As the heir to a now-extinct breed of rabbit known as the Patagonian, Flemish Giants truly are the gentle giants of the rabbit breeding world. From their humble origins in Belgium, they have traveled the world over as pets, show animals, and essential sources of furs and meat. With a particularly kind and gentle demeanor, they have been a popular choice of rabbit breeders for nearly four centuries.
Whether you’re curious to see and learn about just how big these giants can get, or looking to keep one as a pet, this guide is for you! In it, we’ll be covering the historical origins of everybody’s favorite giant rabbit breed, as well as tips on caring for them as pets. No need to wait any further, let’s get started!
History and Origin of the Flemish Giant Rabbit Breed
In his book Domestic Rabbits and Their Histories, author Bob D. Whitman shares with us that some variety of giant rabbit has been around since as early as the 16th century, with a 1558 book stating that there were rabbits in Verona four times bigger than normal.
While these Verona rabbits are unlikely to have contributed to the Flemish Giant it is entirely possible that the wild Belgian “Steenkonijn”, or stone rabbit, was crossbred with the ancient and giant Patagonian. Sadly, we may never know for certain, as the Patagonian went extinct in the 19th century.
Ghent, Belgium became home to six clubs for the breeding, care, and showing of Flemish giants in the late 1800s. From here, love for the gentle giants spread to Germany in the early 1900s, and shortly thereafter to England and America — where it has enjoyed a definite popularity ever since!
Large, heavy, and robust, the Flemish Giant is certainly easy to pick out of a lineup of rabbits! Growing to nearly twice the size of standard rabbits, and sometimes even 10 times as large as dwarves, this breed is closer to the size of a large house cat or small dog.
This large size combined with a dopey and playful nature has made the Flemmie a natural choice for pet owners who love rabbits, but want something closer in size to a cat or dog. Their semi-arched bodies and erect ears give them a lovely alert appearance, no matter how docile they may be.
Flemish Giants come in seven recognized colors: Black, blue, fawn, light gray, sandy, steel gray, and white.
Nutrition and Health
Larger rabbits like the Flemish Giant require diligent attention to proper nutrition and exercise, because their larger frames are more prone to arthritis and other bone stress disorders. Always make sure they have abundant filtered water and timothy hay, as well as a serving of dark, leafy greens each day. The occasional treat of fruit or vegetables is less likely to do them harm than a smaller rabbit, as they can more easily use the extra calories.
Flemish Giants require a large amount of space to maintain their good health. Most owners recommend potty training them as soon as possible, so that they can have the run of the house whenever they feel the urge to explore and move around. Just be sure to properly bunny proof your home before letting them roam free, as they are especially fond of cords and electric cables!
Because of their sheer size, many Flemish Giants require a little extra help with grooming. Expect to brush them at least twice per week for most of the year, with nearly daily brushings during their shedding season. This will help prevent wool from blocking their sensitive digestive systems.
When exposed to people from early in their lives, Flemish Giants will make affectionate and laid-back pets. This is matched by a mischievous streak in some individual rabbits, as well! For most Flemmies, their favorite activities include lounging, napping, eating hay, and coming to see whatever you’re doing while you’re at home — much like a cat or dog.
Final Thoughts on the Flemish Giant Rabbit Breed
We think Flemming Giants are some of the most enjoyable rabbits to care for in your home. Their larger than life personalities and affectionate natures make them a natural choice for anyone with the space necessary to dedicate to raising them.
For more on Giant Flemish Rabbits be sure to check out the National Federation of Flemish Giant Rabbit Breeders website.
Featured Image: Brian Adee