Flemish rabbits, or Flemish giant rabbits to give them their full title, may appear strange to many, but they are quickly becoming one of the most popular breeds of rabbits raised as pets around the world. Admittedly, their large size and unique biology may need more living space and attention than a regular pet rabbit breed.
What Are Flemish Giant Rabbits?
Even if they may be unfamiliar to people new to rabbit raising culture, the Flemish giant is the oldest recognized breed of rabbit in the world. Flemish giants were first domesticated from wild varieties roaming the meadows of Flanders (modern-day northern Belgium) sometime in the sixteenth century.
Physical Characteristics of Flemish Giant Rabbits
As you may have already surmised, the original Flemish giant rabbit breeders who domesticated the rabbits were not thinking of raising them as pet rabbits. The following summary of their physical characteristics will show that these rabbit breeders sought to raise and breed these gentle giants for their meat and fur.
Size and Weight
As the name implies, Flemish giants are giant rabbits with inordinately large sizes. An average Flemish giant weighs from 13 to 14 pounds, but it is not uncommon to see some which weigh upwards of twenty pounds. In terms of appearance, a Flemish giant rabbit has a lean, long, and powerful body. In terms of body length, the current record for the longest Flemish giant rabbit belongs to a particular specimen that measured a total of four feet, three inches long.
Flemish giant rabbits have a coat of thick and glossy fur. In general, the fur is of uniform length all over the body. The only exception is at the tail, where the fur may grow a bit longer and stand up instead of being laterally flat on the skin. The fur should roll back if you stroke it, starting at the back to the front of the rabbit’s body.
The Flemish giant is described as a semi-arch variety of domestic rabbits. This means that the arch of its back starts at the base of its shoulders before curving up and over towards its tail.
Head and Ears
The head of a Flemish giant rabbit is proportional to the rest of the rabbit’s body. Its ears are usually erect and include a heavy base. They should not lop as in some other rabbit breeds.
A Flemish giant rabbit’s toenails should be of uniform color on both fore and rear feet. The only exception to the rule is Flemish giants who are white in color.
Flemish giant rabbits come in different colors and hues. ARBA (American Rabbit Breeders Association) recognizes seven different colors for the Flemish giant rabbit. Each one has a set of characteristics that sets it apart from the rest.
The fur is an even coat of glossy black hair. It has brown eyes
The coat has a distinct blue appearance. The rabbit’s eyes are bluish with a gray tint.
The fur is mainly a shade of light gold in appearance. The rabbits also have an undercarriage that is mainly white. Fawn Flemish giant rabbits have brown eyes.
The fur coat is a light shade of gray though there is a considerable dark ticking at the tips. Their eyes are brown.
The fur coat is mainly a reddish sandy hue but includes some black ticking. The eyes are brown.
The rabbits have a charcoal gray coat of fur though the ticking has a much lighter gray tint. Their eyes are brown.
The rabbit’s coat is an even spread of white fur without any ticking. White Flemish giants have pink eyes
How to Tell Male and Female Flemish Giants by Physical Appearance?
It is not easy to tell the sex of a rabbit short of examining the animal’s genitalia. Flemish giants are, however, an exception in that they exhibit quite distinct sexual dimorphism. Bucks, the term which refers to male rabbits, have broader heads compared to females (does).
Flemish giants are even easier to identify as they have dewlaps just beneath the chin. A dewlap is a distinct flap of furry skin attached to the rabbit’s chin. Females use the dewlap to keep babies warm. As is the case with other rabbit species, Flemish giant bucks are also bigger and more heftily built than their female counterparts.
Temperament and Personality of Flemish Giant Rabbits
As a breed, the Flemish giant rabbit is considered to have a friendly and docile nature. This is how come these gentle giants turn out to be such perfect pets, especially for families with children. They adjust easily to living with people and other domestic animals and pets.
When the rabbits are raised and kept indoors, they will naturally sit and rest on their owner’s lap. However, provided there is enough space, they enjoy hopping around the house and being generally playful.
Flemish giants are among the most intelligent of the giant breeds of rabbits. Just as is the case with other breeds commonly kept as pests, they can be trained to use a litter box. What is more, with some patience and persistence, giant Flemish rabbits can be taught to perform intricate tricks.
Flemish giants have a very sensitive disposition, though. If they are treated roughly or feel threatened, they will act skittish and seek to get away as fast as possible. The rabbits have a pair of very powerful hind legs that they involved as an adaptation in the wild where they needed to kick into rapid speed to escape predators.
Owing to their size and agility, Flemish giants can inflict very serious scratches and bites as they instinctively seek to escape what they perceive to be a dangerous situation. As a rule, therefore, you should never leave a small child to pay with a giant Flemish rabbit without supervision.
Taking Care of Your Flemish Giant Rabbit
Flemish giant breeders freely admit that this giant rabbit breed requires a lot more care and attention than regular rabbits or even other types of pets. A Flemish rabbit that is well taken care of and nourished is likely to live for up to ten years.
As with other smaller rabbits, Flemish giant rabbits should be fed a diet comprising mainly of lots of hay or fresh grass. Rabbit pellets should be given sparingly.
To keep your rabbit healthy, you should also feed your Flemish giant small amounts of fresh vegetables daily. It is recommended that you give your Flemish giant two to four cups of vegetable matter daily for every five pounds of weight.
Fruits, which contain sugars and carbohydrates, should only be given out once a week. The only exception would be for Flemish giants less than one year of age. The rabbits are growing rapidly at this stage, and an extra injection of calories would not be harmful. However, do not offer fruits more than twice a week as too many treats can lead to adverse health issues.
Giant Flemish rabbits are considered by breeders as being unlikely to overfeed just because plenty of food is available. Pellets can be given without limitation for baby bunnies until they attain the age of one year. After that, the pellets should be limited to a quarter cup daily.
Water and Hydration
You should provide plenty of fresh water. Owing to their larger bodies, they need plenty more water than is usual for other rabbits. It is important to ensure the container from which the rabbit drinks is kept clean. Empty away any undrunk water every morning and wash the container with soap and water. Rinse thoroughly before replenishing the water.
If you give your Flemish giant rabbit a regular diet as described above, they do not require any forms of pills as vitamins or supplements. The only exception would be if these were recommended by your vet.
You should groom your pet rabbit at least once every week. Begin by giving it a once-over check looking for scratches, cuts, abrasions on the skin, sores, or swellings. Next, examine the eyes and ears carefully to ascertain if they have any discharge or some other form of damage. If the rabbit has matted hair or tangles on the backside, cut those off with a pair of scissors. Finally, wipe the area clean with a pet-approved wet wipe. Never try to bathe a bunny.
While Flemish giant rabbits have relatively short fur compared to other breeds, the fur grows thickly together. This is what gives these rabbits such a glossy appearance. You should use a slicker brush to comb the hair once or twice a week. As is the case with other rabbit breeds, Flemish giants will shed their coats once or twice a year. This happens during spring and fall.
Brushing a bunny’s hair is not only essential to keep the coat clean and healthy. Grooming is how rabbits bond in the wild. Doing it gives you an opportunity to spend quality time with your rabbit friend.
Clipping the Rabbit’s Nails
As you groom the rabbit, check the condition of the nails. While part of a rabbi’s nails wear off naturally as the animal hops and runs about, this is often not enough to keep them short enough for the animal to be comfortable. Therefore, it is recommended that you clip your rabbit’s nails once a month.
Use nail clippers designed for pets to clip the nails down to size. It is usual for rabbits to be skittish when their nails are being clipped. To ensure they do not hurt themselves or you as they struggle, wrap the rabbit in a towel prior to working on the nails.
Being easily the largest breed of domestic rabbits, the Flemish giant requires plenty of room for living and exercise. An adult Flemish giant rabbit is about the size of a medium-sized dog, and therefore a standard cage meant for a smaller breed of rabbit will not suffice.
Use a big cage that the rabbit can move about comfortably. What is more, the rabbit should be able to stand freely in the cage without the top of its ears being cramped by the cage’s roof.
Exercise and Movement
Flemish giants are not the most physically active of rabbit breeds, but they do need exercise nonetheless. Make space in the yard where the rabbit can run and hop about without getting into danger.
Moving Your Giant Flemish Rabbit
Being one of the largest breeds of domestic rabbits, Flemish giants are not easy to pick and move about. Therefore, they need a lot of support when picked. One should also be wary of their inordinately powerful kick. However, it is very rare for the giant rabbit to kick unless it is not picked properly.
The best way to pick up your Flemish giant is to support the upper body with an arm as you wrap the other arm around the rabbit’s lower half. This ensures that their body is fully supported and their rear legs. In addition, this approach to picking and moving the giant rabbits ensures they are comfortable and at ease enough not to kick out in a bid to escape.
You should hold the rabbit close to your chest and apply just enough pressure to keep them safe and comfortable. If the rabbit feels as if it is being squeezed, it could kick out and cause you pain. You can use a soft voice to calm them as you move. If you detect that they are beginning to panic, gently lower them to the ground and let them escape to where they feel safe.
Health Issues to Consider as You Raise Flemish Giant Rabbits
Here are the health issues you need to watch out for as you raise your giant Flemish rabbit:
The large size of the Flemish giant rabbit makes the breed predisposed to develop conditions such as sore hocks. Also known in vet jargon as Pododermatitis, sore hocks usually result from the pressure the rabbit applies to the hock due to the larger than ordinary bodyweight.
Sore hocks usually result from the rabbits having to stand for long hours on wire mesh floors of typical pet cages. The condition can also be precipitated by unsanitary conditions.
Ear and Fur Mites
Ear and fur mites are common problems affecting all rabbits, not just the Flemish giants. As you groom your rabbit, you may notice mites in the fur. A common sign of ear mites infestation is if the rabbit keeps scratching one or both ears. You can use either injectable medication such as Ivermectin or topical applications such as Revolution to treat mites. However, only do so at the direction of a vet.
Flemish giant rabbits are more prone to heat exhaustion compared to other smaller breeds. Therefore, flemish giant rabbit breeders recommend keeping them in an environment that is either constantly at or lower than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Care should also be taken to ensure the air isn’t overly humid.
If you usually keep your pet Flemish giant in a cage, you may have to consider moving them into a much roomier and air-conditioned space in the summer months. Otherwise, you will watch them suffer in the heat owing to their thick fur-coated skin.
Other Common Rabbit Health Issues
Flemish giants are also prone to suffer health issues which are common among other varieties of domesticated rabbits. These include malocclusion, a condition where the rabbit’s teeth have imperfect positioning or fail to meet when the jaws are closed. The condition usually results from improper wear or overgrowth of the rabbit’s incisors or molars. Malocclusion in rabbits can lead to cuts and damage to the rabbit’s cheeks, tongue, or gum.
Other common rabbit diseases and conditions which can afflict your Flemish giant rabbit include respiratory conditions, uterine cancer, and GI stasis. Consult your vet as soon as possible when you see your rabbit exhibiting discomfort, pain, or trouble feeding to have the issue diagnosed and treated right away.
The final word
From all we have covered in this guide, it is clear that Flemish rabbits make for very good pets. It is true that they do require more care and attention than more popular pets such as cats and dogs but their intelligence, character, and temperament more than makes up for this. So, if you have been mulling the idea of getting a Flemish giant as a family pet, our comprehensive guide contains all the information and tips you need to make it a success.
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