Loire Valley House/Pet Sitting, France
One of the many advantages of house/pet sitting, is the opportunity to see unusual places, people and nature. In 2014, we were house sitting a beautiful cat who was very independent. Our hosts encouraged us to visit local châteaux, historical centres and things that were typically “French.”
The Poitou Donkey
Our assignment was in the Poitou–Charentes area of France, located between the Loire valley and Aquitaine. Tourists flock here in droves because its coastline is one of the sunniest areas in France. The particularly unique Poitou donkey is a tourist attraction, but since it was October we enjoyed the lull in the season. We located a Poitou farm, but could not find any workers. We then simply went to the wooden fences and offered apples as a greeting. The donkeys welcomed us in return.
A Little History of the Poitou Donkey
The Poitou donkey has been owned and protected over the ages by the French nobility. In the Middle Ages, it was the job of the Mulassière (mule breeder) to produce an offspring of Poitou donkey with a Poitevin horse. The result was a superior mule that was used as a means of transporting goods.
It is known for its distinctive coat, called a cadanette, which hangs in long, ungroomed cords.
Breeders originally prized the coats highly, but today, many Poitou donkeys are shorn for hygiene reasons.
The fame of Poitou female donkeys spread with their ability to produce outstanding mules. In 1884 a studbook was introduced to guarantee the blood lines for European buyers. During this time the Poitou blood lines developed other bred that included the American Mammoth Jack mule. As automation developed, there was a decline in breeding. In 1977 membership world-wide had dropped to 44 people or organizations. Conservation stepped in and it is estimated that by 2005, there were 450 purebred Poitou donkeys.
Our Personal Encounters
There is no way to explain what it is like to encounter a small herd of purebred Poitou donkeys. Just to look at them makes a person smile and reach out with apples. I had done a little research prior to visiting. I know that their shaggy coat was called a cadanette. We noticed that it hung in long cords. In the past, ungroomed and matted hair was highly valued.
Today, many Poitou donkeys are shorn for the purpose of hygiene. Coats are always dark brown or black with a white underbelly that also includes their nose and rings around their eyes. We gazed at their long head supported on strong necks. Trish pointed out their large feet.
These Poitou donkeys were as eager to see us as we were to see them. They gently ate the apples and allowed us to gently stroke them.
We would certainly recommend house/pet sitting. There are many sites on the internet. paula.