The Donkey Sanctuary said goodbye to an icon of the Sidmouth Sanctuary this week.

Dartanyan a Poitou donkey was sadly put to sleep on the advice of the veterinary team. Dartanyan was 14 years old and was one of the most instantly recognisable donkeys at the sanctuary.

He was a favourite among staff, volunteers and visitors alike. Known for his distinctive, shaggy coat and tall stature, he shared his home at Shelter Six with his bonded companion, Jump the mule.

Dartanyan had a history of medical conditions, including an episode of cellulitis in one of his rear legs in 2022. Since then, he had been under veterinary supervision to assess his health and welfare.

Throughout this time, staff ensured that he enjoyed a good quality of life that was enriching and enjoyable, and free from any pain or discomfort.

Last week however, he started showing signs of more serious illness, with his grooms noticing discharge coming from his nose. Despite best efforts from the veterinary team, his health continued to decline. Due to his other ongoing health conditions, it was their recommendation that the kindest decision would be to put Dartanyan to sleep, with his best friend Jump by his side.

Dartanyan was relinquished into the care of the Sidmouth sanctuary in April 2011, along with his Poitou companions Guinness, Aramis and Percy, after their owner could no longer provide the specialist care they required.

The Poitou donkey breed originates from the Poitou region of France, about 300 miles south-west of Paris, and they are easily identified by their thick coat which is prone to matting and tangling.

Dartanyan was no shrinking violet and loved meeting people. For many visitors to the Sidmouth sanctuary, Dartanyan was the donkey they headed to first, and because of his height, he could easily put his head over his fence to greet them and was only too happy to pose for a selfie.

Marianne Steele, CEO of The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “Dartanyan was truly an icon of the Sidmouth Sanctuary and his presence will be dearly missed.

“It is hard to say goodbye to any donkey in our care, but our priority is always to act in the best interests of the animal concerned. Thanks to an incredible team of vet and grooms, Dartanyan was able to enjoy a long and happy life among his companions, just as he deserved.

“The legacy he leaves is a deep understanding of this rare and extraordinary breed of donkey, knowledge that will inform our work and help us improve the lives of many more Poitous, just like Dartanyan, in the future.”

Dartanyan leaves behind a huge, Poitou-sized hole at the Sidmouth sanctuary and he will be missed by staff, volunteers and visitors alike. However, he also leaves many happy memories.