About the Breed
A Little Flemish History
The Flemish Giant is an old breed of rabbit thought to have originated from the Flemish region as early as the 16th or 17th century, around the city of Ghent, Belgium.
English records show that in 1860, travellers from the continent spoke of an enormous rabbit from the area of Flanders and parts of France.
At that time English rabbit breeders were breeding rabbits around 7 or 8lbs (3.18 to 3.64 Kilos) and were having trouble meeting the growing demand for rabbit meat and fur. Importing giant rabbits from the continent would go a long way to solving that problem.
The Flemish Giant started to appear at rabbit shows with the original Flemish Giant weighing about 14lb (6.35 Kilos) and the first breeding standards being written in 1893.
About the Flemish Giant:
At this time, the colouring for a Flemish Giant was an iron grey colour with sandy or white bar markings on the legs and long, bent tipped, ears.
There are now 7 colours, Black, Blue, Fawn, Light grey, Sandy steel and White, with the least common colour being blue. Sizes now range from 14 to 20 lbs (6.36 to 9.09 Kilos).
Today the Flemish Giant is one of the more popular breeds to be found at rabbit shows, and is promoted by the National Federation of Flemish giant rabbit breeders, which was founded in 1915.
It is possibly the second oldest breed in the United States. It is likely the Flemish Giant descended from the meat and fur breeds, including the steenkonijn (stone rabbit) and the European 'patagonian' breed, which although now extinct, was once a land race breed, bred in Belgium and France. Probably an ancestor of rabbits bred for the 'rabbit boom' where an attempt was made to improve the size of the meat.
The Argentinean 'patagonion' rabbit is not related. The theory that it is, may come from the belief that traders, during the 16th and 17th century, brought back giant rabbits to Europe from Argentina, where they were cross bred with the rabbits of Flanders.
The Flemish Giant has two nicknames: Gentle giant' which speaks for its character and temperament while the other nickname; 'Universal rabbit' comes from its multipurpose of pet rabbit, show rabbit, breeding and meat/fur uses.
Being one of the largest of the domestic pet rabbits, it has a semi arched back starting at back of shoulders to the base of the tail. The long powerful body, which can be 32" (80cm) in length, has a white underside with a dark base colouring, with broad hind quarters. The males (bucks) have a broad head, which the females (does), do not and does may have a large evenly spread dewlap (fold of skin under the chin). The fur is glossy, short and dense, with grooming being no more than usual. The ears are around at least 6 inches long, standing erect, there may be light rings around the eyes.
Big Bunnies Need Big Love
If you’re thinking of adding a Flemish Giant to your home, then you should know this special breed requires more care and resources than your average rabbit.
Do you love Flemish Giants? Who doesn’t? These awesome rabbits are the gentle giants of the bunny world, growing up to 22 pounds (though particularly large rabbits can get even bigger).
They’re friendly, docile, and relatively laid-back, especially when compared with some smaller rabbit breeds. But just because the Flemish Giant is an awesome rabbit doesn’t mean that this breed is right for everyone.
Consider the following aspects of what it takes to really own a Flemish Giant.
One of the greatest challenges that you may face with a Flemish Giant is providing the rabbit with enough space. Flemish Giants don’t fit in your standard rabbit cages, which are far too cramped for these large rabbits. Instead, a large dog crate may be a more suitable option, if you plan on keeping the rabbit indoors. Outdoor rabbits will also need a safe, enclosed space which is large enough for them to comfortably move around in.
Don’t forget that your rabbit will need plenty of exercise, too. Attaching a dog playpen to a dog crate gives your rabbit room to explore indoors; some owners simply dedicate an entire room out of the house to their rabbit. An outdoor Flemish Giant may do well with a dog kennel, as long as the top is enclosed to protect the rabbit from bird predators.
Flemish Giants can eat. In fact, they eat a lot more than most smaller rabbit breeds do. Flemish Giants require a high quality pellet with at least 16% protein. They also need plenty of timothy hay.
You’d be surprised at how quickly a Flemish Giant can go through food, but you can save money by buying pellets in 50-pound bags and by buying hay in a bale, rather than in the loose bagged form available at most pet stores.
It takes more time to care for these big rabbits than it does to care for smaller breeds. Because Flemish Giants eat so much more than other rabbits, they also dirty their litter boxes much more quickly. Plan on changing and cleaning your rabbit’s litter box every three to four days.
Flemish Giants are prone to ear mites and fur mites. If your rabbit has to go into the vet, the treatment costs can quickly add up.
You’ll also need a way to keep your rabbit cool during the summer. Flemish Giants don’t handle heat well, so you may need to air condition a room, put a fan on, provide frozen water bottles, or relocate your rabbit during the hotter days of the summer.
Flemish Giants are a lot of work, but they’re also a lot of fun to have. They make great pets as long as you’re aware of the extra care that they require.