Flemish Giant is one of the oldest and the largest rabbits in the world.
While some claim that the Flemish Giant rabbit, is descended from the Patagonian and or stone rabbits – breeds which were renown to have been raised for both their fur and meat, others claim that they are descended from the Argentinian Pentagonian rabbit.
The truth is no one knows for certain, how these beautiful creatures originally came to be. But for one thing they all agree, that the Flemish Giant is the oldest rabbit breed in the world.
Brief History of the Flemish Giant
The breed arrived in America in the 1890s from the nations Belgium and England (holder of the Flemish Giant’s first authentic record of existence).
It started to feature in livestock shows very early in the 20th century, and by 1915 the National Federation of Flemish Giant Rabbit Breeders (NFFGRB) was established.
In America, the Flemish Giant was recognized as a breed by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) in 1929. It was bred then for its meat, and fur. However, it is now bred for show (renown to possess the reposeful gaze), and as pets.
Flemish Giant Size, Weight and Lifespan
Definitely, one of the largest known breeds of domestic rabbits in the world, the Flemish Giant rabbits weigh between 12-14 pounds on average. The females (does) are usually larger than the males (bucks), and often are about 14 pounds in weight.
On the other hand, the bucks average 13 pounds in weight. When overweight, Flemish rabbits are known to exceed 20 pounds and they can grow up to 30 inches lengthwise.
The Flemish giants rabbit lifespan is 8-13 years.
These rabbits have a long and powerful body, with a semi-arched spine, and flared out (wide) hips. Consequently, they are described as having a mandolin shape (akin to the shape of a regular guitar pick).
The fur on this breed is glossy, short and dense.
Male and Female Flemish Giants are different. The buck and does are distinctively different in appearance. While the buck has a broader head in comparison to the doe, the doe unlike the buck, has a dew flap under her chin.
The dew flap helps with keeping her kits warm. Her litter averages between 5-12 kits and they are born after a gestation period of 31 days.
The does mature earlier and reach full adulthood between 8-12 months of being born. The bucks may take up to 18 months to fully mature.
Flemish Giant Colors
The main Flemish rabbit breed colors which they usually come in are:
- Sandy – Reddish-brown
- Fawn – Rich golden straw
- Light Grey
- Steel Grey
- White – Totally white with pink eyes
- Black – Mainly black with a slate blue under color
- Slate Blue – Slate blue color with blue-green eyes
Recently, albeit still questionable, Flemish Giants have been recorded to appear in colors like lilac and broken.
Flemish Giant Care
These giants are very adaptable to both indoor and outdoor living. Regardless, their enclosures need to be spacious enough to enable the rabbits stretch and hop freely.
Also, these enclosures need to be void of stairs and ramps because of the rabbit’s weight, as well as have a solid base. Not meshed wires which make them susceptible to sore-hocks (an inflammation of the rabbit’s foot).
This solid base should be overlaid with some form of bedding (straw) to simulate the Flemish rabbit’s natural habitat. It is paramount that the bedding be cleaned daily and changed weekly.
Once a week is more than enough for grooming time, except during spring when they usually molt. Then they should be groomed at least twice a week with a slicker brush, and that outside, because they do release large amounts of fur.
Flemish Giant Diet
Their dietary requirements are no different to that of any other rabbit breed: hay, pellets vegetables. However as giants, they do eat a lot more than any other rabbit breed.
Also, do note that rabbits do not naturally eat seeds, dried fruit or cereal. Therefore, although there are pellets which contain these, they are of no health benefits to the rabbit.
The importance of hay to the rabbit cannot be overemphasized – it is the chief source of fiber for the Flemish rabbit.
In addition to hay and pellets, the vegetables and fruit served to the rabbit, should be varied daily. One should always ensure that the Flemish rabbit is introduced to any new diet, slowly. They need enough drinking water too.
Yes, the Flemish Giant eats its feces! Please do not be alarmed! Due to the unique technicalities of their digestive system, Fleming Giants for nutritional purposes, eat, excrete, and eat again, some of its still digestible fiber.
Nevertheless, for the remaining feces that is not consumed by the rabbit, considering that their diets mainly consist of vitamin rich foods, they (feces) can serve as great manure, for garden plants.
The Flemish Giant Behavior and Temperament
These rabbits are also known as Gentle Giants, as well as considered to be well-mannered and docile. However, they can be fast if need to be.
The Flemish rabbit is definitely not an active breed, but it is healthy for them to have an enclosed outdoor space where they can roam (unlike smaller rabbits which burrow) and play. Preferably a grass field, for at least 3-5 hours daily.
If this is unattainable, one should ensure that the area indoors where the Flemish rabbit can roam, is gnaw-proof. Also a few toys which they can gnaw on (balls, wood), would be ideal.
Furthermore, these rabbits are very easy to maintain. Interestingly, they can be harnessed with dog-harnesses designed for medium sized dogs. They can be introduced to the harness through a progress equals reward system.
They are intelligent too and can obey some basic instructions. However, training them might be more challenging than training a dog or cat. They cooperate more when they, having won the trust of the handler, are gently coaxed into doing anything.
When they sense danger, their first response is to freeze and then flee if the danger becomes too close. If they are not trained properly, they could grow to be aggressive, and bite often.
On the other hand, when trained dutifully and patiently, they can use a litter box, as well as occasionally sit on their owner’s laps.
Flemish Giant Health Issues
Some common health issues with the Flemish Rabbit are snuffles, uterine tumors, calicivirus, myxomatosis and overgrown teeth.
The issue of having overgrown teeth can be overcome simply by ensuring that the rabbit’s diet is constantly rich (at least 70%) in fiber (hay) which files the rabbit’s teeth whenever it gnaws on its food.
Also, things like mats (straw, wicker), wood (rabbit friendly) and straw baskets, can also help keep the Flemish rabbit’s teeth, constantly trim. Additionally, these giants should be dewormed ( treat to free it of worms) every six month and examined frequently for ear-mites especially if the rabbits are housed outdoors.
Furthermore, their dense fur does make them prone to fur-mites and overheating during the summer. They do struggle in temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius.
Therefore, ensuring that the rabbit is kept cool always should be prioritized. Their outdoor dwellings must have areas shielded away from direct sunlight.
Finally, Is Flemish Giant a Good Pet?
Any person that can afford to provide ample space(s), plenty food, regular health care and time for regular and daily interactions for the Flemish rabbit, is bound to reap the benefits of having a very compliant, docile and trusting pet.