The Flemish Giant is one of the largest rabbit breeds, alongside breeds including the Checkered Giant and Beveren. Flemish Giants were used to create the British Giant breed in the 1940s. It originated in 16th century Flanders (the northern, Dutch-speaking region of Belgium). Some of its ancestors are said to be the Steenkonijn (Stone Rabbit) and now-extinct European Pantagonian (not to be confused with the still-existing Argentinean Pantagonian).
The first breed standards were written in 1893, around the time it was exported from Belgium and England to the U.S. to try to improve the size of meat rabbits. Around 1910, the breed began gaining real attention when it appeared at many small livestock shows around the U.S. In 1915, the National Federation of Flemish Giant Rabbit Breeders was created, and the breed has today grown to become one of the most popular rabbit breeds.
Flemish Giant next to a Shetland Sheepdog, Copyright Stamtisclan
Fully-grown, Flemish Giants weigh about 15 pounds, and can weigh up to 22 pounds. It takes about a year and a half for them to reach their full size. The longest Flemish Giant on record was about 32 inches long. They come in fawn, black, sandy, blue, white, light grey, and steel grey.
Flemish Giants are very docile and loving, though they need frequent handling and interaction with humans to do this. Just like all rabbits, improper handling or sudden noises and movements can scare them and lead to aggression.
My characters Eszter, Marie, and Caterina discover a Flemish Giant named Schatzi about four days after they escape into a large, well-stocked house near Hannover. Schatzi and a baby mouse (whom they name Nessa) were abandoned when the owners fled from the approaching Allies. At first, Eszter wants to kill Schatzi for food, but Marie says the rabbit wants to live as badly as they do, and even has a name in her cage.
Nessa and Schatzi come along with them and their friends on their travels through newly-liberated Europe, and help to heal these young survivors’ wounded hearts and souls. When they’re living on a strawberry farm in Béziers, France (run by Eclaireuses et Eclaireurs Israélites de France, a Jewish scouting organisation), Schatzi is accidentally bred with a Checkered Giant. Nessa is also accidentally bred.
In America, Eszter and her husband Jákob start a mousery and rabbitry based on these original litters, and are able to support themselves with this business. Schatzi dies in June 1959, and Nessa dies in late 1948, soon after their arrival in America. When Eszter’s family and friends flee to Morristown after the Newark Riots of July 1967, Nessa and Schatzi are disinterred and reburied in their new backyard.
P.S.: Since Easter is coming up, I urge all my readers to NOT buy their kids real rabbits, chicks, ducklings, or goslings! Click on the below buttons for more information on this very important message.