Growing up, rabbits often became our pets at Easter time. However, many of us learned over the years there’s a concern pertaining to the pet ownership of these fluffy creatures, since they are also one of the most abandoned pets in the U.S.. As third in popularity to cats and dogs, they are subject to neglect and run the threat of being discarded after the holiday — not allowing them to live out their 10-12 year average lifespans. It’s unfortunate, because as ubiquitous as rabbits are [pertaining to their well-known breeding habits], these animals make great long-term pets. Perhaps giant rabbits are the answer, as they are beginning to become one of the more preferable breeds.
Giant Rabbits getting the jump on things . . .
A lot of folks think smaller bunnies are easier to handle than larger breeds. However, that's not necessarily the case, according to Eric Stewart, Executive Director of American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA), Inc., when asked about giant rabbits and whether they are good pets.
"The giant breeds are really rewarding as well," Stewart said. “(They) may not always be the first rabbit someone thinks of for a companion animal, but they actually have some of best temperaments and have a very docile nature."
The Flemish Giant rabbit for example can grow and grow and grow. While some max out at 20-30 pounds, Stewart notes they have “no maximum weight” restriction.
Their popularity is evidenced by breeders selling them for $30 (backyard variety) on upwards of $400 or more for purebred giants which can compete in state and national contests.
"There are individuals that have harnesses, leashes and take their rabbits on walks and with ARBA we have competition for rabbit hopping with course jumps," he said. "Some rabbits that are just born to jump and love going through the courses and over the hurdles."
Fee-fi-fo-fum, where do these Giants come from?
Both Continental and British giants are descended from European meat and fur breeds, including the Belgian Steenkonijn and the large Patagonian rabbit which is now said to be extinct.
The Flemish breed is the precursor to many of the breeds known today and was imported from the UK and Europe to develop bigger animals during the 'rabbit boom' which took place in America all the way back, in the 1890s. This breed then began to make an appearance at small agricultural shows throughout the US in the early 20th Century.
Today, giants are very popular both as pets and as show animals due to their docile dispositions, as well as their many and varied coat colors.
Do they make good pets?
Due to their calm disposition and sweet personalities, while giant rabbits do make good pets, they may not be the best pets for young or inexperienced owners. Differing from cats and dogs, they can be too tame for kids who seek a higher level of engagement from a pet.
Also, their size requires special handling to ensure correct spinal alignment. Incorrect or irresponsible handling may cause the animal to become frightened or even aggressive and given their size, this may not work well with youngsters.
Because of their larger stature, they do require substantial living accommodation and consideration should be given to this when thinking about giving a giant a home.
Some may find their breeding habits an impediment as well. Since rabbits have a short gestation period of between 28-31 days, with most giving birth on days 30-32, you might not want to own a pair.
Giants produce litters of 5-12 kits. The breeding season for a doe is around nine months and kits are generally weaned at four or five weeks of age. Remarkably this means a single doe can produce up to 800 children, grandchildren and great grandchildren in one breeding season.
So, should you want to prevent this from happening, check with your veterinarian regarding having your giant altered or neutered . . . less your home becomes over-run with hopping bunnies underfoot, 24-7.