Flemish Giant Rabbits: Facts You Ought to Know

by Rosemarie Hardison
flemish giant rabbits

Bunnies. Who doesn’t love them? They’re cute, fluffy and they make fantastic pets. But did you know that you can supersize them? Meet the Flemish giant rabbit. Weighing up to 15 pounds on average, many call this breathtaking breed ‘The King of Rabbits’ thanks to its impressive size and longevity.

Dating all the way to 16th century Belgium, these rabbits were bred from a variety of meat and fur rabbits. Their original purpose was to be used for food and for their hide.

However, breeders quickly realized that there was much more to these gentle giants. They are docile, friendly, and incredibly affectionate animals, characteristics that make them the ideal family pet.

So if you’re considering getting a Flemish giant rabbit for a pet, keep reading to get all the info you’ll ever need on this gorgeous gentle giant.

Origins of the Flemish Giant Rabbit

origins of the flemish giant rabbit

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If there’s one word that describes the Flemish giant rabbit, it would be breathtaking. This is not a coincidence since these animals were bred with precisely this quality in mind.

As mentioned, the breed is quite old, dating back to 16th century Belgium. Looking to create the ultimate meat and fur rabbit, breeders crossbred several domestic rabbits including the European Patagonian rabbit.

They dubbed the resulting bunny the Flemish giant rabbit. This was because of its impressive size, as well as its birthplace in the Northernmost part of Belgium called Flanders.

Though this gentle giant had been around for quite a while, it didn’t appear in records till 1860. Specific standards describing the breed in detail came even later, sometime in 1893. This was the period when the breed became very popular, and breeders used them to create other breeds, such as the Belgian hare.

Furthermore, this era saw the market for rabbit meat explode. As a result, Belgian breeders exported the Flemish giant rabbit to several countries, like England and the United States. Breeders initially used them to improve the size of meat rabbits. But in 1910 they also became a popular attraction at livestock shows and fairs.

From then on, they became a staple at rabbit shows because of their unusual size and colors. They even got their own federation! The National Federation of Flemish Giant Rabbit Breeders was formed in 1915. To this day, they are dedicated to preserving and improving this breed.

Nowadays, many think of the Flemish giant rabbit as a Jack-of-all-trades. They’re called the universal rabbit because they have a varied purpose as a pet, breeding, show, meat, and fur animal. However, thanks to their docile, friendly nature, they’re most popularly used as family pets.

The Basics of Flemish Giant Rabbits

These beautiful rabbits may have ‘giant’ in their names, but size is far from the only thing they have going for them. The hefty breed has many physical and temperamental qualities that make it unique among its kind.

Appearance

appearance

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For starters, as the largest domestic rabbit breed, the Flemish giant rabbit is classified as a semi-arch rabbit. This means that their backs start to arch behind the shoulders, carrying through to the base of their tails, and giving their bodies a distinct ‘mandolin’ shape. Their hind legs are strong and well-muscled, and despite their large stature, they’re very fast runners.

Like most animals, males and females have features that make it easy to tell them apart. Males have larger and broader heads in comparison to females.

They also take 1.5 years to reach full maturity while females mature when they turn 1. Furthermore, females have something called a dewlap. A dewlap is a skinfold located right under their chins which they use to warm their young.

One of the most renowned features of the Flemish giant rabbit is its beautiful coat. A well-bred Flemish giant will have thick glossy fur that comes in a variety of colors. The National Federation of Flemish Giant Rabbit Breeders officially recognizes seven distinct colors: black, blue, steel grey, light grey, fawn, sandy and white.

On average the Flemish giant rabbit lives about 5 years. At first glance, this doesn’t seem like much. However, with proper care, they can live for 8 or even 10 years. Like any other rabbit, the Flemish giant is a herbivore, so it’s important to feed them a good diet of hay and grass. While you can feed them some vegetables like bell peppers, bok choy, and radish tops, you shouldn’t give them more than a cup of veggies per day.

Personality

personality

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These rabbits may look intimidating, but don’t be fooled. As a whole, many describe the breed as calm, docile, and very affectionate. Of course, each rabbit will have a distinct personality, which will heavily depend on where they come from. So if you’re thinking of getting a Flemish giant as a family pet, make sure you get them from reputable breeders.

Another great feature this bunny has going on is its incredible intelligence. They’re more than capable of learning tricks as well as using the litter box. Furthermore, their size makes them a great outdoor pet, and perfectly suited for farm life. Plus, since they’re so agreeable, they should have no problem living safely with other farm animals or pets.

As big as they are, it’s easy to forget that these babies are still prey animals. They can get nervous and frightened very easily, especially when they’re overstimulated. A scared rabbit can lash out if they feel threatened. Not only that, but since the Flemish is so large, their attempts at self-defense can do some serious damage.

Therefore, it’s important to handle them with care. Like cats and dogs, you should watch your Flemish’s body language to know what their boundaries are. If you treat these giants right, they’ll definitely return your affection threefold.

How Big Does the Flemish Giant Rabbit Get?

how big does the flemish giant rabbit get

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When we say the Flemish giant rabbit is big, we mean it. The Guinness world record for the biggest Flemish giant rabbit is held by a gorgeous male called Darius. This bad boy weighs an impressive 22 pounds and is 4 feet 3 inches long. That’s as big as some medium-sized dogs!

But outside record breakers, the Flemish giant rabbit can weigh up to 15 pounds. Their average length is around 2.5 feet. They’re quite hyperactive despite their frame, and capable of reaching speeds of 45 mph. As mentioned, this makes them ideal outdoor pets and perfectly suited for farm life.

However, if you want them as an indoor pet, keep in mind that they need a lot of space. And, you should exercise the Flemish regularly, so taking them on walks is highly advisable.

Like any other rabbit, Flemish giant rabbits can develop health problems common in any other rabbit breed. This includes a variety of respiratory diseases, mites, GI stasis, and in unspayed females, uterine cancer.

However, their massive size also makes them prone to some very specific health problems as well. For starters, the Flemish giant is incredibly sensitive to heat.

If you keep them in temperatures over 70 degrees Fahrenheit, they can easily suffer heatstroke. Since they’re so big, handling them is tricky as well. They’re prone to back injuries and broken bones, especially if you accidentally drop them.

In addition, Flemish rabbits grow rapidly during their first year. This makes them prone to obesity if you overfeed them. For this reason, it’s important to give them an adequate diet. Also, make sure they get plenty of exercise so that they can grow at a steady and healthy pace.

Tips on Caring for Your Flemish Giant Rabbit

If the info above convinced you to get a Flemish giant as a pet, here are a few tips on how to care for your furry friend.

Shelter

shelter

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When it comes to bunny care, you should first consider the most essential: shelter. This bunny is obviously big, so having a comfortable enclosure with plenty of space should be your top priority. You can use anything from medium-sized sheds to bird aviaries and even large dog cages to house them.

Safety is also an obvious part of the shelter. As we mentioned, Flemish giants are prey animals, so it’s important that you give them time to adjust to their environment.

Likewise, they need a safe space they can retreat to, if they feel stressed. This means you’re going to need to spruce up your bunny’s home with some soft bedding, and maybe even a solid mat to protect their hocks.

Diet

diet

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The Flemish giant has a very sensitive digestive tract. To keep them healthy, feed them a diet that consists of 80% hay, and a bit of grass. You can feed them a cup of veggies per day and incorporate fruits in moderation. Think of fruit like candy, something you give your bunny as an occasional treat. Some good options include:

  • Apples, with the seeds removed
  • Pears
  • Berries
  • Bananas in very small quantities

Most rabbit experts recommend feeding bunnies rabbit pellets on the basis of body weight. So around 0.8 ounces of pellets per 2.2 pounds of your bunny’s body weight per day. Obviously, since these bunnies are bigger, you’ll need to invest more in food than for any other breed.

Grooming

You’ll also need to give your Flemish giant’s incredible coat some attention. Like cats, rabbits groom themselves, so bathing them is unnecessary. However, brushing their coat once a week should be enough to help them stay very tidy. It would also help manage excess hair during shedding season.

Socialization

socialization

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Last but certainly not least is companionship. Rabbits are very social creatures that do best in pairs. However, every rabbit is unique and how your Flemish giant interacts with other bunnies will depend on their personality. Therefore, it’s important to slowly introduce them to other rabbits and give them time to adjust.

If you’re mixing males and females make sure to spay and neuter them. This will keep you from waking up to an army of baby bunnies one day, and also help prevent reproductive cancer in females.

Finally, be patient with your fluffy companion. These guys are so cute, it’s easy to go overboard and smother them in hugs and pets. But it’s important to recognize your bunny’s boundaries and respect their personal space.

Keeping tabs on your bunny’s body language will tell you when they’ve had enough play-time. Like we said, if you treat your bunny well, they’ll treat you even better!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much does a Flemish giant rabbit cost?

A pet Flemish giant rabbit can cost anywhere between $30 – $60. However, if you are looking for a particularly large or show-quality Flemish, their price will go up to $250 – $300.

Q: Where can I buy a Flemish giant rabbit?

As mentioned, to make sure your bunny is in good health only buy from reputable breeders. Currently, the most trusted source of Flemish giant rabbits would be the National Federation of Flemish Giant Rabbit Breeders.

Q: Is the Flemish Giant rabbit the right pet for me?

All pets require time and effort. So before getting a Flemish giant, honestly ask yourself: will you be able to give them all the care they need? They’re big animals so they require quite a lot of food, space, and attention to stay happy and healthy.

Parting Words

If the above info hasn’t convinced you how awesome the Flemish giant rabbit is, nothing will. With a rich history dating back to 16th century Belgium, these beautiful bunnies have been around for quite a while.

While they’re big in stature, they’re still softies at heart, and their docile nature makes them ideal family pets. Caring for them may be a bit of a challenge for first-time rabbit owners. However, if you do choose to get a Flemish giant of your own, rest assured that these bunnies will love you like no other.


Featured image source: Pinterest

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