ABOUT FLEMISH GIANTS (thanks to Horn Rapids Rabbitry for this info)
The Flemish Giant is a semi-arch type rabbit with its back arch
back of the shoulders and carrying through to the base
of the tail giving a "mandolin" shape. It is one of the largest
rabbits recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association.
The minimum show weight for a Senior (older than 8
is 14 lbs, and the minimum weight of a Senior buck is 13 pounds.
It is not unusual to see a 22 pound Flemish
Giant, and specimens
weighing 28 pounds have been reported. A comment heard from many
individuals seeing a Flemish
giant rabbit for the first time is,
"Wow, its bigger than my dog!"
The body of a Flemish Giant Rabbit should be long and powerful
good muscular development. The hindquarters should be broad
and massive. Bucks have a broad, massive head in comparison
does. Does may have a large, full, evenly carried dewlap (the fold
of skin under their chins).
The fur of the Flemish Giant is glossy, dense and full of life and
When stroked from the hindquarters to the head, the fur
will roll back to its original position. Seven colors are recognized
by ARBA: black, blue, fawn, light gray, sandy, steel gray and white.
At many rabbit shows most of the recognized
colors can be observed,
but the sandy color (the natural color) seems to be the most popular.
It is thought that the Flemish Giant rabbit is the modern descendant
of the Patagonian rabbit of Argentina. The Patagonian rabbit was
brought to Europe by 16th and 17th century Dutch
traders and was
raised for meat. The first written records of the Flemish Giant Rabbit
dates from about 1860. At that
time, English travelers returning from
Flanders brought back stories of the enormous rabbits that were being
The Flemish Giant was imported from England to America in the early
It received no special attention until about 1910 where it
started appearing at small livestock shows throughout the country.
Today, it is one of the more popular breeds at rabbit shows because
of its enormous size and its many and beautiful
RAISING FLEMISH GIANTS
Flemish Giants are the true giants of all rabbits. They can grow to
size, reaching four or more pounds in 7 weeks, and maturing
up to 18 pounds in 9 months. Although they are large, they
and not wild or hard to handle. That is why they are called "The Gentle Giant."
Flemish are also called
"The Universal Breed," because they are fast
developing rabbits suitable for either meat or fur production. They
on a large percentage of roughage and green feed reducing total
food costs. Best of all, they make wonderful pets. They
are large and
strong enough to hold their own with small children, but are docile and
gentle. However, when abused,
they can scratch or bite painfully! Like
many rabbit breeds, they can be trained to use a litter box, making them
loveable pets. Mature bucks seldom spray. Flemish also have a
good tolerance for the cold outdoors if you don't want them
The only thing they do not endure well is extreme heat. It is essential
that they be kept in the shade during
the summer. If the temperature
exceeds 90, evaporative coolers can be used in barns to keep them cool;
sprays can be used outdoors. They especially appreciate a
large plastic pop bottle, filled with water and frozen in the
to snuggle against when the temperature approaches 100 F.
A word of advice to those contemplating letting
their pet rabbit roam
their house freely. Rabbits seem to have a fascination with lamp cords.
They will frequently
chew on a cord, damaging it and injuring themselves.
Owners are advised to keep excess lamp cord out of the reach of their
Flemish Giant rabbits are usually very vigorous, healthy and easy to raise.
They are very big and require very big cages. The smallest cage that should
be considered for single animals should
have a floor 30 inches by 48 inches.
Brood cages for a doe and her litter should have a floor 30 inches by 72 inches.
Cage height should be no less than 24 inches or else they may not carry their
ears erect. Because of the considerable
weight of these rabbits, wire floors
should not be used, because sore, bleeding, hocks will probably result.
Some breeders use solid floors bedded with straw, shredded computer paper,
wood chips. Others use wood slat floors. The slats comprising the floor of such
cages are usually 3/4" x 1 1/2"
spaced at approximately 5/8". The rabbits will
chew on these slats, but they will last long enough that this is generally
a problem. Recently some breeders have been experimenting with plastic "hog slat" floors. These seem to be both very
durable and sanitary.
Flemish seem to require roughage as well as pellets as feed.
We feed high quality alfalfa, free choice, and one large tuna fish can of 18% protein pellets. About a week before a show,
we will feed about a tablespoon full of black sunflower seeds daily to shine up their coats. Be careful, too much sunflower
seed can make a rabbit fat!
The Flemish Doe should be bred at 8 months or 14 pounds,
whichever comes first. Does usually reach maximum growth weight at 10 to 14 months. Do not breed a doe earlier than
8 months or 14 pounds because it can have difficulties kindling. If does are not bred as soon as they reach maturity, they
can accumulate too much fat around the ovaries and have difficulty conceiving. Once fat develops around the ovaries, we know
no way to remove the fat.
The doe is always brought to the bucks cage and never vice-versa. Watch
carefully and remove the doe after she is bred once or twice; that should take
less than 5 minutes. Separate
them immediately if the doe starts nipping at the
buck he may be injured. A second breeding 6 to 8 hours after the first
increase the number of kits born.
Some does are frantic for a nest box after 3 weeks of pregnancy; some are
interested only during the last 20 minutes before kindling. Gestation period
is around 31 days. We usually give
the nest boxes at least 3 days earlier
unless they become frantic. Our nest boxes are 14in. x 14in. x 24in. and are
of plywood or wafer board. They have partially covered and have a board
across the front to "detach" kits holding on to
mama as she leaps out of the
box. We have found that these nest boxes may be slightly too large, as they
seem to encourage
the does to lounge in them. The next batch will be 2 in.
Smaller in all dimensions.
Before placing a nest box in a cage, the bottom is covered with 2 layers
cardboard or 3/4 of white wood chip for moisture absorption and insulation,
and it is filled with clean bright
straw. The doe will create a pocket in the
straw and line it with fur "at the appointed hour." In cold weather, we have
not found it necessary to use "bunny warmers"; however, we sometimes will use
an infra-red light bulb at a distance
of 24 inches to provide some warmth if
the temperature drops near 0 F. In hot weather, we remove some of the fur from
the nest box to prevent the kits from getting too hot. The chips and straw are
removed and replaced with clean material
each week for 6 weeks. At 6 weeks we
remove the nest box, because allowing it to remain longer seems to promote wet
among the kits. Sometimes, if the weather is bitter cold, we will clean
out the nest box and turn it on its side to give
the bunnies protection from
the wind and cold.
A Flemish doe can have anywhere from 6 to 18 kits. However, the litter should
be thinned down to 8 or less. If more are saved, they will tend to be smaller
and will be less developed when they
We wean the bunnies at 8 weeks, and separate the young rabbits when we observe the bucks trying to mount
the does. At that time, we save the best and cull the rest.
The does are bred back at 6 to 8 weeks after kindling, depending on the
condition of the doe. Breeding back too soon repeatedly will cause the doe to fail to produce large litters or fail to conceive
HANDLING FLEMISH GIANTS
Even if the Flemish Giant is large and strong, it has a very "laid back"
disposition. They are docile and tolerant of considerable handling. A favorite
trick at 4-H and Youth rabbit shows
is to "hypnotize" a Flemish Giant by placing
it on its back and stroking it gently. However if abused or scared, they
painful and possibly serious injury with their razor sharp teeth and powerful
hind legs. I tis best to
always support all 4 feet, so they do not become scared of being off the ground, and start flailing with their hind claws,
which are attached to Kangaroo strength hind legs!
Since they can take care of themselves well, some people will let
pet rabbit roam their well fenced back yards freely. Remember, if you are
contemplating leaving your rabbit roam your
back yard, rabbits are burrowing
animals and can burrow under fences if no special precautions are taken.
consequence of its large size and strength of the Flemish Giant is
that it consumes more feed than other breeds.
One might think that a huge, docile and attractive rabbit has much potential
as a pet, and many people do, indeed, seek them out as pets and love them.
The Flemish Giant is very laid back and
docile especially neutered males.