The Mulassier (Trait du Poitevin). 

This draft horse is found in France, almost exclusively in the Poitou region.  A very few are outside of the area, but aside from Model Horse enthusiasts, and a few Rare Breed researchers, they are virtually unheard of.  While you may find mention to them in older horse breed-books, the descriptions are usually quite unflattering.  They are sadly referred to as coarse or ugly.  Indeed, many of the specimens found to illustrate the breed in those books may fit that description, but it seems they were specially sought out to do so!  For the most part, the breed is a little plainer than an American Show Percheron (which by the way, are almost unrecognizable as Percherons when compared to the French animals), and is heavier than the Friesian, but to many, the Mulassier is a lovely horse.

The breed is many centuries old, and today's descriptions say "A Heavy Friesian".  In fact, the Mulassier and the Friesian share the same root stock.  "Dutch" horses were imported into the Marais (marshlands) in Southern France, to assist in draining those marshes.  The coarse feathering on their legs was to help protect the leg, the brad hoof helped to distribute the weight.  In modern times, the Friesian went on to develop into the lighter coaching breed we are more familiar with, while the Mulassier gradually fell into decline.
In 1977, the breed of donkey most closely associated with the Mulassier, the Poitou donkey, numbered 44 animals total in the world, with the numbers of horses not much greated.  Only through very careful conservation have the numbers finally risen to a point where they are above the critical level.  About 400 horses are now living, 4 in the USA, but sadly, their numbers are still small and the gene pool restricted, with only 6 known sire lines in the Mulassier breed.
Graphic intense!  Slow loading possible! 
Jupiter, a stallion at the HARAS des Saintes (National Stud, located in Saintes, France).
ALL photos on this site are subject to copyright.  Unless otherwise stated, they were taken by Leah Patton.  Permission must be given in order to reproduce these photos for any reason. 
The majority of these photos were taken at the Concours (Breeding evaluation) for Poitou Donkeys and Mulassier horses in Coulogne, in 2000. 

This bay roan stallion is Ideal, one of the top three stallions in the breed.
         The horses should be well muscled, have all the normal horse conformation traits (good bite, straight legs, good topline, broad chest).  They should have a broad, round rump, heavy bone, huge hooves.  The neck should be full and slightly arched, moreso in stallions than in mares.  The head should be straight or have a gentle Roman nose. 
           The color may be black, bay, brown, or less favored, chestnut.  Roan, Gray, silver dapple, dun, or any/all of those modifiers  on any base color are accepted.  Grullos and zebra duns (Bay duns) are prized.  The chestnut color is not favorable, as it makes the horses resemble another breed (Belgians).  Most of the "chestnuts" in the breed are red duns, however, as the dorsal stripe can be seen on most.  There is no evidence of cream (palomino, buckskin) in the breed.  All horses that have been examined that appear "buckskin" in actuality do have dorsal stripes and dun factors, and dun parents.  No palominos are know in the living animals listed in the studbook.  The blacks, due to heavy feathers, do NOT resemble Percherons, and a good horse is much heavier than a Friesian.

(Next trip over, I will try to get samples from zebra duns for DNA testing, and hope that by then the dun test is reliable.) 
Dorine (see next page for her name in concours results.

This red dun (sabino!) mare is too long in the body for good breeding stock.  She also has far too much white (Blaze face and stockings, and even a belly spot!).  The French allow for some facial white, but any on the legs is highly penalized.
Thia black horse (possibly a black silver or a black going gray, he was only two years old) is a little light in the body.  He needs more depth to the chest.  (He is dropped as the mares and studs were picketed all around this clearing!)
One of my favorite photos - my husband Chris with a blue roan Mulassier mare.  Taken in Feb 2001.  The mare was for sale, but had slipped her foal and wasn't released as breeding sound for export.  I would happily have purchased her if I could have afforded the export cost! (Then, about $10K).
This stallion (then only 4) is a son of Dartagnan, the best stallion in the breed.  The colt was standing at the HARAS des Saintes.  The resemblance to the Friesian horse can be clearly seen in this younger stallion. 
Another photo of Ideal, the bay-roan stallion, at the Concours in 2000. Some of the horses were presented in harness for a driving evaluation, some just for exhibition.  If you look, you can see this is a clearing in a cornfield.  Really.  There is a rope around the edge.  The rope didn't seem to be a good visual deterrent to on horse (or team, I think) that decided to try running away.  I have THAT on video.  I was sitting on the ground, watching a one-ton horse galloping across a cornfield with a rope between it and the crowd, and me.... 
Headstudy of Savanne, a grulla Mulassier mare in Tennessee.  Savanne came to the USA in the early 1980s, with four of the known less-than-50 Poitou donkeys.  Savanne had only Mule foals for her owner in Tennessee.  It is not known if she is still alive.

Photo July 2000, North American Concours (aka the Great North American Poitou Tour! )
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