Far from those fluffy little bunnies from the fairy tales, the Flemish Giant Rabbits are, quite literally, too heavy to handle. PetPonder tells you all you need to know about their diet, habitat, breeding, as well as keeping them as pets.
Did You Know?
It is said that the Flemish Giant’s origins are quite unclear, with some believing that it is a descendant of the European version of the Patagonian rabbit, whereas some suspect it to be an offshoot of the Patagonian rabbit of Argentina.
Though the debate on its origin continues, the general consensus now is that the Flemish Giant rabbit is from Flanders. The story behind how this breed came about in Flanders is still a bit foggy, but setting that aside, we’re going to acquaint ourselves with these wonderful creatures, also known as the ‘gentle giants’ or ‘universal rabbits’.
The Early Days
In the nineteenth century, rabbit breeders coming to England from mainland Europe spoke of a gigantic species they found in Flanders (Belgium) and certain regions of France.
The first Flemish Giant to have appeared at a rabbit show weighed about 14 lbs (6.35 kg), when the initial breeding standards were being recorded, way back in 1893. These were the times when rabbit breeders in England were breeding specimens that weighed in the region of 7 or 8 lbs (3.18 to 3.64 kg). The days were tough, as the demand for rabbit meat and fur continued to steadily escalate, with the supply stagnating. Flemish Giants were seen to be the perfect solution to combat this crises, and thus, began their import to England from mainland Europe. Later, the first Flemish Giant club in the United States was established in 1915.
● The breed has a characteristic semi-arched back beginning at back of the shoulders, going on to the base of the tail.
● The body is long and robust, which can be 32 inches (80 cm) in length.
● They tend to have a pale underside with a dark base coloring.
● Their hind legs are broad and powerful.
● The males, known as bucks, have a broad head, whereas the females (does) are slightly diminutive and dainty to look at, and have a large, evenly spread dewlap (fold of skin under the chin).
● The fur is glossy, short, and dense, and requires regular grooming. The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) standard recognizes seven colors―black, blue, fawn, light gray, sandy, steel gray, and white.
● The ears are around 8 inches (20 cm) long, when held up, and there may be light rings around the eyes.
As it happens in the case of several big pets, their owners tend to overindulge when it comes to feeding, which results in obesity. The recommended daily diet for a Flemish Giant includes 2 cups of chopped leafy vegetables per 6 pounds (3 kg) of body weight, along with 2 tablespoons of fruit or carrots per 6 pounds of body weight. One can also include hay and other packaged treats occasionally.
Raising Flemish Giant Rabbits as Pets
Gentle giants that they are, their temperament is calm and docile, making them ideal pets for a family. However, you must note that they can get agitated and aggressive if they are handled incorrectly. Those untrained with handling them should refrain from doing so, as this can disturb the animal to a great degree―this is particularly applicable for children.
Owing to their size, they require large living spaces. It is recommended to keep them in a comfortable room designated for the purpose, or place them in a large dog crate. Keeping them in a regular rabbit or small animal crate can create a lot of discomfort. The bottom of the crate preferably needs to be solid, as any incorrectly formed wire gauze can hurt their feet. The crate/room must be large enough to provide sufficient distance between their food bowls and waste disposal area.
In the case of does, it is recommended that the animal reach the ideal weight of 14 pounds, before it can be bred. This weight is usually attained between 9 to 12 months of age. The breeding lifespan of a rabbit is variable. Some breeders prefer not to have any more litters after the age of three years, while others continue to produce quality litters for five to eight years. The average gestation period is around a month. The litters tend to be large with 5 to 10 rabbits.
There is no doubting the fact that Flemish Giants make the most adorable pets to have. That said, it is important to remember that caring for them involves a lot of effort and patience. Therefore, do give it a nice, long thought before you decide to bring one home yourself.