“Continental Giant Rabbit” started off as an umbrella term for any of the European giant rabbit breeds imported to America for meat.
Today, though, the White Continental Giant Rabbit and the Colored Continental Giant Rabbit are much loved pets and friendly household companions.
To say they’ve come a long way is an understatement!
Continental Giant Rabbit
Do you just love the big, fluffy Continental Giant Rabbit? These huge bunnies are extra adorable!
But, if you’re thinking of getting one as a pet, what is it that you need to know? If these big lagomorphs are that much bigger than regular bunny breeds, do they need extra care?
What are their personalities like? And what are their health needs? What issues should you know about?
Let’s take a look at Continental Giant Rabbits and find out all about them. We’ll answer these questions and more!
Where Does The Continental Giant Rabbit Come From?
Sometimes called Contis for short, Continental Giant Rabbits are actually under a collective name for a bunch of breeds of rabbits.
The name was originally given to certain Giant breeds that originated in Germany. Once they started getting imported to other countries, the imported rabbits became Continental.
You’ll find that there are many Giant breeds with nationalities in their names – like the Flemish Giant, or the Spanish Giant, or the German Giant.
Each of the different Giant breeds can have origins in different countries, but each country-specific Giant breed has a particular trait that’s individual to it.
For example, Belgians are known for more pointed muzzles and flatter bodies. Flemish Giants are known for the arch of their bodies and narrow ears.
The word Continental is sometimes used for all these breeds together, and was first used to denote show-quality bunnies. So the lineage of different Contis is actually pretty diverse.
Originally, though, Continental Giants are descended from Flemish rabbits and first documented in 1893. They are often called German Giants.
These giant bunnies were first bred as meat. And that’s why they were first imported into the US – to create larger, more meaty rabbits.
Fun Facts About The Continental Giant Rabbit
The longest living rabbit recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records is a Continental Giant from the UK named Darius, who was over 50 pounds and about 4’4” long.
His son, Jeff, was on track to beat his dad for the record, and in 2016 was said to be 55 pounds and 4’ 5” long.
But in 2017, Jeff died on a United Airlines flight as he traveled from the UK to Chicago. The well-publicized event shone a light on the airline’s pet transportation policies.
Continental Giants are recognized as a breed by the British Rabbit Council, but not by the American Rabbit Breeders Association. That means you can’t show them in the U.S.
Technically, there are two varieties of the Continental Giant Rabbit – the White Continental and the Colored Continental.
Continental Giant Rabbit Appearance
Continental Giants are usually over 26 inches long, averaging over 3 feet in length! They weigh 12 pounds at a minimum, but often weigh 16+ pounds.
They give an appearance of power, with big heads, well-developed cheeks and alert eyes. Their ears are held upright.
Generally, those ears are about 25 percent of their body length.
Colors acceptable for the Colored version of this breed include:
- dark steel (gray merging to slate blue)
- light steel (gray merging to sandy or brown)
- agouti (chestnut with black ticking over orange band and dark slate undercolor)
- red agouti (darker chestnut with black ticking over orange band and dark slate)
- opal (pale blue over fawn band and slate)
White Continental Giants may have a lighter bone density than colored ones. White Giants can have pink or blue eyes.
Continental Giant Rabbit Temperament
Continental Giant rabbits are said to very docile, with good temperaments and friendly natures.
They are often considered to be calm, intelligent, and easy to train. They’ll use a litter tray and come when their name is called!
While some believe that smaller rabbits may be easier to handle, that may not be the case.
After all, as prey animals, most bunnies generally do not like to be held, and Continental Giants are at least easy to find!
Continental Giant Rabbit Health
As with big dogs, big rabbits tend to have a shorter lifespan than their smaller counterparts. The expected lifespan for a Continental Giant is 5-7 years.
Because of their size, Continental Giant rabbits do suffer from certain conditions more than other rabbits.
Note that Giant Rabbits may overheat easily. Also, obesity may become an issue.
These large and lovable rabbits may easily contract pododermatitis, or sore hocks.
The hock is a joint in the hind leg between the keen and the fetlock, which bends backward. It’s the corollary to the human ankle.
In giant rabbits, hocks can develop pain when pressure is applied to them. They are more prone to it than small rabbits because of their heavier weight.
Use soft and thick bedding on adequate flooring for your rabbits to prevent this. Check your bunny’s feet and legs daily.
Continental Giants are also prone to arthritis and spondylosis, or osteoarthritis. This affects the spine.
You will see your rabbit slowing down. They may also shuffle on hind limbs.
A rabbit with osteoarthritis may have a rear end that doesn’t stay clean. Urine and fecal matter may start to build up.
This condition can be managed with medication, so you’ll have to visit the vet.
Older and obese rabbits are especially at risk for fly strike, especially if they can’t clean themselves.
Any rabbits that have trouble grooming that area can experience a buildup of fecal matter on their backsides that lead to fly strike. This is because of the extra moisture, warmth, and odor.
Basically, flies lay eggs in the rabbit’s skin, then burrow inside the flesh. The rabbit can suffer shock from a maggot infestation.
Symptoms of fly strike include itchy skin and seizures, along with listlessness. If your rabbit shows signs of fly strike, get to a veterinarian right away.
General Rabbit Health
Giant rabbits can also suffer from conditions that all rabbits are at risk for. These include the following.
GI Tract Stasis
Gastrointestinal stasis is common in rabbits, which can quickly turn deadly.
This condition causes the digestive system to slow or stop completely. A rabbit suffering GI stasis stops eating, drinking and defecating, and may develop gas and bloating.
This dehydrates and starves the rabbit further, making it even more difficult for the rabbit to pass waste.
If you see these signs, and if your rabbit seems lethargic, get to a veterinarian immediately to determine the underlying cause, which may be tooth issues, diet, stress, lack of exercise, or something else.
Also, a vet can help treat your bunny through antibiotics, motility drugs, IV fluids, pain medication, or gas-relieving medication. The doctor may also recommend syringe-feeding.
Rabbits’ teeth grow throughout their lives. The teeth wear down when used to chew their regular diets.
However, some bunnies do inherit malocclusion, leading to overgrowth. Or they may develop it because of an improper diet.
This can cause problems in eating and drinking, along with abscesses, GI tract stasis, and runny eyes (overgrowth can affect the tear duct).
Symptoms include matted fur (from salivating), weight loss, teeth grinding, swelling, and eye issues.
Your vet can help file teeth down, so see your specialist if this occurs.
This is a common disease in wild rabbits in the UK, spreading through fleas and mosquitoes.
In the UK and other parts of the world, rabbits are vaccinated against it. Myxomatosis isn’t common in the US, so there is no vaccination available.
However, outbreaks occasionally occur in Oregon, California, and Mexico near the coast.
Basically, it’s a virus that can be fatal to rabbits. There’s a 99 percent mortality rate in domestic rabbits, and no cure.
Other Rabbit Health Considerations
With all rabbits, make sure to watch for:
- ear and eye problems
- head tilt
Other more serious problems that rabbits may get include:
- snuffles (a respiratory infection)
- Tyzzer’s disease
- bladder stones
- viral hemorrhagic disease (VHD).
It is important to get rabbits spayed and neutered. For female rabbits, this staves off health issues such as uterine cancer. In male rabbits, it can improve behavior.
Caring For A Continental Giant
A giant rabbit requires a much larger place to live than smaller rabbits. Vets recommend that their housing space should allow them to take at least three consecutive hops in one direction at one time.
This means their secure living area must be at least 12-20 feet square. Thus, giant rabbits should have access to large sheds or really big cages or hutches.
Alternatively, they should live life as a house rabbit.
If you choose to go this route, make sure to bunny-proof your home. This is best for your belongings and for your bunny’s health!
Giant rabbits, like all rabbits, do better in pairs or groups, so you might have to consider getting at least two. And make sure they have plenty of chewable toys!
Grooming And Feeding
Continental Giant rabbits have glossy, thick coats. They are dense and have a soft undercoat.
They will require regular grooming. This is especially the case for larger breeds.
And as they get older, you’ll have to be even more vigilant about care of the fur. As they age and develop arthritis or obesity, it’s harder for them to groom themselves.
Feeding a giant rabbit requires copious amounts of hay! They need it for digestion.
You should also feed them pelleted food designed for bunnies. Go easy on sweets.
Do Continental Giant Rabbits Make Good Family Pets?
It all depends on the family, of course.
Giant rabbits have good temperaments for home life.
A Continental Giant can make a wonderful, dog-like pet, but only for a family that can provide proper care.
Generally, rabbits are not recommended as pets for families with small children who don’t understand how to care for animals. Families with some previous rabbit experience would be better owners for a Continental Giant.
That’s because their size makes them hard to handle for young kids. And they will scratch and kick if people handle them in an uncomfortable way.
Not only does this damage the person, but it can cause fatal spinal or limb breakages in fragile rabbits. Just because they’re bigger doesn’t mean they can deal with rougher handling.
Rescuing A Continental Giant Rabbit
Of course, rescuing any animal from a shelter is a desirable thing to do, since you’re giving a rabbit a home.
Continental Giant rabbits are often in demand, making it harder to find rescue bunnies.
But it is possible, with patience. Just keep an eye out for media reports! It can be news when a Giant bunny enters a shelter.
Remember though, with Giant rescue bunnies, you won’t necessarily have many options in terms of health, personality, or age.
Start with this list of independent rabbit rescues from the House Rabbit Society.
Finding A Baby Continental Giant Rabbit
Breeders do exist! If you are looking for a Continental Giant rabbit, start with an online search here.
Just remember that you’ll have to pay a premium for this big and beautiful bun. And make sure to vet your breeder properly.
Other breeds you might wish to consider, if you like Continental Giants, include:
- Flemish Giant
- Belgian Giant
- Giant Angora
- Checkered Giant.
If you prefer a smaller rabbit, consider the Belgian Hare, which tops out at about 9 pounds, or the English Spot, at up to 8 pounds.
Both types or rabbit are friendly, calm, and sweet, and might offer you a similar temperament with fewer of the problems associated with size.
Is A Continental Giant Right For Me?
Big bunnies are cute, and Continental Giants are the cutest!
If you want a big bunny, just make sure you can handle this pet’s needs as well as its size. A bit of experience raising bunnies is helpful
Continental Giants can be very devoted, sweet pets. Do you want one? Do you have one? Let us know in the comments!
References and Resources
- Rabbitpedia, Continental Giant Rabbit.
- The British Rabbit Council, Mono Breed Standards Book.
- Guinness World Records, Longest rabbit (living).
- Moodie, C. (2016). Meet the world’s longest rabbit Jeff – who is the same size as the average seven-year-old. The Mirror.
- Bowerman, M. Giant rabbits apparently make great pets. USA Today Network.
- American Rabbit Breeders Association, Recognized Breeds.
- Harriman, M. Fly Strike. House Rabbit Society.
- My House Rabbit, GI Stasis in Rabbits: A Deadly Condition.
- Martin, A. et al (2018). Myxomatosis in the US. House Rabbit Society.
- My House Rabbit, Myxomatosis: Vaccination.
- Woodcroft Veterinary Group Ltd., Overgrown Teeth in Rabbits.
- House Rabbit Society, Viral Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease.
- Dixon, L. M. et al (2010). The effects of spatial restruction on the behavior of rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 5(6).
- E. Mancinelli et al (2014). Husbandry risk factors associated with hock pododermatitis in rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Veterinary Record, 174(17).
- Lebas, F et al (1997). The rabbit – Husbandry, health and production. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 21.