them.
The giant shaggy Poitous are a sight to behold and considered a French national treasure. The breed is among the largest donkeys in the world, but what really makes them stand out is their shaggy, dreadlock-like coats. Some of the more impressive coats almost reach the ground!
The breed was developed centuries ago with the sole purpose of the production of what was considered the highest quality working mule in the world, the Poitevine. The Poitou donkey is forever linked to the Mulassier horse (also known as the Trait Poitevin) in this as the winning combination for producing these extraordinary mules. You can see and meet all three (the donkeys, the horses, and the mules) at the asinerie.
The center offers guided tours and wheelchair-accessible carriage rides with the animals who take you on a tour of the facility. Picnic walks with the donkeys and opportunities to groom and spend time with them can also be arranged for small groups with reservations.
There is a small museum with historic stalls and donkey-related items preserved from the farm’s past. There are often special events and festivals so be sure to check the center’s calendar ahead of a visit. The Poitou National Competition every August is not to be missed!
Know Before You Go
The asinerie is off the beaten track but not hard to find with GPS. Put on your good walking shoes because there are lots of paths throughout the farm. Most of the farm is handicap accessible but the roads are largely unpaved but level.