Insta’s @mallowandstorm encourages me to write on rabbits. Analogously, I encouraged a foremost breeder of the African grey parrot to commit more of her valuable legacy to print. So I have no excuse for not writing myself about Flemish Giants, and rabbits in general.
Flemish Giant show rabbit champs typically weigh substantially more than the defining 14 pounds for a senior doe and 13 pounds for a senior buck. My stock exhibited more style and form than bulk, but even so, Bronson, last of the line, weighed in at 22 pounds. Guenther, HR622, stud par excellence, weighed in at only 17.5 pounds.
Larger in bone structure than flightier breeds, bred initially for fur, meat and friendship, Flemish Giants even today may score two points out of 100 for a “reposeful gaze”. That placid eye reflects a certain pride good breeders hold: no self- respecting FG breeder breeds a Flemish that has bitten. Hence the well- known nickname, the Gentle Giant. But the reposeful gaze reflects yet deeper truths about Flemish.
My first Flemish revolutionized my idea of Rabbit. Guileless, Ben was always the first rabbit to hop across the rabbit room to greet as soon as I entered. Flemish are largely unfazed before “threats” that scatter smaller rabbits. This means they can enjoy a wider range of experiences without reflexive instinct raising their adrenaline, as if conscious that their larger size diminishes threats from the usual predators. Thus, a Flemish in a harness happily will charge across an open field whereas a smaller rabbit ducks for cover into the nearest bushes.
The confidence and poise of the Flemish runs deeper yet. Above the nose, running parallel with the teeth in the upper jaw, grooves in either side of the skull cradle the nerves that mediate the bulk of rabbit intimacy with humans and their own species. Touch along the nerves is highly pleasurable for rabbits. In rabbit etiquette, subordinate rabbits approach in submissive postures, “requesting permission to groom,” or rather, cultivating a secure status in the herd.
Letting memory sift through nostalgia, my contemplation comes to rest in the earthen innards of a pre-Civil War bank-built barn near Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. Guenther’s broad, satin-like sandy forehead and Bessie’s softer and fluffier nose brought consolation and peace midst marital tempest like nothing before or after. God’s hope penetrated the most desolate of circumstances from those foreheads direct through my fingertips. To this day, I find nothing more restorative than stroking the broad, strong forehead of a Flemish.
For instance, five months after my father died precipitously from a “widow-maker” heart attack, Bronson, cherished Flemish, also released his soul quietly into the silence. Without Bronson and our evening cuddling sessions, I no longer knew how to unwind from busy days at the office. The house, also, just didn’t feel like home without the calm, cheerful presence of a mature Flemish.
It took four months working connections in the Flemish breeding community to acquire a comparable quality sandy buck. In fact, I had ultimately to go international– Forrest, the new Flemish, hails from Canada.
Restoring peace of mind is more complex than merely obtaining a sturdy, healthy Flemish. Forrest was relatively mature– seven months mostly spent solely in the breeder’s rabbitry. Like Guenther, my star stud buck, Forrest had experienced a minimum of interaction with people, and he was reaching the vexatious age of Flemish puberty to boot. Myself the “mega-doe” of our houserabbit herd, I had the advantage of Forrest’s surging hormones motivating social approaching females. Forrest, despite himself, fell in love with me. The sight of my blond hair inevitably inspired him to try to leap on my head. As bucks often nip to hang on while mating, I came away with a few bites and shorn locks, but was content in this familiar process.
Now nearly 18 months of age, Forrest has matured amazingly! His broad forehead and sturdy ear base contentedly bow and receive my adoring noserubs. The calm and satisfaction Forrest exudes leave me laughingly recalling how Bronson, even at the age of two, would mischievously evade such intimacy.
Last night, fifteen months after losing Bronson, I for the first time could sink into peaceful revelry via the precious forehead of an affectionate Flemish. How well did I sleep last night.