Flemish Giant rabbits, referred to as the “king of rabbits” and the “gentle giant” are one of the most popular bunny breeds among pet owners. They’re known for being sweet and lovable, making them great family pets.
If you’re considering adopting a Flemish Giant, you’ll find everything you need to know in this guide, including:
- Breed origin
- Characteristics of Flemish Giant rabbits
- Do Flemish Giant rabbits make good pets?
- How long to Flemish giant rabbits live?
The Flemish Giant Rabbit oryctolagus cuniculus originated in Belgium, in the region of Flanders. They were bred from the 16th century onward and believed to have descended from the Stone Rabbit (a Belgian breed of rabbit weighing about 8.4 pounds) and the European “Patagonian” rabbit. Despite the name, this Patagonian rabbit was bred and Belgium and France and is not the same as the Patagonian rabbit of Argentina.
The Flemish Giant was bred for its meat and fur, and later as a pet and show animal. Their utility status earned Flemish Rabbits the nickname “universal rabbit.” Flemish Giants are the ancestor of many other rabbit breeds, including the Belgian Hare. In the 1890s, the Flemish Giant was exported from England and Belgium to North America.
Around 1910, American rabbit breeders started to notice the Flemish Rabbit for its unusual size and docile personality. The large rabbit breed is also distinctive for its various color varieties. In 1915, the National Federation of Flemish Giant Rabbit Breeders was formed to promote the breed and set breeding standards.
The Flemish Rabbit is one of the most popular rabbit breeds in the United States today, as domestic and show animals, and for their meat and fur. The breed is also used for pet-assisted therapy and education in 4-H programs. Flemish Giants make great starter pets for children learning how to care for farm animals. Kids can also learn about show breeding through the National Federation of Flemish Giant Rabbit Breeders Youth Program.
Characteristics of Flemish Giant Rabbits
It’s not just their size that makes the Flemish Rabbit stand out from other rabbits. They have distinctive coloring as well.
The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) recognizes seven color varieties in the Flemish Giant breed:
- Black – Black Flemish Giants have a solid black coat and brown eyes.
- Blue – These rabbits will have a dark, black-blue coat with bluish-gray eyes.
- Sandy – This variety has a reddish sandy coat with dark ticking and brown eyes. You can also find a Gray Sandy coloration.
- Fawn – Fawn Flemish Giants have a somewhat light gold coat with white undercarriage and brown eyes.
- Light Gray – These will have a light gray coat with black ticking tips and brown eyes.
- Steel Gray – The steel gray variety has a charcoal gray coat with a ticking of light gray and brown eyes. Also known as light gray steel.
- White – White Flemish Giants have a solid white coat with pink eyes.
Temperament and Personality
These rabbits aren’t known as gentle giants for nothing. They’re docile and loving in nature, which makes them great for families. Most pet rabbits tend to be anxious and challenging for humans to bond with since they’re a prey animal. Flemish Giants enjoy being around humans, though, and will sit on your lap and socialize with you.
A Flemish Giant rabbit will take a little time to acclimate to your household at first, though. As they get the lay of the land, try to respect their distance and move around them slowly. This will help you earn their trust.
Flemish Giants also have a long, lean body, with a proportionate head and erect ears. Their toenails are also uniform in color and their fur is thick, glossy, and the same length all over their bodies.
Although these giant bunnies are gentle most of the time, they could get aggressive if handled improperly. If they feel threatened in any way, they could scratch or bite. For this reason, children need supervision around Flemish Giants.
To avoid setting off your big bunny, you need to learn to handle her correctly. They can be picked up, but you need to do so carefully – they’re big rabbits after all!
Follow these steps for making sure your Flemish Giant has enough support when you lift her:
- Put one arm around your bunny’s upper body, supporting the chest and front legs.
- Wrap your other arm around your rabbit’s lower half to support her rear legs.
- Hold the rabbit to your chest gently but securely.
- Bunnies are skittish, so don’t squeeze your rabbit at all whilst holding her, or she might panic and start struggling.
- You can reassure your nervous rabbit with a soft, gentle voice.
- If your bunny still seems nervous and won’t settle down, gently lower her back down to the ground.
Just how big do Flemish Giants get? They usually weigh around 14 pounds, but some can be as big as 21 or 22 pounds! ARBA doesn’t recognize a maximum weight for these gentle giants, so pet owners just have to go by the average.
These big bunnies can also be up to 30 inches long. The Guinness World Record holder for the world’s longest rabbit is a Flemish Giant, with a length of 51 inches. These giant rabbits will usually reach their maximum weight at one a half years old. Male Flemish Giants are bigger than their female counterparts, by a couple of pounds. The female rabbit also has a fur-coated flap of skin under her chin called a dewlap, which she uses to keep her babies warm.
Do Flemish Giant Rabbits make good pets?
Flemish Giants make excellent domestic pets! But they have specific health and care concerns. If you want to adopt a Flemish Giant rabbit, learn about their habits and needs first.
How to care for Flemish Giant Rabbits
These gentle giants need more space than regular rabbits. A standard-sized rabbit cage won’t fit a Flemish Giant rabbit. Instead, consider a large dog crate for indoor rabbits. Outdoor rabbits should also have an enclosed space, but still large enough to move around and explore. Rabbits get their exercise by hopping around the house or backyard, so you’ll have to ensure they have the room they need to stretch their legs. A dog playpen works well, as does giving an entire room to a rabbit.
Besides space, another consideration for Flemish Giants is the time investment. These big bunnies eat more, which means a dirtier litter box more often. You’ll have to change their litter box every three to four days.
Flemish Giants have low-maintenance grooming needs. They have short fur which you only need to brush once a week. If they’re molting, then brush twice a week. Like most rabbits, this giant bunny will shed her coat twice a year, in spring and fall. Your rabbit should get enough exercise to wear down her nails naturally but if not, trim them occasionally.
Bigger bunnies require more food! These rabbits should eat high-quality pellets with at least 16 percent protein, along with hay, fruits, and vegetables. With the pellets, you can either free feed your rabbit or give a quarter cup of pellets for every five pounds of weight, after the first year. They need fresh vegetables daily and fruit once or twice a week. Vegetables should be two to four cups for every five pounds of weight and fruit only in small amounts.
Some of the foods you can give your Flemish Giant rabbit include:
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, however, introduce them into your bunny’s diet one at a time so as not to upset her digestive system.
How long do Flemish giant rabbits live?
Flemish Giants have a standard lifespan for domestic rabbits, at between eight and ten years. If you want your bunny to have a good, long life, then take proper care of her and visit the veterinarian for regular checkups.
The Flemish Giant breed will also have a few health concerns you should be aware of:
- Mites – Flemish Giants tend to get ear mites and fur mites, so you might have to visit the vet more often.
- Heat – These giant rabbits are sensitive to heat and don’t do well in temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping your bunny in an air-conditioned room is best, but you can also use a fan or frozen water bottles to cool off your rabbit.
- Sore hocks – Larger rabbits are more prone to sore hocks, a condition that causes inflammation and soreness on the sole of a rabbit’s foot. Sore hocks are a result of hard, mesh-wire flooring inside rabbit cages. Pay extra attention to your flooring and ensure it’s soft enough for your furry friend.
- Weight – An overweight rabbit can have additional health issues, so avoid giving your pet too many extra treats!
To learn more about Flemish Giant rabbit healthcare, visit a local breeders association. They’ll be able to answer all of your questions.
Final Thoughts on the Flemish Giant Rabbit
The Flemish Giant rabbit is one of the best rabbit breeds to have as a pet. Their distinct coats, docile nature, and large size have made them a favorite breed among rabbit-lovers in the United States. If you want to adopt this giant rabbit or are interested in breeding them, do your research first! Once you know what you’re in for, these lovable giants will carve out a place in your heart.
If you need more convincing, check out this great video