Why donkeys wear pants

Yesterday I was lolling about the harbor of St-Martin, sitting on the thick limestone walls near the little lighthouse, just hanging out. It’s a great people-watching spot.

Anyway, at some point I noticed that in the park there was a guy who had a bunch of donkeys and kids were getting on the donkeys and riding them in a little loop around the park. Okay, no big deal. Lots of parks have horse rides for kids, right? Here in France they do donkeys. Same-same.

Except there was something odd about these donkeys. They were all wearing gingham pantaloons. Which, I’m sorry, is just not a natural look for donkeys (or anyone for that matter). So I went over and talked to the donkey guy, whose name was Régis Léau, and we had a very difficult conversation, half in broken English, half in broken French, and I think this is what he told me:

These are a special type of donkey called Baudets du Poitou, a type of purebred (is that even possible with donkeys?) island beast of burden used in the fields of Île de Ré a hundred years ago. And the reason they wear pants is because of the salt marshes, where nasty flies and mosquitoes were so abundant. The gingham pants were designed to protect the donkeys from insect bites.

photo by David Lansing

photo by David Lansing

Okay, so that all makes sense. But they don’t use the donkeys in the fields anymore so I don’t know why they need to put pants on these guys. Except the kids seem to like it. “Hey, dad, can we ride the donkeys with pants?”

I wonder how long it takes a donkey to get dressed in the morning? And do donkeys put on their pants one leg at a time? My French is not good enough to ask Régis these  questions. But one does wonder. 

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