This year’s hunt for Britain’s finest, happiest beach donkey has produced a strong, handsome winner from Wales.

Del Boy, a 13hh 11-year-old gelding, caught the judges’ eyes in the Donkey Sanctuary’s annual competition with his long ears, big head and easy-going temperament.

“Del Boy wowed me completely,” said national judge Jenifer Tucker, who visited donkeys on beaches the length and breadth of England and Wales.

“He’s a gentle giant, and was clearly a favourite among the children.”

His owner, Louise Peeters, added: “He has the classic cross on his back, huge ears and a big head. He’s very laid back and full of personality — I call him my hippy donkey.”

Louise’s six donkeys take children on £2 rides on Aberdyfi beach, Gwynedd, from Easter to the end of September.

Children gather at her shelter on the sand dunes to pet the animals, and some save their pocket money for a weekly ride.

There are more than 850 working donkeys on Britain’s beaches. Regional judges on behalf of the Devon-based Donkey Sanctuary shortlisted the best animals across seven districts this summer, and Ms Tucker scrutinised their choices to come up with a national winner.

The best group of beach donkeys was named as Lennie, Alfie, Chico, Rueben, Neville and Max, belonging to Amanda Pickles in Filey, North Yorkshire.

Jenifer described the group as “bright, alert, smartly turned out and very happy”.

An award for the group with the best feet went to Maggie Aldridge’s string, Jasmine, Stumpy, Sooty, Peejay, Beejay, Sparky and Daisy, in Weymouth.

Jenifer added: “The level of competition this year has been outstanding and judging has been extremely difficult. The beach operators are clearly very proud of their donkeys.”