They are curious creatures, the Ile de Ré donkeys. Some look positively rastafarian, others like the donkeys you might see on a British beach. In fact the longer haired animals are a rather rare species, the Baudet du Poitou.
Once a common site in the Poitou Charentes countryside these lovely animals were in danger of becoming extinct as machines took over. Today St Martin de Ré is home to a herd of them. You can usually find them hanging around the town’s ancient walls. Sometimes we can hear them in our garden when they start braying…
Sadly the animals are still fragile, over the winter a donkey died because visitors kept feeding it things like bread. It turns out their stomachs can’t cope with it. Now extra signs have gone up to remind holidaymakers that the donkeys don’t need food. However, you can still ride them.
The donkeys are turned out in their Sunday best every weekend in St Martin. These donkeys are called the ânes en culotte. Their pyjamas may look daft but they are genuine. The proper working donkeys used to wear them as protection for their legs from all the mosquitoes and other insects on the salt marshes.
This year the island’s donkeys are being celebrated with a special exhibition in St Martin. Âne-en-Ré, une exposition culottée is at the Musée Ernest Cognacq just down the road from our house.
If you want to stay and visit the donkeys, we have just one week left free if you want to book for the school summer holidays. Details here.