German giant rabbits were once believed to be things of legend and lore, but in 2007, a giant rabbit by the name of Robert took the pet world by storm. The prodigious blimp of a bunny weighed in at a whopping 23 pounds and when held on its hind legs, it was the size of a five year old child.
German Giant Characteristics
German Giants are similar to British Giant rabbits, and both of these rabbits were bred from Flemish Giants, but they do have certain tell-tale differences. For instance, the German Giant is larger and heavier than the British Giant. German Giants also feature a rounder body whereas the British version has a broader front and hind quarters.
As far as color goes, German Greys are predominantly steel grey in color; hence the name. However, some rabbits in this breed can feature black or bluish markings. Modern breeders are always working to bring new colors into the mix through intensive breeding programs.
Temperament and Health Issues
German Greys are very docile pets when cared for and handled properly. However, they tend to frighten easily, and this can sometimes cause them to react by biting and scratching.
According to the National Federation of Flemish Giant Rabbit Breeders (NFFGRB), large breed rabbits are susceptible to certain intestinal parasitic or bacterial infections, especially when fed an improper diet. According to Flemish Giant and Company, giant rabbits are also susceptible to spinal problems, such as spondylosis.
While larger breeds of rabbits tend to live a shorter than usual rabbit lifespan, German Giants are an exception. These rabbits enjoy an average lifespan of 12 years, whereas other large rabbit breeds like the British Giant only average about half of that.
Lifestyle Needs of a German Giant
German Giant rabbits require a tremendous amount of room in which to roam in order for them to get the exercise they need to stay healthy. Many owners allow their rabbits to walk the house freely while providing them with a large dog crate for sleeping and eating. Rabbits, like cats, will excrete in a single spot in their cage, so litter training them can be easily accomplished. With a rabbit of this size, this is important.
Giant German rabbits enjoy the company of other rabbits, but they don't have to be other Giants. They will get along just as well with a regular-sized bunny. Care should be taken when introducing the Giant to other animals, however; and neutering is important if you don't want to be stuck with a lot of babies.
Feeding a giant rabbit a proper diet is one of the keys to ensuring it lives a long, healthy life. These pets can quickly become overweight if fed a high-fat diet and this will result in joint problems, heart problems and other health issues. Long hay should make up the bulk of the rabbit's diet with complete pellets included for balance. Also important in a giant rabbit's diet is a variety of vegetables, greens and ReadiGrass, a high protein food that's effective at helping minimize health problems. Some Giants can eat between a half a bale and a full bale of hay a week.
Large rabbit breeds like the German Giant are not as dextrous as smaller-breed rabbits, so grooming often becomes the owner's responsibility. German Giants have a thick, fluffy coat that tends to lose a lot of fluff during the molting season. Owners need to comb the molt off of the rabbit regularly to avoid the animal ingesting it and developing hairballs. In addition, as the rabbit ages, its rear end will be in constant need of cleaning in order to remain dry and clean because these rabbits tend to drag their back end once arthritis starts to set in.
Origin of the German Giant
German Giant rabbits are descendants of the Flemish Giant breed of rabbit. A very old breed of domestic rabbit, Flemish Giants are known to have been around since the 16th Century, and they are believed to have originated in or near the city of Ghent, Belgium. German Giants are not currently considered a recognized breed of rabbit, but rather, the term applies to rabbits that were bred from Flemish Giants. In some parts of the world, these rabbits are called German Greys.
German Giant Rabbits as Pets
German Giants are wonderful pets that in many ways blur the line between a rabbit and a cat or dog. These large bunnies feel right at home being one of the family and a primary part of the family's everyday life, whereas their smaller cousins are predominantly left in their cages for the bulk of their existence. Unlike small breed rabbits, a German Giant is more likely to enjoy cuddling up next to its owner, going for walks outside and having free run of the house.
Will This Rabbit Suit Your Lifestyle?
While these rabbits are fun, interesting and beautiful, they do require a lot of care. So before you get lured in by their big, brown eyes and soft, fluffy fur, consider the expense (for food) and the commitment you're going to have to make to ensure this rabbit gets the care it deserves before you purchase one for your family. On the other hand, if you're ready and willing for the job, you're going to enjoy this giant, loveable bunny.