There may be no more awe-inspiring rabbit in the world than the Flemish Giant. If one came hopping along, you might at first glance mistake it for a dog. These rabbits weigh 15 pounds on average and can reach a length of 2.5 feet. Males have broader heads than females. Females have a dewlap – a large fold of skin under the chin that they use to warm their young. A well-regarded Flemish Giant, according to breed standards, has a large and nicely shaped head, erect ears, a long and powerful body, an evenly colored coat, and a nicely rounded rump. Flemish Giants have thick, glossy fur that comes in a variety of colors. Seven colors are officially recognized in the United States by the National Federation of Flemish Giant Rabbit Breeders. These are black, blue, fawn, light gray, steel gray, sandy, and white.
Flemish Giants are a very old breed of domesticated rabbit. Originally raised for meat and fur, the breed already existed in Belgium by the 16th century. The first standards for the breed were written in 1893.
Although a domesticated breed, Flemish Giants still retain certain adaptations of wild rabbits. They have large ears that contribute to excellent hearing, and good eyesight, both of which would help them detect predators.
Introduction to North America
Flemish Giants were first imported into the United States from England and Belgium in the 1890s.
Flemish Giants are still prized for their meat and for their fur, but are also often bred today as companion animals. They are known as the “Gentle Giants” of the rabbit world, and are regarded as wonderful pets. If treated correctly, they are very docile and gentle even with small children. Many people also raise Flemish Giants to show. Because of their size, these rabbits need a fairly large space in which to roam, but they can be litter-boxed trained which means that they can also be allowed to roam freely indoors.
Flemish Giants are a stable and very popular breed today. Throughout their long history, they have not been over-bred or over-harvested.
At The Maryland Zoo
Flemish Giant rabbits are among the most popular and easygoing Animal Ambassadors in the Zoo’s Animal Embassy collection.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Lagomorpha
- Family: Leporidae
- Genera: Oryctolagus
- Species: cuniculus