Officially registered as a separate race in 1997, they are characterised by an ash or blue grey coat with a well defined cross on their backs and are particularly adapted for hacks and cart pulling.
â€˜You can find donkeys all over France but the cradle of the race is St Lo in the Manche,â€™ said Thierry Blavette, president of the Cotentin Donkey Association which is organising a number of events to promote the breed.
Up to a hundred donkeys from all over the country representing the seven types found in France are expected to attend a show at the St Lo Haras at the end of next month and there is a show specifically for Cotentin donkeys in St Lo in July.
â€˜The Cotentin donkey is calm and docile with a temperament perfectly adapted to walking out and trap pulling. They are also becoming popular with organic vegetable producers,â€™ explained Mr Blavette.
Use on the land is a return to the donkeyâ€™s origins. According to the association many small farms in the area would have had a Cotentin donkey at the beginning of the 20th century and they were mostly used as pack animals to transport milk.
They were popular because of their small stature and strong back and legs. On the coast they were used to pull carts of seaweed used as a fertiliser on the fields. Official figures from 1930 put their numbers at 9,000.
Cotentin donkeys were so popular before mechanisation the annual fairs at Lessay and Gavray would see hundreds bought and sold. Today it is still possible to buy and sell them at the two fairs, but they are there in very small numbers.
With the modernisation of farms they began to die out but their numbers have increased and there are now around 800 recognised pure bred Cotentin donkeys. Their breeding is strictly controlled and managed by the national stud. Foals are checked by a vet, micro chipped and registered.
The donkeys are also popular with tourists with a number of enterprises throughout the region offering walking trips with donkeys carrying the backpacks.