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Caring For Giant Rabbits | Are You Ready For a Really BIG Bunny?

Caring For Giant Rabbits | Are You Ready For a Really BIG Bunny?

There’s something special about a giant rabbit. More to love, right? But special rabbits need special care. And if you’re thinking about acquiring a giant rabbit, you’ll have to make a few adjustments to how you think about rabbit care.

The average rabbit weighs between five and eight pounds. Large rabbit breeds weigh in at between eight and eleven pounds.

Giant rabbit breeds are those that start at eleven pounds on average, though individuals can be much larger than that, depending on their breed.

So, how giant are they, really?

You might have heard of Darius the Flemish Giant Rabbit. Darius earned his first Guinness world record in 2010, when he was measured to be over four feet (1.3 metres) long and 49 pounds (22 kilograms). Darius was, and remains not only the longest Flemish Giant Rabbit, but also the heaviest.

Big rabbits can be big fun. But they can also be a huge responsibility. Click To Tweet

Most Flemish Giants don’t get that big, though. The average Flemish Giant weighs around 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms).

But Flemish Giants aren’t the only giant breed, nor are they the largest.

Giant Rabbit Breeds

The American Rabbit Breeders Association recognises four giant rabbit breeds:

  • Checkered Giant
  • Flemish Giant
  • Giant Angora
  • Giant Chinchilla

The British Rabbit Council recognises a few other giant breeds:

  • Flemish Giant
  • British Giant
  • Giant Papillon
  • Continental Giant (white and coloured)

In addition, there are a few other rabbits that get quite large. These include:

  • French Lop
  • New Zealand White
  • Belgian Hare
  • English Lop

Let’s learn a bit more about a few of the giant breeds.

Flemish Giant Rabbit

Flemish Giant rabbits (also called Belgian Giant rabbits) are probably the most famous of the giant breeds. Flemish Giants date back to 1500, when Belgian rabbit breeders bred giant rabbits for meat and fur.

Breed standards were set in 1883, and in 1890, when Flemish Giant rabbit breeders first brought Flemish Giants to the United States. Their popularity really took off in 1910, though, after Giant Flemish rabbits began to appear at livestock shows and fairs.

Today, people still raise Flemish Giant rabbits for meat and fur. But these gentle giants are popular as pets, too.

The average Flemish giant rabbit weighs in at around 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms). Flemish giants are long and muscular. They’re considered a “semi arch” breed, as their backs have a noticeable, though not extreme arch.

A male flemish giant rabbit has a larger, broader head, while a female typically has a large dewlap.

Flemish giants have a thick, glossy “rollback” coat that comes in the following colours:

  • Black
  • Blue
  • Fawn
  • Sandy
  • Light gray
  • Steel gray
  • White

Flemish Giants are renowned for their calm, docile nature. For the right rabbit owner, a gentle giant Flemish rabbit can make an excellent pet. Flemish Giants are intelligent, and often get along well with other family pets.

British Giant Rabbit

British Giants are descended from Flemish Giant Rabbits. The breed dates back to the 1940s, when British rabbit breeders bred Flemish Giants that had been bred in Britain with Flemish Giants from the United States.

The result was a smaller giant that came in a wider variety of colours.

While Flemish Giant rabbits weigh an average of 15 pounds, 15 pounds is at the upper end of the spectrum for British Giants.

British Giants have a soft, dense coat; a broad, round face; and large, erect ears. Their bodies are wide, both in front and in the hindquarters. They come in a variety of colours, including steel grey, opal, sable, white, blue, and black.

Like Flemish Giant Rabbits, British Giants are calm, docile, and intelligent. They can also make great pets.

Continental Giant Rabbit

Another popular giant rabbit breed is the Continental Giant, otherwise known as the German Giant. The record for the largest Continental Giant Rabbit is four feet four inches (1.3 meters) in length and 53 pounds (24 kilograms) in weight.

Average Continental Giants, however, start at around 16 pounds (7.25 kilograms) and reach an average length of around three feet, which is just under one metre.

The Continental Giant is descended from the Flemish Giant. People have been breeding Continental Giant rabbits as a distinct breed since 1893. The Continental Giant Rabbit breed is recognised by the British Rabbit Council (BRC), but not by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA).

The Continental Giant Rabbit breed has two recognised variations: the White Continental Giant and the Coloured Continental Giant.

In the 1890s, the Continental Giant was brought from Europe to the United States as breeding stock for meat and fur rabbits.

The average Continental Giant rabbit is around three feet (1.3 metres) long and weighs around 25 pounds (11.3 kilograms).

Continental Giants tend to be sweet tempered and mellow. They’re intelligent, and can easily be litter trained, as well as taught to do tricks. A Continental Giant can make an excellent pet.

Caring For Giant Rabbits

You might think that the only difference between caring for giant rabbits and caring for other pet rabbits is the size of the food bag. You will have to buy more food. However, you will also need to supersize housing and exercise space. And if you’re keeping giant rabbits indoors, you’ll have to rethink rabbit proofing, as well.

Do Giant Rabbits Make Good Pets?

Overall, yes they do.

But they’re not the right pet for everyone.

Giant pet rabbits like the Flemish Giant and Continental Giant rabbits tend to be friendly, sociable, and even tempered. They get along well with children and other pets, and because of their size, it’s safer for them to do so.

caring for giant rabbits

At the same time, all rabbits may become nervous if frightened or mishandled. This can lead to scratches and bites, and big bunnies have big bites. So for this reason, always supervise any rabbit when it’s interacting with children.

Housing Your Big Bunny

For average sized rabbits, animal welfare organizations recommend a minimum hutch size of six feet long by two feet high by two feet deep. This is living space only; it doesn’t include the hutch.

Of course if you have a Flemish Giant or other giant breed, this is not nearly enough space.

Regardless of size, every rabbit needs a living space that is:

  • Tall enough for the bunny to stand on its hind legs without its ears touching the ceiling
  • Long enough from end to end for three hops
  • Wide enough for the rabbit to stretch out without touching the walls

Considering that many giant breeds reach four feet long lying down, you really can’t house them in a traditional rabbit hutch like other rabbit breeds. Instead, the PDSA recommends converting a shed or aviary for your big bunny. Many people also keep giant rabbits as house rabbits.

Speaking of house rabbits, rabbit proofing is a priority with giant bunnies.

Rabbits’ teeth never stop growing, which means that they love to chew. Rabbits may also chew out of frustration, boredom, stress, hormones (in the case of intact rabbits), or if they’re not getting enough exercise.

Some of favourite rabbit “snacks” include cords and cables, furniture legs, and baseboards. With an average sized rabbit, this can be a nuisance, but if you have a giant rabbit in the house, chewing can cause serious damage.

It can also harm your rabbit, if it ingests something sharp, poisonous, or large enough to choke on.

So if you’re keeping large rabbits inside, make sure to cover all cords and cables or lift them out of reach. Also cover furniture legs and baseboards. You can also treat some items with a rabbit safe chew deterrent.

How Much Does a Giant Rabbit Eat?

If you guessed “more than an average rabbit,” you’re right!

All rabbits should have an unlimited supply of high quality feeding hay. Of course big bunnies will require a bigger supply.

An average rabbit might eat one to two egg cups (25 to 50 grams) of pellet food. For a giant rabbit, make that five to seven egg cups (125 to 175 grams).

And when it comes to vegetables and leafy greens, forget the one to two handfuls of leafy greens your smaller rabbit might enjoy. Your giant rabbit will want three to five handfuls. And it’s not a bad recommendation for people, either.

Perhaps it’s easier to think of it in terms of proportions. Regardless of size, every rabbit needs a diet that is at least 70 to 80 percent hay, no more than ten percent treats, and no more than ten percent high quality rabbit pellets.

Can You Litter Train a Giant Rabbit?

Absolutely!

Many giant breeds are intelligent and love to learn new things. On top of that, rabbits in general are fastidious and clean.

You will need a larger litter box, but you can train your giant rabbit to use it. Check out our step by step litter box training guide here.

Do Giant Rabbits Need a Lot of Exercise?

All rabbits need a lot of exercise. Ideally, every rabbit should have all-day access to a generous, protected exercise space, like a run.

The problem is not that giant rabbits need more exercise than other breeds. They don’t. However, they do need a lot more space to do their exercise.

An enclosed commercial rabbit run is too small for giant rabbits. You could build your own super run, or invest in a large commercial run for large pets. Just make sure to dig-proof your run (or any outdoor enclosure), as many rabbits are accomplished escape artists.

Should You Keep a Giant Rabbit Alone?

Rabbits, including big ones, are social creatures. Wild rabbits live in groups, and studies have shown that pet rabbits more often than not will choose a visit with another rabbit over a food treat.

We understand that in the case of a giant breed, keeping a pair may be a bit more difficult than keeping a pair of smaller bunnies. However, in most cases, your bug bunny will be happier in a pair than alone.

Some individuals may prefer to live alone. This is often true of rabbits who have been bullied by other rabbits or abused by previous owners. In these cases, plenty of loving human interaction can give a solo rabbit the social life it needs.

But by and large, every rabbit needs a rabbit friend.

How Long Does a Giant Rabbit Live?

Giant rabbits, like giant breed dogs, tend to have a much shorter lifespan than their smaller cousins. While you might expect an average sized domestic rabbit to live eight to ten years, many giant breeds live only four to five years.

Giant Rabbit Health Issues

There are some definite health issues that come with being a big bunny. If you’re considering bringing a giant breed rabbit into your home, it’s important to be aware of them.

Pododermatitis (Sore Hocks)

Did you know that when standing and sitting, rabbits carry their entire weight on their toes? It’s true. At rest, that weight sits on a rabbit’s hocks. When a rabbit hops, the pressure is transferred from the toes to the hocks.

This is normal, and in average sized rabbits, it doesn’t cause problems. But a giant rabbit’s weight can lead to pressure sores, skin inflammation, loss of fur, and displacement of the tendons. Environmental factors, such as wet bedding (or no bedding) or metallic grid floors can add to the problem.

Pododermatitis is a bacterial infection of the feet and hocks.

Pododermatitis has six stages. If caught during the first three stages, it’s treatable. The stages are:

  • Stage 1: Fur loss on the toes, reddened skin
  • Stage 2: Calluses form on the toes
  • Stage 3: Skin becomes white and crusty
  • Stage 4: Skin cracks and releases a viscous liquid
  • Stage 5: Fluid and blood impregnate the cracked skin
  • Stage 6: Ulceration

If your rabbit seems to have trouble or pain during walking, lowers its activity levels, becomes more nervous than usual, or refuses to eat, check its feet. Then pay a visit to the vet.

Arthritis

Arthritis can affect any rabbit, but giant rabbits are sometimes more prone to it, due to the pressure that their weight exerts on their joints. Arthritis can strike a rabbit at any age, though average sized rabbits over six years of age are more likely to be affected. Giant rabbits, due to their weight, are often affected at an earlier age.

Symptoms include a reduction in normal activity, wobbling, limping, dirty bottom, eating caecotrophs from the floor (rather than directly from the bottom), loss of appetite, and new aggression toward you or toward its hutch-mates.

Arthritis can often be managed well with pain relief medication.

Spondylosis Deformans

Spondylosis Deformans is a degenerative condition of the spine that often affects heavy rabbits — this includes not just obese rabbits, but large breed bunnies of normal weight.

This condition causes non-cancerous tumours to form along the spinal column. Some rabbits will feel no pain, but for others, it can be quite painful. Symptoms include:

  • Obesity
  • Weakness of the rear limbs
  • Hair loss or flaking
  • Matted fur or wet fur on the underside
  • Buildup of ear wax (due to the fact that grooming is painful)

Spondylosis can be managed with pain relief medication, and treated, in the case of obese rabbits, with diet and exercise.

Heart Problems

Giant rabbits can also be prone to different types of heart trouble.

Cardiomyopathy, in particular, is much more common in large rabbits than in small ones. Cardiomyopathy thickens the muscle of the heart. This, in turn, makes the heart much less efficient at pumping blood. Dilated cardiomyopathy not only thickens the heart, but weakens it.

Cardiomyopathy is one major cause of sudden death in large rabbits.

Flystrike

Flystrike can affect any rabbit. Flystrike happens when flies lay their eggs on a rabbit’s skin, particularly around the backside, then the maggots burrow into the rabbit’s skin. It’s extremely painful and can turn deadly in a matter of hours.

Giant rabbits are more prone to flystrike than average sized rabbits for a number of reasons.

First, many giant rabbits have a large dewlap. This dewlap can prevent proper grooming of the rear end. This, in turn, can attract flies and lead to flystrike.

Arthritis can make grooming painful, and since large rabbits are more vulnerable to arthritis, and at an earlier age, this, too, can put them at greater risk of flystrike.

Keep an eye on your giant rabbit’s rear end. Help them to clean themselves when necessary. Keep their litter box and enclosure clean at all times. And if you see maggots on or near your rabbit, it’s time to go to the vet.

Your vet may recommend preventative products such as RearGuard. Fly netting may also help to keep flies out of your giant rabbit’s outdoor enclosure.

Are You Ready for a Big Bunny?

Big rabbits can be big fun. But they can also be a huge responsibility. Like every rabbit, giant breed rabbits need enough space for living and exercise, a healthy rabbit diet, mental stimulation, and lots of love and interaction from their human families. On top of that, most rabbits also need at least one rabbit friend.

Are you up for the challenge?

Do you keep large breed rabbits? What are the main things people need to think about before taking the plunge?

Jess Faraday

Jess Faraday is a longtime bunny lover and a mom to a succession of rescue rabbits. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience and hopes that it will make the world a better place for bunnies

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