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07-31-2009

Vivienne the Poitou donkey

On July 18, 2009 Viviene, the Poitou donkey, was born at Sedgwick County Zoo in the Children’s Farm American Barn. According to our records this is the first Poitou donkey born in a Zoo in North America. The Poitou donkey, or Baudet de Poitou, is an ancient breed of donkey originating in the Poitou region of France. References noting large donkeys "almost completely covered in hair a half-foot long with legs and joints as large as those of a carriage horse" date back to 1717, indicating the breed had been well developed prior to that date.

The characteristics of the long shaggy coat, the large head, and depth of bone make the Poitou instantly recognizable. These characteristics are so strong that donkeys with as little as 1/8th Poitou breeding resemble purebreds, making documentation of pure parentage by pedigree a critically important tool in this breeds recovery program.

The Poitou was strictly used for the production of high-quality mules, especially when bred to the Mulassiere horse. Never used for work itself, the Poitou won worldwide acclaim as a sire of the finest mules in the world. At one time, the Poitou region produced nearly 30,000 mules a year. However, with the end of WWII and the turn from animal draft power to mechanized power, the Poitou declined precipitously in number until there were only 44 animals worldwide, and the breed nearly became extinct.

In 1977, the ALBC was founded, and their census provided the first clear look at how many breeds were on the brink of being lost forever. The Poitou joined several other breeds representing the major species of livestock on the ALBC Conservation Priority List and people began to take notice. With the dedicated, cooperative efforts of of breeders in both France and the US, the Poitou has risen in number to approximately 180 purebred animals, with papers in the French Livre A herd book. The Livre A book only accepts animals with documented, purebred parentage. While animals with only one purebred parent are eligible for inclusion in the Livre B book, careful guidelines mark their use in breeding programs.

Vivienne is the product of two Livre A parents, making her a valuable animal for breeding. The Sedgwick County Zoo maintains a strong relationship with the ALBC and the Poitou breeders in the US, and will work with those organizations to find a home where Vivienne can make the greatest contribution to the breeds survival.
 

07-31-2009

Vivienne the Poitou donkey

On July 18, 2009 Viviene, the Poitou donkey, was born at Sedgwick County Zoo in the Children’s Farm American Barn. According to our records this is the first Poitou donkey born in a Zoo in North America. The Poitou donkey, or Baudet de Poitou, is an ancient breed of donkey originating in the Poitou region of France. References noting large donkeys "almost completely covered in hair a half-foot long with legs and joints as large as those of a carriage horse" date back to 1717, indicating the breed had been well developed prior to that date.

The characteristics of the long shaggy coat, the large head, and depth of bone make the Poitou instantly recognizable. These characteristics are so strong that donkeys with as little as 1/8th Poitou breeding resemble purebreds, making documentation of pure parentage by pedigree a critically important tool in this breeds recovery program.

The Poitou was strictly used for the production of high-quality mules, especially when bred to the Mulassiere horse. Never used for work itself, the Poitou won worldwide acclaim as a sire of the finest mules in the world. At one time, the Poitou region produced nearly 30,000 mules a year. However, with the end of WWII and the turn from animal draft power to mechanized power, the Poitou declined precipitously in number until there were only 44 animals worldwide, and the breed nearly became extinct.

In 1977, the ALBC was founded, and their census provided the first clear look at how many breeds were on the brink of being lost forever. The Poitou joined several other breeds representing the major species of livestock on the ALBC Conservation Priority List and people began to take notice. With the dedicated, cooperative efforts of of breeders in both France and the US, the Poitou has risen in number to approximately 180 purebred animals, with papers in the French Livre A herd book. The Livre A book only accepts animals with documented, purebred parentage. While animals with only one purebred parent are eligible for inclusion in the Livre B book, careful guidelines mark their use in breeding programs.

Vivienne is the product of two Livre A parents, making her a valuable animal for breeding. The Sedgwick County Zoo maintains a strong relationship with the ALBC and the Poitou breeders in the US, and will work with those organizations to find a home where Vivienne can make the greatest contribution to the breeds survival.
 

Rare breeds

Many of the breeds of livestock in the Children's Farms are listed as rare by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC), an organization dedicated to the preservation of rare or heritage breeds of livestock. How can a cow be considered rare? After all you can see cows any day as you drive up and down the road, right? Actually, many of the breeds on exhibit in the Children's Farms are more rare than some of the exotic animals we have in our care throughout the rest of the Zoo. These heritage breeds were once the basis for animal agriculture worldwide, but the shift in twentieth century agriculture from small, sustainable family farms to the high-number, high-production units we are familiar with today has removed many valuable breeds from service. Many have already become extinct. The surviving breeds represent a genetic treasure chest of resources for agriculture. It is important to save these rare breeds because if they disappear, it is no different than when a wild animal becomes extinct.

Many of these breeds share traits of hardiness, adaptability, exceptional parenting skills and the ability to thrive on marginal forage. For example, the Tamworth pig is well known for its ability to forage and to raise litters of piglets with a minimum amount of human intervention. The Ankole-Watusi is one of the most critically endangered of all the ALBC breeds. Its huge horns act not only as an impressive defense against predators, the great blood supply in those horns functions like a radiator to disperse heat, making it one of the most heat tolerant breeds. As people become increasingly concerned with the quality and safety of their food supply, breeds of livestock that can do well within sustainable agriculture systems will hopefully experience a recurrence of popularity. The breeds of cattle showcased at Sedgwick County Zoo represent centuries of environmental adaptations as well as hundreds of years of selective breeding.

Many of these breeds are also closely linked with American history. George Washington developed the American mammoth jackstock from donkeys given to him as gifts after the Revolutionary War. Crossing these large donkeys with draft mares gave the large draft mules needed to work the rapidly expanding country. The milking devon is one of the first animals brought to the New World by English settlers. A triple purpose breed - milk, meat and draft power all in one - it is now one of the most rare breeds in the world and extinct in its native Devonshire. The Dominique chicken was one of the first pure breeds of chicken developed in the United States. In the 1980's Sedgwick County Zoo was instrumental in developing a pure strain of Dominique that enhanced the original qualities of the breed and helped keep it from extinction.

Another aspect of the trend toward a more urban society is that many children today are not familiar with domestic animals other than household pets. The Children's Farms is the only place many children who have no experience with or concept of livestock can come into contact with animals such as sheep and goats, and are able to see cows, horses, camels and other large domestic animals up close. Grandparents can reminisce about the good old days, and children enjoy hearing tales about the days when these animals were a part of our daily lives. It provides a link with our past that we can't find anywhere else.

Hours of Operation
Summer Hours8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
(Beginning March 1)
Winter Hours10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
(Beginning November 1)
Open 364 Days a Year!*
*The Zoo will be closed one day only, September 6, 2014 to facilitate the preparation of the annual Zoo fundraiser, Zoobilee. For Zoobilee ticket information please call 266-8APE (8273).
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