I cannot believe that people were good and ready to slaughter this endangered rare donkey! Thank you Ms. Annie Pollack for rescuing these wonderful animals! ~Declan
Woman's bid to save donkey that resembles a woolly mammoth from extinction after their numbers drop to less than 1,000
- Annie Pollock began rescuing giant Poitou donkeys bound for abbatoirs
- Hampshire farmer has built up largest herd of Baudet de Poitou in the UK
- Loveable donkeys have shaggy coats and can grow to up to 8ft tall
A female farmer has dedicated herself to rescuing a critically endangered breed of giant French donkey after falling in love with the quirky creatures.
Annie Pollock, from Lymington in the New Forest, has devoted the past nine years to rescuing and nurturing enormous Baudet de Poitou donkeys - which resemble a cross between a woolly mammoth and Star Wars favourite Chewbacca.
Ms Pollock is now the proud owner of 22 Poitou - the largest herd in the UK.
Enormous: Farmer Annie Pollock, seen with giant donkey Izzy, has the largest herd of Baudet de Poitou donkeys in the UK
There are thought to be less than 1,000 of the 'mischievous' giant donkeys left in existence.
The lovable donkeys can grow to more than 8ft tall - bigger than most horses - and breeders have to keep them to a strict diet to prevent them growing too large.
Annie, 52, has spent the last nine years building up a herd of 22 Poitou donkeys, which originate from the Poitou-Charentes region of France and are known for their friendly yet mischievous personalities.
She and her small team of farm hands work round the clock to look after the rare donkeys, dedicating hours to grooming their unusual shaggy coats to stop them turning into dreadlocks.
Loveable: Poitou foals Charlie and Cadeau at the farm in Hampshire, where the farmer made a home for rescued donkeys that had been bound for the abbatoir in France
The breed were popular working animals until the mid 20th century when they were replaced with machines.
A survey in 1977 found just 44 surviving donkeys, and there are still less than 1,000 in existence.
Ms Pollock, one of only two Poitou breeders in the UK, said: 'In 2004 I phoned a lady in France looking to buy a llama, and ended up with two Poitou donkeys which I instantly fell in love with.
'I started looking into the breed and found out they were incredibly rare.
'Gradually I built up the herd, and then started rescuing them.
'I have rescued seven from France which would have otherwise ended up going to the slaughter house.
'Word spread I was rescuing them and I have since been approached by a lot of people about taking in their Poitou.
'The breed were to France what shire horses are to Britain and were exported all over the world,' Ms Pollock said.
'Then came mechanisation and they fell out of favour.
'There are still less than 1,000 in the stud book and we have 22 of them,' she added.
Critically endangered: There now are less than 1,000 Poitou donkeys like Izzy in existence
Mischievous: Ms Pollock said the donkeys are funny and friendly, but also 'a bit naughty'
The biggest donkey at Annie’s 120-acre Norley Farm is Verveine, dwarfing standard donkeys at a whopping 16 hands - or 5ft 4ins - measured to its shoulders.
Its huge neck and head add several extra feet to its overall height.
The largest in the world lives on a farm in Texas and stands at 17 hands (5ft 7ins).
The biggest donkey in the UK is thought to be at a farm in Lincolnshire, standing at 8ft tall when measured from the ground to the tip of its ears.
Annie added: 'Verveine is huge and will probably get a bit bigger still. At 16 hands she is quite a bit bigger than people like to ride horses.
'Most people tend to ride horses that are 14 or 15 hands.
'Historically they had very poor diets so we actually have to limit what they eat otherwise they will grow too big.
'I love their temperament, they’re so funny and friendly, and they teach you patience.
'They’re very intelligent and also a bit naughty. People often write-off donkeys but I think they are just wonderful.'