For Debbie Hamilton, it was love at first sight. She scratched Saadi du Bourg behind his long fuzzy ears and patted the coarse, foot-long dreadlocks hanging from his belly. She didn't buy him that day, but eventually she wrote a check for $5,000 and the hairy jackass was all hers.Whew! for a minute there I thought ... but really, a cross between a mule and a horse? I think there's one of these in there somewhere.
'He was very beguiling-looking,' the 61-year-old Ms. Hamilton says earnestly.
She wasn't taken just by Saadi's good looks. He was a full-blooded baudet du Poitou, an endangered breed of donkey. Raised for centuries exclusively in western France, the baudet today is struggling to survive.
Only about 250 purebred animals exist in France, with another 100 scattered in the U.S., Germany and elsewhere -- most of them isolated in small groups in petting zoos and farms.
Baudets and their genetic characteristics are prized as one-half of the combination needed to create a first-class working mule. Crossing a big-boned baudet jack, or male, with a mulassier, a large horse, yielded a mule that, centuries ago, was considered luxury transportation.
Thursday, August 05, 2004