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Flemish Giant History

Opinions differ as to the real origin of the Flemish Giant.  It is undisputed that Flanders – the origin of it’s present name – was the country of it’s adoption and dissemination throughout Europe and eventual appearance in America.  Europe, however, can give no definite information as to how or when it first appeared there.  It is known to have been bred there on a large scale during a period of several hundred years, and for a long time was called the Patagonian rabbit.

An analysis of historical events during the 16th and 17th centuries gives strong support to the belief that the original Patagonian was the wild rabbit of Patagonia in the Argentine Republic.  During the 16th and 17th centuries the Dutch were sailing the seas back and forth, trading with the West Indies, Central and South America.  It is not likely that they would bring back with them merely the name Patagonia and tack it on to the rabbit of Flanders and the Netherlands.    It is, however, very likely that they would take back to Europe the rabbit itself, and name it after the country from which it came.  However, it was just about the time the Dutch were carrying on their trade with South America that these rabbits first became known.  Previously there was no record of them.  Even today the loose limbed, wild sandy rabbit of Patagonia has the same typical appearance of the Patagonian rabbit of Flanders as it existed there several hundred years ago.

It seems likely then that one of two things happened.  Either this rabbit was taken from Europe to Patagonia, or from Patagonia to Europe; but since we find no record in Europe before the Dutch started trading with America, then it seems fairly obvious that this rabbit did originate in Patagonia.

Whereas, however, in Patagonia the rabbit has remained wild and not been subjected to selective breeding, leaving it as it was hundreds of years ago.  In Europe and America, especially during the last thirty years, selective breeding has been carried out extensively, and this has produced the far superior rabbit known today as the Flemish Giant.

The earliest authentic record of the Flemish Giant Rabbit occurred about the year 1860.  At that time, in England, stories were being circulated by travelers having recently returned from Flanders, of the enormous size of the rabbits raised in that country and in parts of France.  Weights of certain specimen were stated to be 18  to 20 pounds.  However, a close investigation of the matter of weights proved that 12to 14 pounds were the average weight of giant rabbits raised in the above mentioned country.

Rabbit meat at the time was being imported into England to the extent of millions of pounds yearly ad local breeders were unable to fill the demand.  English breeders of meat stock produced their product from stock weighing an average of 7 to 8 pounds at maturity, so it was but a short time later that the first importation of Flemish breeding rabbits took place.  The British Islands are populated thickly with what is termed the middle class of people.  Rabbit breeding as a fancy and as a means of reducing family expenses was looked upon more as a necessity than a hobby with this class of natives and it was but a short time before the Flemish Giant made its appearance at some of the many rabbit shows held periodically in England.

The first Flemish exhibited, although impressive in size, was not handsome.  The color being of a dirty iron grey with sandy or white bars on legs, long ears bent over at the tips, and a general uncouth appearance.  Nevertheless, it was but a brief period before the first Flemish Breeders’ Association was organized for the express purpose of improving the new breed.  Various experiments and crosses with other varieties worked a wonderful change in the former homely specimen and it eventually became the rule that no show was complete without a large display of Flemish Giants.

The weight and color improved from time to time.  Winning specimens in the leading British show, the Crystal Palace of London. Weighed 16 pounds and the color was designated as steel gray.  The front leg still showed the sandy bars and he belly color was pure white.  Today the British standard calls for this same white belly color and the same standard weight.

American fanciers imported Flemish Giants from England about the same time of the Belgian Hare boom in the early 80’s.  No special notice was attracted to the breed until the year 1910 when at that time rabbits were exhibited at the leading poultry shows throughout the country.  The Flemish Giant was soon established as a favorite owing to their enormous size and beautiful colors.  Today the Flemish rabbit leads in number exhibited at all the principle shows and are sold at the highest prices recorded since the days of the ill-fated Belgian boom.

Origins of the Flemish Giants
By Thomas Coatoam
Originally published in 1983-NFFGRB Guide Book

Special Care of Your Flemish Giant Rabbit !

These loyal pets thrive on attention, and they are gentle and mellow enough to be trusted with children. However its large size means it is not an ideal pet for small children. Small children could injure themselves or the rabbit when attempting to pick it up. But it is great for older children who can handle it properly.

If you're considering a Flemish Giant, also consider the cage you will need for these bunnies. 30 by 48 inches by 24 inches high is considered to be the smallest acceptable floor space for a single Flemish Giant, though larger quarters are of course, encouraged. Make sure to get a cage that does not have wire floors because they will hurt the Flemish Giant's feet. 

Feed them high quality Timothy hay and 17% or 18% percent protein pellets daily. Sunflower seeds added to their diet, will make their coats glossy, but do not feed them too much, because it is a high fat food. If you decide to let your rabbit roam free in your back yard, make sure it is well fenced and remember that they can burrow. If you decide to let it roam about the inside of the house, keep all electrical cords out of reach, as they like to chew. Flemish Giants can stand the cold well, but they can not tolerate temperatures above 90 degrees. 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,  fine water sprays can be used outdoors.

A "pet quality" rabbit is one that does not meet the standards set forth by the ARBA and may include flaws as simple as color, markings, coat texture and the length of the ears and can prevent a rabbit from being graded show quality by its breeder.

A "show quality" rabbit meets all of the standards as defined by the ARBA. These standards include proper color, size, coat, teeth, eyes, and pure-bred Flemish Giant genetics.

What is most important, however, is that the correct rabbit is matched with the correct home, be it a show home or a companion home. Both types of homes are equally important. The right home gives that rabbit the best chance of a

life-long loving relationship with its owner.

 

*credit to Taylor's berries&bunnies

 

Lt. Gray Jr. Flemish Giant buck.

(from Taylors Bunnies , Willard, MO)

Tips for a happy Giant !!!!!

 

 Keep cool in the summer, ( bottles of Ice to lay on help out some,

 Water at all times, and Ventilation)

 Keep your giant on some solid flooring not to hurt there feet,

 Treats, there are many things rabbits like to have as treats, do not over do it obese rabbits will have a shorter life span, do not give them sugar, or chocolate! Chocolate is toxic.  And Lettuce is not a good treat for rabbits, it can cause many problems with there digestive track.  I would not give rabbits under 3 months of age treats, in many young bunnies, it causes diarrhea and in some case causes severe diarrhea causing dehydration, and even death in many rabbits, I would not risk it ...  Toys such as baby toys to toss around, and attention, are plenty of (treat) until they reach the (safe age of 3 to 4 months old)