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Rabbit Scout

Raise Happier & Healthier Rabbits!

The Flemish Giant Rabbit

Flemish rabbits

There are many diverse breeds of domestic rabbits, with different sizes, personalities, and care requirements. Just like with dogs, rabbits are specially bred to achieve certain desired features like coat color and texture, size, and body shape.

The American Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes 48 rabbit breeds while over 50 rabbit breeds were recognized by the British Rabbit Council.

The Flemish Giant Rabbit is recognized as the largest rabbit species in the world. Its male species can tip the scales at over 13 pounds. It is also described as the “king of rabbits” because of its large size, longevity, and personality.

These giant rabbits can attain an immense size very quickly. So much so that Flemish giants can weigh at least four pounds by seven or eight weeks of age. 

A Flemish rabbit is a sweet and lovable companion that can be kept indoors. Originally, these breeds of rabbits were bred for meat, but a high bone to meat ratio ended that practice and breeding for the show became more popular.

Origin

The Flemish Giant is an older type of breed. Its origins can be traced back to the 1500s in Flanders (now Northern Belgium). There, giant rabbit breeders fused a variety of meat and fur breeds to produce the ultimate meat and fur rabbit. 

The initial record of the Flemish Giant as a breed was later dated in 1860. Rabbit breeders wrote down breed criteria for the first time in 1883. Some years later, in the 1890s, Flemish Giant rabbit breeders transported the Flemish Giant to the United States, where rabbit husbandry was holding off. 

Flemish Giant rabbit breeders thought that proposing the Flemish Giant to American rabbit breeding stock would develop the production of both meat and fur. 

It wasn’t until after 1910, though, that the Flemish Giant’s fame began to soar. This was the year that this rabbit breed began appearing at exhibitions and livestock shows.

While no one is 100 percent sure of the origins of this breed, some experts speculate that they are descended from breeds raised for fur and meat like the Patagonian and Stone rabbits. Others say that they descended from the Argentinian Pentagonian rabbits.

However, Bob Whitman, creator of Domestic Rabbits and Their Histories: Breeds of the World, surmises in his book that the Argentinian Pentagonian hare is a rodent. Thus, cross-breeding would be undesirable. He speculates that the breed did descend from breeds from the old Flemish region like the Stone and Patagonian of that range.

Today the Flemish Giant rabbit is still considered a source of meat and fur. But numerous people keep them as pets, too. 

Lifespan

For the most part, the Flemish Giant is a healthy breed that lasts around five years but can live up to the teens.

Characteristics

Flemish Giant rabbits have a unique look and it’s not just their size that makes them stand out among other bunnies.

Physical Description

As stated by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA), there is no maximum weight considered for a Flemish Giant. The breed is a semi-arch breed of rabbits, implying that the arch in the animal’s back starts at the base of the shoulders and curves up and over toward the tail.

  • Body: Long, lean, and strong
  • Head: Should be in symmetry to the body
  • Ears: Erect with a dense base and doesn’t lop
  • Toenails: Uniform color, except in white rabbits
  • Fur: Dense, glossy, and in equal length. It rocks back when stroked from back to front 

Colors

ARBA distinguishes seven colors in the Flemish Giant. Each color has some specifications that experts can look for when assessing the animal:

  • Black – The coat should be solid black and the eyes are brown
  • Blue – The coat is dark blue and the eyes are bluish-gray
  • Fawn – It has a light-gold coat with an undercarriage that is white and it also has brown eyes
  • Light-gray – The coat is light-grey with black ticking at the tips and it has brown eyes
  • Sandy – It has a reddish sandy coat with dark ticking and it has brown eyes
  • Steel gray – It has a charcoal gray coat with lighter gray ticking and it has brown eyes
  • White – It has a pure white coat with pink eyes

Size

If you want a giant bunny, then Flemish rabbits are an excellent choice.

Flemish bunnies are well-known for their size. Most fully matured Flemish rabbits weigh around 14 pounds, although some were reported to be as heavy as 21 pounds. This also explains why they have  dewlap or a fold of skin under their chins. Hence, they look like they have double chins.

Some members of this class can attain the size of a medium-sized pet dog like a Shetland Sheepdog, and the longest Flemish Giant rabbit ever recorded was four feet and three inches long!

Flemish Giant rabbits have a large, muscular body with broad hindquarters. These rabbits are recognized as a “semi-arch” breed, as their spine has a prominent, though not produces an extreme arch. 

Flemish Giant bucks and does have several different characteristics. Bucks possess a much larger, wider head. Does, on the other hand, usually have a full dewlap. It can take Flemish Giants up to a year and a half to attain maturity.

Temperament and Personality

Numerous have described the Flemish Giant as a gentle giant. As a breed, they tend to be calm, obedient, and sweet-natured. Of course, distinct personalities can vary. Also, your rabbit’s background may affect how it interacts with you and your family. On the whole, the Flemish Giant makes an exceptional family pet.

The Flemish Giant is normally a docile breed. No wonder they make excellent companions and loving family pets. When they are kept indoors, they will hop around the house and sit on their owners’ laps. They can even be taught to use their litter box.

However, these rabbits can grow timid if they are handled roughly, and they can cause serious scratches and bites if they feel the need to struggle. So, children should be managed at all times around them.

The Flemish Giant is a smart pet. They’re also capable of learning some useful skills. Also, their size enables them to live safely with other pet animals, and several enjoy doing so.

Regardless, Flemish Giant rabbits are still rabbits and they can still be treated as prey animals. They may become afraid or threatened more easily than you might expect from an animal that large. And, as we all know, threatened animals sometimes kick, scratch, and bite.

So it’s essential to take special care with Flemish Giants, as they’re large enough and muscular enough to cause real damage if they feel threatened.

Proper Care and Grooming Needs

The Flemish Giant has short fur. It only requires minor grooming every week to keep their coat in good shape. You can just brush their coat once a week with a slicker brush. 

If the rabbit starts to molt, brush its coat twice a week. The rabbit will normally shed its coat twice a year in the spring and in the fall. The specific time of shedding will depend from animal to animal.

The tips of their nails should also be trimmed occasionally unless the rabbit gets adequate exercise to wear them down naturally. Be careful, though, as rabbits often hate having their nails done.

Because Flemish Giant rabbits are so huge and powerful, you might want to cover yours in a towel before starting the clip. You might also want to ask a friend for some help. Even better, plan a regular clipping with your vet.

Once a week, examine your rabbit all over. Look for:

  • Cuts, scratches, and wounds
  • Check the eyes and ears for some discharge
  • Look for symptoms of flystrike

Also, give special attention to your rabbit’s backside. Urine and feces can draw flies and aggravate sensitive rabbit skin. Age and injury can make it more difficult for a rabbit to groom itself. So, if your rabbit requires help cleaning itself, use pet-friendly wipes for safe, gentle cleanup.

WARNING: Do not bathe a bunny, ever!

Feeding a Flemish Giant Rabbit

Like most rabbits, Flemish Giants require a diet that consists of large quantities of hay, water, and a smaller portion of rabbit pellets. They also should get fresh vegetables every day and fruit once or twice a week.

As far as the number of pellets, several Flemish Giant breeders advise free-feeding them as they are unlikely to overeat. Others suggest free-feeding until they turn one year old. From there, you can give your pet bunny 1/4 cup of pellets for every five pounds of weight.

Meanwhile, you should serve two to four cups of vegetables for every five pounds of weight and fruits in tiny amounts once or twice a week.

Many experts prescribe the following dietary parameters:

  • Your rabbit should consume its weight in grass daily
  • Alternately, your rabbit’s diet should make up a minimum of 70% of hay
  • 18% of protein pellets should make up no more than one-third of your rabbit’s regular diet
  • Keep your bunny treats to 10% of your rabbit’s diet or below

Also, make sure that your Flemish Giant has easy access to lots of fresh water at all times. All rabbits are susceptible to heat, especially the Flemish Giants. Having an abundance of water available can help to lower their body temperature.

Flemish Giants have a craving to match their size. If you’ve owned various types of rabbits before, the hunger of the Flemish Giant may surprise you. Feel free to supplement your big pal’s diet with lots of rabbit-safe fruits and vegetables which may include the following:

  • Parsley
  • Spinach
  • Beet greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Radish tops
  • Carrot tops
  • Apple (seeds removed)
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Watercress
  • Celery (sliced into very small pieces)
  • Edible flowers
  • Pear
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Mango
  • Bell pepper

A Word of Caution

Rabbits’ digestive systems are complex and sensitive, so they are prone to digestive difficulties. To lessen this risk, add new foods slowly and one at a time. This will allow your rabbit’s digestive system to adjust properly.

Once your rabbit has adjusted to different types of vegetables and greens, you may now feed them with a variety daily. Provide them small amounts of many different foods, rather than a high amount of one type. This will help them to improve and maintain healthy gut bacteria.

Also, be extremely sparing with fruit. Bunnies like sugar, just like all humans do. But, just as with people, too much is also bad for them. It can not only lead to weight gain but also tummy upsets. So let them treat fruit like dessert or as a training treat!

When feeding your pet bunny peppers, apples, cherries, peaches, and apricots, make sure that you remove all seeds, pits, and stems, as these can be very intoxicating for them.

Proper Handling

Rabbits, in general, can be delicate; and giant rabbits demand special handling. Their bones can break quickly and unexpectedly. Also, nervous bunnies can hurt themselves trying to flee from what they perceive to be a danger.

You might think that due to their size, giant rabbits are less vulnerable than smaller bunnies. That’s not necessarily true. Their spines, in particular, can be prone to ruptures, as can their hind legs. Their size and weight can also cause handling them awkwardly. 

These are big rabbits, so they require a lot of support if you’re going to carry them up. Try supporting their upper body with an arm around their chest and front legs. Wrap the other arm around its lower half and make sure that you support the rear legs. Gently but securely hold the rabbit to your chest, and make sure you don’t clutch him or he may begin to panic and struggle. 

If he seems afraid at all, comfort him in a soft, calm voice. If this doesn’t encourage him to settle in your arms, just gently lower him to the ground or into his pen and release him.

Most Flemish Giant rabbits like interacting with their owners. They like to be stroked and cuddled too. But avoid picking giant rabbits up unless it’s required to do so. 

Common Health Conditions

According to The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, giant rabbits are inclined to sore hocks. Sore hock is a condition created by standing on wire floors or in unsanitary conditions. It is typical in breeds like the Flemish Giant.

You’ll also want to be careful about feeding your rabbit too many treats to circumvent health issues that can crop up if he becomes overweight.

The best method to keep your rabbit healthy is to understand your pet well enough to recognize when he isn’t feeling his best. Early treatment can create a difference in recovery. Take care of your Flemish Giant and he will be an outstanding and loving companion.

Breeding

This breed matures between eight and twelve months old or when it reaches nearly 14 pounds. This is the ideal time for them to have their first litter.

After a doe turns a year old, her pelvic bones start to join. This makes it more stressful for her to deliver her kits, and a stressful delivery can mean death for her and her unborn kits.

Gestation Period

The normal length of pregnancy is 31 days, and most litters average five to a dozen kits. Meanwhile, large litters usually indicate that some kits won’t receive as much milk as others. Kits that fall behind in their growth before they are weaned typically never grow to their full potential.

Enclosure

Every rabbit requirements at the minimum:

  • Sufficient horizontal space to hop three times in a row
  • Vertical areas to stand up on its hind legs without its ears touching the ceiling
  • Floor space enough to stretch out in all directions

For a Flemish Giant, you’ll be required to obtain the most massive hutch you can buy. As mentioned earlier, because of the size of a Flemish giant, the summer heat can be a big problem. So lay your hutch out of direct sunlight. 

Of course, a hutch is still not enough.

Your Flemish Giant will also require a vast exercise space. Try to invest in an extra-large run or two. Better yet, fence off a large portion of your garden for supervised giant-sized fun.

And if your Big Bunny’s play space is inside your house, make sure to rabbit-proof any area where your rabbit will be.

  • Employ a metal (not wooden) gate to designate your Rabbit Room
  • Hide or remove all cords and cables
  • Protect the legs of your furniture from extra-large teeth
  • Conceal or hide baseboards
  • Remove any houseplants or anything that can be poisonous to rabbits

Special Considerations

While Flemish Giants can survive cool temperatures, they don’t stand temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit very well. If they are held in a cage, they require more room than a smaller breed because of their huge size. Even the door of the cage may require it to be larger. They also tend to eat more than the smaller breeds of rabbits.

How Much Does a Giant Flemish Cost?

Expect to shell out between $20 to $50 for a Flemish Giant. Show-quality rabbits can typically range from $75 to $300 or more.

The Flemish Giant website for breeders and owners presents a helpful chart for determining the price range of owning a Flemish Giant, including housing, accessories, and food. On the low end, you can expect to allocate $665 of your yearly budget for a single Flemish Giant rabbit as a pet and around $2,700 for a show-quality bunny.

Final Thoughts

If you are determined that a Flemish Giant might be a good pet for you, the next step is to set appointments to visit a few breeders and get to know some of these rabbits in person. 

A big bunny can surely be a lot of fun. But it’s crucial to consider both your needs and your rabbit’s needs. This is to make sure that a Flemish Giant rabbit is suitable for your household.

Although each breed has specific characteristics, every rabbit within that breed is still an individual with characteristic quirks. Be sure to take your time before you commit to bringing one of these rabbits home to guarantee that the two of you will be compatible.

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