The Poitevin mulassier, also called Poitevin or simply Mulassier, is a French draft horse breed. It owes its name Mulassier to its most important original function, namely the breeding of mules, which are highly valued for their strength and endurance. The name Poitevin is derived from its region of origin, the Poitou. The number of Poitevins has greatly decreased with motorisation and today this horse breed is threatened with extinction.
In the early twentieth century there were some 50,000 brood mares producing between 18,000 and 20,000 mules per year. The Poitevin is an endangered breed; in 2011 there were just over 300 breeding animals, of which about 40 were stallions. The horses may be of any solid coat color, including striped dun, a color not seen in other French draft horses. The Poitevin is a slow-growing breed with heavy bone, and is not suitable for meat production.
The Poitevin originated in the marshlands of the Charente and the Vendée in the seventeenth century, when horses of Flemish or Dutch origin, brought to the area by engineers working on land drainage, horses were brought to the area from Germany in about 1685. Interbreeding between these various imported horses and local stock of indeterminate type led to the development of the Poitevin, a large, heavy, slow horse well adapted to marshy terrain. Poitevin mares were crossbred with Poitou donkeys to create the famous Poitou mule, a large, hardy breed. In the first half of the twentieth century, the mule breeding industry collapsed with the advent of mechanization. By 1922, Poitevin foals became difficult to sell, and the population dropped dramatically as there was no economic incentive for breeding.
Between 1970 and 1990, the population of the Poitevin varied between 250 and 300 animals, with an average of 20 new horses entering the studbook each year. By the early 1990s, population numbers fell to the lowest in history. By 2006, the Poitevin was still considered the most endangered French horse breed, with less than 100 births per year.
Poitevin – Mulassier – Poitou – Cheval du Poitou — Trait Mulassier — Poitevin Mulassier — Trait Poitevin Mulassier
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