When staying on the island of Ré, it is almost impossible to miss the donkeys dressed in bright colored panties, made with checked or striped fabrics. This is a very ancient tradition of the island of Ré that is still perpetuated today in the various localities of the island and especially in the township of Saint-Martin-en-Ré.
If old Ré inhabitants have decided to dress their donkeys with pants, it was not on a whim or seeking for originality, but more of necessity. The marshes of the island are infested with flies and mosquitoes that take a malicious delight to torture asses. So, in order to protect them, donkeys are dressed with panties, sewn from recycled fabrics.
According to local legend, it was a resident of Ars who found the brilliant idea to dress her donkey to protect the animal from the bites of marsh mosquitoes. She would have taken an old blouse belonging to her husband and transformed it into panties for her pet. The phenomenon spread out very quickly across Ré and nowadays, asses in panties have become mascots of the island.
Donkey was once inseparable from the daily life of the inhabitants of the island of Ré. It was used in the transport of goods and people through different villages just as it served in the fields and vineyards. The milk of donkeys is also the main ingredient in the manufacture of soap. Today, donkeys are always present, but instead of merchandise, they now transport tourists on a walk through the paths of the island.