Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Continental-British-German-Flemish Giant Explained

(Continental Giant buck, Light Steel, photo by David Boggis of Ipswich, England)
There are recurring questions about the Continental-British-German-Flemish Giant rabbit breeds.

Below are responses from Judge Judy Le Marchant of British Rabbit Council (BRC) that have been posted to the Rarebreedrabbits group on yahoogroups. These messages answer the most common questions about the origins of the names and the breed. I am cross posting here for convenient reference. Judy has given permission to share her messages in the interest of education which is after all why she posted them in the first place! Thank you Judy!

Rare Breed Rabbits on yahoogroups

Feb 1 2009 posted to Rarebreed Rabbits Yahoogroup

Hi from England. I have watched the discussions on Continental Giants and
importing to the USA with increasing anxiety.

First, the "Continental Giant". This is the UK name for the Flemish Giants
that we import from the CONTINENT!! - i.e. mainland Europe. We have a
"Flemish Giant" of our own which was isolated for many years (very strict
quarantine laws), so changed type, coat, colour and size. When we were
allowed to import again (quite recently), we fetched rabbits in from all
over Europe, wherever we had contacts. They do show some national
variations, but are all big rabbits with good bone, tight flesh and hard
coats. Rather than have standards for Belgian Giants, Dutch Giants, French
Giants, German Giants, Swiss Giants, etc etc etc - our Breed Standards
Committee imposed one standard for all the Giant imports, based on the
Europa standard used at European international shows. So our "Continental
Giant" is an import, kept in small numbers only. That is why we in the UK
charge so much for it - we have only just gone through all that trouble and
expense ourselves, so if someone in the USA wants to buy from us, what a
great opportunity to claw back some of the costs. I hate to spoil the fun
for my fellow UK breeders, but really - you in the USA should be buying as
we do, direct from the top European breeders.

Then the history of Giant rabbits - they all derive from the original and
best, the Flemish Giant from Flanders (that is what "Flemish" means) which
is part of Belgium. So the Belgian Flemish Giant is the original for all the
European, UK and American Giant rabbits. The Belgians are justly proud of
this and naturally think theirs are still the best for type; In Belgium and
the Netherlands they are bred for the European type, sitting up at the front
with long bones and ears, with a graceful semi arch body. Eastern Europe has
concentrated on size, producing massive rabbits with very heavy bone and
bold round heads - less beautiful in my opinion but the place to go if you
want to add bone. And remember, any outcross will add size to a Giant in the
first generation (I have seen a Belgian Hare cross that was bigger than its
Giant mother); it takes careful selection and time to set a strain that
consistently produces winners.

Finally - how to meet those European breeders? Well you have the perfect
opportunity this year. Bob Whitman has mentioned Europashow; this is the
all-Europe small livestock show, held every 3 years in a different country.
This is a Europa year; the show will be held 20-22 November in Nitra,
Slovakia. You will see the very best adult stock from all over Europe and be
able to pick the right "Continental Giant" to improve your home grown
Flemish Giants. Take a look
Judy Le Marchant

 Nov 25 2008
msg # 14547

I think you may have misread the weight. I have in front of me the Giant
rabbit breed standards of Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium
(who created the breed), the Nordic countries, and France. In every country,
the maximum points for weight are given to anything over 7 kg (15 and 1/2
pounds). Not every exhibit makes that so the average weight may be less, say
14 pounds.

And the type is much the same as the US Flemish; it is the pose that
differs. As I showed in an article in Domestic Rabbits a few years ago, the
best giants can look splendid in any of the 3 poses, up at the front
(mainland Europe), up at the rump (America) and a low mound (UK). What does
differ is the weaknesses hidden by the pose, that show up in lesser examples
of the breed. If you buy a giant from Germany you will get a big chest and
huge ears, but you may also get narrow hindquarters and a chopped rump, not
to mention a rubbish coat if you buy from someone who was breeding them for
weight alone. Sadly there are no free lunches, even in the rabbit world.
Judy Le Marchant
(PS 9kg is 20 pounds, not 23)

Feb 10 2006

OK, listen up folks.

There are several giant breeds in Europe and the UK, all more or less related. Each country has its own standards and may recognise its own home grown breeds or ones brought in from another country. ALSO (and this is important) there is a Europa standard, used for international shows where rabbits from several countries compete - this, of course, is a compromise.

In mainland Europe most countries have one Flemish Giant type breed. Belgium, The Netherlands and France have the Vlaamse Reus or Géant des Flandres (Flemish Giant), Germany has the Deutches Reisen (German Giant), the Swiss have the Swiss Giant etc etc. The Europa standard is for the "Giant" rabbit and does not distinguish between national variants - anyone showing at an international show, or at a show outside their own country, selects those of their stock that best meet the standard being used at the show (which is not necessarily what would win at home).

When giant rabbits were imported into the UK they came in 2 waves. The first wave became isolated when we started quarantine for animal imports. As a result they separated from the rest of Europe and became a flat backed rabbit with a very thick coat. This then separated (breeders' squabble) into two breeds, the Flemish Giant (UK style) which is dark steel only and no longer so big, and the British Giant which is multi-coloured and larger, but still flat backed and with that heavy coat.

Many years later, the import controls were lifted and we rushed to Europe to buy more giants - but we bought them from all over Europe. So the British Breed Standards Committee (in order to be fair to everyone) applied the Europa standard, and called the new imports the Continental Giant to distinguish them from our existing and long established breeds. So we are in the strange position in the UK of having 3 breeds based on the Flemish Giant, with the one called Continental being nearest to your American Flemish. (The term "foundation" on that site refers to that breeder's stock, not to a breed.)

And you should ignore our press. We have a breeder who managed to persuade the Guinness Book of Records to record one of her fat old does as "the biggest rabbit in the world". Of course, every village idiot is now trying to beat the record. Guinness are so alarmed at the health implications of rabbits fattened like prize porkers that they have decided not to list individual animals on size any more.
Judy Le Marchant

Nov 23 2005


British Giants are our version of the Flemish Giant, developed by a
famous breeder many years ago. They are heavily muscled but with a very
flat body type, almost like a massive Himalayan, and an extremely think
coarse coat. The national breed club will tell you that they should not
be as big as the American Flemish if they are "pure", because in our
small island they have become very inbred. Some breeders have crossed
them with the Continental Giant (the Flemish Giant in mainland Europe)
and produced some very big rabbits - look on this home page at "Dancer"
and the steel BRC Supreme Champion "Milton's Drury's Dread" for the
typical pose and type, but NOT the typical size!!

The Perlfee (Parelfeh in its home country) is an opal with a lot of
blond ticking and, when in coat, a wonderful thick roll back coat. They
are very solid rabbits with a smooth topline to show off the sleek coat.
The type, colour and coat are all distinctive in a good specimen,
although I daresay a crossbred opal might look similar to someone who
has never seen the real thing. Look here under
kleindier-fotos/konijnen/midden rassen for the typical colour and
ticking, type and pose:

And if you want to wind up more conventional US breeders, take them on
the same site to papillon driekleur (tri-colour English) to see what I
am playing with just now.

Judy Le Marchant

-----Original Message-----
From: "whipstaff_rabbitry"
I just love the big bunnies- My Flemish are like big puppies and are so
gentle. I saw some photos of British giants, who are supposed to be
bigger and have a different pose. Anyone here got some info on them?