Donkeys in Provence

provence donkey

The Provence donkey (l’âne de Provence) is a domestic breed from south-eastern France. Every year, millions of people travel to the Provence. While visiting, the animals are high on the priority list of things to see. Understanding why they’re there and what activities are available can ensure you make the most of your time in town.

What is unique about the animals?

The Provence donkey has a great bone structure and is known for being sure-footed, making it easy for them to travel the mountain trails. These animals have a black dorsal stripe over a pinkish-grey coat. You’ll also notice that there are stripes on their legs. The average size will vary from 1.17 meters to 1.35 meters depending on whether it is male or female (males are slightly larger). They have long ears, white around the eyes, and the edge of their eyes may have a brownish red hue.

These animals also have a docile temperament, which is why they’re so good around people of all ages.

History of Donkeys in Southeastern France

provence donkey

The animals date back to the 15th century. For the most part, they were used as pack animals. Specialized pack saddles made sure that shepherds had the supplies that they needed along their journey. As transportation became mechanical, the population declined considerably. A census population count recorded 13,000 at the end of the 19th century, and the number fell to as low as 330 by 1993. A breeders’ association stepped in at the end of 1992 to work with the population. The breed has officially been recognized in 1995. The population is growing, with somewhere around 1500 now in the area.

What are the uses for Provence Donkeys?

These Provence donkeys have contributed to a number of different industries. They are first and foremost pack animals, helping shepherds carry supplies. However, they have become a huge part of the tourism industry, offering rides for tots as well as being guides for tourists around the world who want to trek through the many parks.

They are a great asset for an ecological and natural vegetation management. They will help with brush clearance to reduce fire risks.

The animals are used for food, too. Their milk is less fatty than cow’s milk. It’s also full of more omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation. The health benefits are considerable, helping with skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. In some instances, they make sausages out of donkey meat. However, the latter is not a common practice and you will only find this gourmet food in certain markets in the south of France.

The donkey also plays a role in the cosmetics industry. Their milk is a component of a variety of different soaps because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Some of the soap is fortified with honey for nourishing and moisturizing properties. Other cosmetics where you’ll find donkey milk includes lotion and moisturizer.

Where can I ride Provence donkeys?

There are a number of places where you can encounter the donkeys, otherwise known as the Âne de Provence.

At the Proven’Anes farm in Rians, it’s possible to hire a donkey to walk with. This allows you to explore the Provencal countryside while having a large, stoic animal walk at your side. They offer one-day or multiple day hikes around the Sainte-Victoire. This animal will be your trail guide, leading you to where you need to go. The added bonus is that it will carry all of your bags for you. Rocky paths and chestnut groves are easier to navigate as a result of the donkey at your side.

Throughout the Luberon National Park, renting a donkey will make it easier to explore the different trails. The long-eared porter will help you roam for a half or full day.

For the most part, you won’t be riding on the animals, though you will find some tours that will allow small children to ride them. There are also carriage rides around the country-side, led by the animals.

Where can I see Provence donkeys?

The best way to see a donkey, without renting one, is to go off the beaten path. The area of Provence itself can be extremely crowded with tourists. However, if you visit some of the smaller towns, such as Banon, you will see what simple village life looks like. This includes pastures with the animals roaming free as well as villagers walking up and down the road with a donkey at their side, carrying all of their supplies.

These majestic animals have long been a part of the history in this region of France. If you want to do something unique when you’re visiting, find a place that will rent you one of these tour guides for a few hours. You may find it oddly exciting to be able to wander through the countryside in silence with a donkey at your side. Only then can you truly say that you have experienced what the region has to offer.