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Flemish Giants

Appearance

As one of the largest breeds of domestic rabbits the Flemish Giant is a semi-arch type rabbit with its back arch starting back of the shoulders and carrying through to the base of the tail giving a "mandolin" shape. The body of a Flemish Giant Rabbit is long and powerful with good muscular development and relatively broad hindquarters. It is a big-boned breed.  Bucks have a broad, massive head in comparison to does. Does may have a large, full, evenly carried dewlap (the fold of skin under their chins). The fur of the Flemish Giant is known to be glossy and dense, and when stroked from the hindquarters to the head, the fur will roll back to its original position. There are other variants in the fur to meet show standards depending on the color of your Flemish.  ARBA standard has seven different colors, black, blue, fawn, light gray, sandy, steel gray and white. They are shown in six classes (three buck classes and three doe classes): Junior bucks and does under 6 months, Intermediate bucks and does 6–8 months, and Senior bucks and does 8+ months. The minimum show weight for a Senior (older than 8 months) doe is 14 lbs (about 6.4 kg), and the minimum weight of a Senior buck is 13 lbs (about 5.9 kg)(ARBA Standards of Perfection). As with other "giant" breeds, the Flemish Giant grows slowly. A senior doe can take 1 year to reach full maturity. A senior buck can take 1.5 years to reach full maturity. It is not unusual to see a Flemish Giant weighing between 20 and 22 lbs.

Behavior & Lifestyle

Flemish Giants are known to be quite placid and laid-back, and as a result, they are known to be docile and tolerant of considerable handling, but could become fearful if handled incorrectly or irresponsibly, and for this reason it is generally recommended that it be under the care of an experienced or mature owner. Due to its large size, the Flemish needs a large space.   Flemish Giant will only require mild attention to grooming due to its short hair.  Flemish giants shed fur in Spring and in Fall.

Care & Nutrition

Flemish Giants consume a considerable amount of feed to maintain their size and appropriate body weight. Most farmers feed them with pellets.  A well balanced, pellet rabbit food is best for overall growth and development.  The feed should have a minimum protein content of 15-17% (check the label).  Pellets containing between 16% and 18% protein is recommended depending on whether the animal is being shown or kept as a pet.  The rabbits also like hay and fresh green vegetation.  Hay should be a mixture of Alfalfa, Timothy and orchard grass.  Rabbits should be fed daily portions of fresh clean hay (depending on your bunnies age, condition and adult size).  Beware of mold that may be growing on the hay.  Mold can lead to illnesses, storage of the hay is therefore a critical factor to consider. Treats could be pieces of apple, carrot, orange, beet or raddish tops, endive, parsley, collard greens or clover and dandelion leaves (from an organic lawn).   They especially love dandelion which is also an appetite stimulant. Don't over do the treats.  Other vegetables are also recommended but sweets and vegetables that generate gas such be avoided.  Obesity will severely shorten your rabbits lifespan.  Lettuce is not a good food or treat and should never be fed to your rabbit.  It can cause loose stools and severe digestive problems and has no nutritional value.  And don't hesitate to consult your animals health care professional if you have any doubt's or questions. New vegetables should be introduced slowly due to the delicate digestive systems of rabbits. It is recommended that cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage be avoided, as they cause gas and can lead to gastrointestinal stasis, which can be fatal. Vegetables such as potatoes should also avoided due to their high starch content. Commercial treats containing nuts, seeds, and grains should be avoided as they are not normal parts of the rabbit diet and provide unhealthy amounts of protein and starch and can lead to GI statsis. Treats high in carbohydrates should be avoided as rabbits have a proclivity towards obesity. Food contaminated with chemicals should never be fed to rabbits. The Flemish Giant will also require an unlimited amount of fresh water, usually provided for in a water crock, tip-proof ceramic pet dish, or hanging water bottle. Rabbits need a continuous supply of clean water.  Feed and water may be supplied using automatic systems or by manually providing feed and/or water as needed. Rabbit teeth grow continually, it is important for them to have something to chew on to grind down their teeth.  Deformed teeth will not meet show standards.


Flemish Giants because of their size require more living space than other breeds in order for them to be comfortable and grow at a normal rate.  They are territorial and therefore will not tolerate company in a cage after they attain six months of age. This factor should be considered when embarking on  a breeding program especially since litter can be large.  The cage should be a minimum of  24" high, 30" deep and 36" wide.  It is highly recommended that cages be 24" high, 36" deep, and 48" wide. Bigger is better for the rabbits both in terms of the quality of their health and their growth rate.  Cages should never be deeper than 36" or you will be challenged to reach the rabbit if the need arises to remove it from the cage. Flexible cages for breeding does offer flexibility for mothers with babies or babies being weaned from mothers.  A larger door to the cage is also needed.  It is recommended that the door be 20" tall by 16" wide. Protection from sun wind, rain and extreme temperatures is vital.  Rabbits have been successfully raised indoors and outdoors even in areas with freezing winters. 

Flemish Giants handle cold temperatures well but don't like the heat.  Temperatures above 90*F. is usually difficult for them to handle.  Direct sun can damage their fur.  In very warm weather, cooling techniques such as filling 2-liter soda bottles with water, freezing them and laying them in the cages for the rabbits to lie next to thereby cooling themselves, or spraying down the roof of the building in which the cages are housed will make a huge difference. 


Most rabbits are comfortable on wire floors that allow their waste to fall through.  Because of their size and weight, the Flemish can develop sores on their hocks (back feet).  Some breeders keep their Giants on solid wood floors with bedding like straw or shavings.  This bedding has to be changed often (at least every 3 days) to prevent disease and eliminate any build up of waste and odor while also keeping their fur free of waste material that may accumulate on their bodies.  I use a wire cage floor.  Some breeders also provide the rabbits with 3/4 covered in plywood (or 1/2" thick white sheetrock/wallboard) that can be lifted out, cleaned or replaced.  This gives them the opportunity to sit on solid floor or wire. A thick layer of straw bedding is also recommended.  With the back 12" open wire, all the liquid waste and most of the droppings fall through to the ground or in trays below.  Most rabbits are very clean and use the same corner to eliminate waste.  They can even be taught to use a litter pan like a cat.  We recommend All Natural Kitty Litters, especially litter made from recycled newspaper (no cedar, clay or perfumes).   Flemish Giants make wonderful House bunnies, if you can provide the extra space and regular exercise that they need. 


Just like cats, rabbits groom themselves and keep their fur clean.  Fresh Papaya or Pineapple are excellent natural remedies to prevent hairballs caused by self-grooming.  You can also use Papaya Tablets (available at Health Food stores and Vitamin shops) once a day in their food.  The more you pet and handle your rabbit, the friendlier they'll be.  talk to, pet and handle them at least once per day, when they are fed.

Sexing and Breeding

It can be very difficult to determine the sex of a young rabbit. Although the explanation and diagram below will help you, it is best to have an experienced person show you how to sex rabbits of different ages. You are generally able to determine the sex of a rabbit when it is four weeks old.

To determine the sex of a rabbit:

  1. Hold the rabbit on his/her back on your lap with the hind legs facing away from you. With a larger rabbit, you may want to hold the rabbit with his/her hind legs facing towards you. Placing a rabbit on his/her back will put the rabbit into a state almost like a trance. Rabbits still feel pain while in this position, and should not be held this way for a prolonged period of time.

  2. When first learning to sex a rabbit, it will be helpful if another person gently restrains the head of the rabbit while you use both hands to part the fur and apply gentle pressure on each side of the vent, which is the area including the anus and the genitals. (The anus is basically the opening of the intestines to the outside from which droppings are eliminated. The genitals are the external portions of the reproductive tract.) Once you have more experience, you can restrain the rabbit's head with one hand, and apply the gentle pressure with the other.

  3. While applying pressure to the vent area, you will see the anus, the opening closest to the tail.

  4. Illustration of the genitals of a young male and female rabbitThe opening farthest from the tail is the genitals.

    Males: In male rabbits, the penis will appear as a tubular protrusion. It is round in diameter, very light pink in young males, and has a rounded tip with a small round opening at its center. In most bucks (male rabbits) older than 10 weeks, you will also notice the testicles on each side and slightly cranial to the penis. They will feel like small mounds under the skin, and in older males, are not covered with fur. Bucks can withdraw the testicles into the abdomen, so even if you can not feel the testicles, the rabbit may still be a male.

    Females: When the gentle pressure is applied to the vent area of a doe (female rabbit), you will see a pink protrusion, but the protrusion is slanted, more oval, and has a slit versus a small round opening.

Other sexual differences in older rabbits

As rabbits age, more physical differences between the sexes will become apparent. Bucks have blockier heads and are smaller than does of the same breed. Most adult does of medium or large breeds will have a dewlap, which is the large fold of skin under their chins. Does have nipples, whereas bucks do not. However, the nipples may be difficult to find on a doe that has not had a litter. So, similar to the testicles in the males, even if you can not find the nipples on a rabbit, the rabbit could still be a doe.


Breeding:

The ideal age for the female Flemish Giant rabbit to start breeding is when they are about 9 months to one year. The first litter should be born before the female is one year old, due to fusing of the pelvic bones that would hinder her ability to give birth naturally. It is preferable that they have no more litters after the age of three years. The gestation period is between 28–31 days. On average they give birth at 30–32 days. The Flemish Giant rabbit can produce large litters, usually between 5 to 12 in a litter. However litters could be smaller or larger.  Bucks or male rabbits mature at at six to seven months.  Bucks must be separated from does when they are six months old. You may also determine their maturity by examining the rabbit to see when the testes are fully developed and descended into the scrotum. Young bucks are usually unsuccessful in breeding does on their first couple attempts.  Does may also be copulated but for a variety of reasons may not breed or "hold".  Unfortunately, there is no sure way to tell is a rabbit is pregnant as they sometimes exhibit all the signs of a pregnancy but are actually having a "false pregnancy".  When breeding a rabbit, the doe should be taken to the doe and never the buck to the doe or a fight with possible injury will ensue.  Rabbits being bred should not be left unattended since fights can erupt during the process.  After coupling the doe a minimum of three times the buck should be removed to his cage.  Rabbits have two horns (similar to fallopian tubes in humans) withing which they conceive.  Because conception may occur in one horn and not the other even when a rabbit is pregnant it may be receptive to the buck.  Should the buck breed the pregnant doe two things may occur, the doe may have a miscarriage and abort the young, or they may be born dead or deformed or worse, she may have two litters at different times and not be able to care for them adequately because of the varying needs of the litter resulting from the difference in age.  Pregnant does should therefore have no access to bucks.

Cross breeding of colors is generally not recommended except for some colors such as Light Gray, Black, White, and Steel Gray.  Pure Black (no other color in blood-line except black or blue) may be bred to Blue. Fawn should be bred to Fawn and Sandy to Sandy.

Links to Other Resources

Please note that by clicking on the link you will be leaving Janyfarmer Rabbits.  I encourage you to bookmark this page for future reference.  Thanks for visiting with us. Janyfarmer Rabbits is not responsible for any information accessed from the sites listed below.

http://sunnyoaksrabbits.tripod.com/index.html

  Another Flemish Giant Breeder with other colors

http://iberiaflemishgiants.tripod.com/

  Another Flemish Giant Breeder with other colors

http://www.nffgrb.com/

  The National Federation of Flemish Giant Breeders

http://www.arba.net/ 

The American Rabbit Breeders Association

http://mysite.ncnetwork.net/resp9fau/id7.html

  Information site