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Almost every person, at one point or another, considers buying a pet for themselves and/or their family. It’s a big responsibility – you have to feed it, care for it, make sure it stays healthy, help it when it’s sick, and ultimately provide for an additional living thing in your house.
However, for most, the effort is worth it. Great pets provide us with comfort when we need it most, they stay by your side no matter what the circumstances, they can be there for you when no one else is, and more recently, some pets even serve as emotional support to those who require it. A pet is one of the only things that provides conditional love to its owner, and that’s probably why we’re so drawn to them. Plus they’re SO cute!
When we think of pets, most of us picture a dog or a cat. Other furry mammals are generally kept on farms or live out in the wild. However, the variety of pets has increased recently, with more people opting to find something unique for their homes.
Believe it or not, rabbits are one of these non-traditional pets. Not just your average rabbit either – but a Continental giant rabbit!
Brief History and Origin
The Continental giant is actually one of the oldest and largest rabbit breeds known to us. While many experts believe they date back to the 16th century, the first documented Continental giant was recorded in 1983.
While they are descendents of the Flemish giant breed, Continentals share bloodlines with many other breeds, including Belgian and German. During the 19th century, they were imported to the US from Europe and the UK in order to help increase the size of rabbits being used for meat. As a result, many made their way into livestock shows and became pet rabbits due to their easy-going and docile nature.
The two main varieties of Continental giant rabbits are White Continental and Coloured Continental – but we’ll get more into their features later.
What is a Continental Giant Rabbit?
Just by looking at a picture of a Continental giant rabbit, you wouldn’t be able to see any major difference between it and an average domestic rabbit. But a side-by-side comparison would show you something much different.
The Continental giant rabbit is quite larger than your average bunny. In fact, the Giant breed is generally about 5x larger in both weight and length than your average Eastern cottontail. On average, they weigh around 25 lbs and are approximately 3 feet in length. To give you some perspective, a Continental giant rabbit will grow to about the same size as a full-grown French bulldog. The largest Continental giant rabbit ever recorded, named Darius, weighed just over 50 lbs and was 4 feet 4 inches in length!
Continental giant rabbits descended from the Flemish Giant rabbit. They are also referred to as a German Giant or Flemish Giant. Every large rabbit is descended from the Flemish breed, so most are referred to in more general terms, such as Flemish giants.
Also nicknamed Conti’s, the Continental rabbit comes from a collective group of giant rabbit breeds, named after the geographic region they originate from. The term Continental was given to them for show purposes and is altered once a line of breeds is mixed. For example, a giant rabbit found in Belgium is referred to as a Belgian Giant. But if that rabbit was imported to Germany and bred with other lines of giants, that breed would then be referred to as a Continental giant.
Because of this, many Continental giants have various bloodlines and traits within them, usually with a few defining traits. The German giants for example are known for having the largest heads, widest ears, and densest bone structure. A Belgian giant on the other hand has a much flatter and broader body, with a pointed muzzle.
In general, almost all Conti’s look the same to the untrained eye, not including their distinct fur colour. They are easy-going, are great with kids and human interaction, and as of recently, have become popular pets. Unfortunately, their lifespan is only around 5 years, mainly due to their large size.
Coat and Colours
A Continental giant rabbit has very soft, dense and thick fur on it. If kept as a pet, grooming it is an absolute necessity in order to keep its coat healthy. Large breeds like the Continental may also have trouble keeping themselves clean, especially as they get older. Taking the necessary steps to keep it clean is important to its overall health
When it comes to colours, the Continental giant rabbit comes in a variety of them, just like most domestic dogs and cats. Due to the breeding and mixing of different bloodlines, Continentals will have various mixed traits, one of them being the colour(s) of their coats. Fortunately, this allows pet owners a variety of choices to choose from when it comes to picking your Conti. Colours include light grey, steel grey, fawn, sandy, black and white.
You can check out a full list and description of colours here!
Why Do People Buy Them?
As I mentioned, Continental giants have become increasingly popular as domestic pets. However, just because their popularity has grown, it doesn’t mean it’s the right pet for you. Before you make a decision, it’s always important to weigh the pros and cons of owning a Conti, as well as answer some questions for yourself.
How much of my effort will be required to take care of one?
This is arguably one of the most important things to answer before owning any kind of pet. Not just for your own sake, but for the animals sake too. If you aren’t able to or don’t have the capacity to care for a pet, then not only is it irresponsible of you to own one, but it’s not fair to both you and that animal.
This is also why some people choose certain pets over others. For instance, a pet bird is very easy and requires minimal work on a day-to-day basis for care. However, a dog, especially during its first couple years, requires constant work and effort on the owners end.
A Conti ranks fairly low for amount of effort needed. They are similar to cats, however a house rabbit requires a bit more looking after. Due to its large size, it requires a house with plenty of space to roam, as well as a large crate for sleeping and relaxing (dog crates work well). But be aware of the cage when purchasing it, as Conti’s are different from dogs. The bottom of the cage must not be wire, as it can hurt the rabbits feet. Instead, make sure that the cage is made with coated aluminum wire and line it with a safe and comfortable bedding.
Continental giants can roam your house freely and generally don’t cause too much of a mess or disruption. However, be aware that they will chew on household items, so rabbit-proofing your home is recommended, especially for items like paper, shoes, wires and furniture.
Conti’s can be potty trained, as long as it’s done from a young age. Most owners do this by going out into their yard with the bunny, and giving them an area where it’s safe and secure to do their business. Make sure to supervise them when outside to avoid any natural predators.
So overall, maintenance for your Conti is pretty simple and requires some, but not much effort on the owners end.
Effort required: 4/10
Are they good with children?
The Continental giant rabbit is very docile and calm, generally making great household pets and companions for the whole family. When indoors, they usually hop around the house and as they become more comfortable with their owners, will even sit on laps. Like most animals, they can also be trained to do tricks and be obedient when needed.
However, just like any animal, Conti’s will become nervous if handled roughly or incorrectly. This can lead to scratches and bites for the person holding it. Because of this, children should always be supervised when around the rabbit.
Overall, they are very docile and friendly with children and human interaction, as long as they are not threatened.
Do they make for good pets?
There are two parts that you should consider when asking yourself this question. Will owning one increase my overall happiness? Will I be able to keep the rabbit happy? These are important because if the answer to either of these is “no” then you might want to reconsider owning this pet.
Overall, the type of pet you buy will only make for a good pet if it suits your lifestyle and habits, while also keeping the pet happy and comfortable. If you have a medium to large home with ample space both inside and outside, then that is a good sign the Conti will be a good pet for you. If you prefer a more docile pet with minimal effort and work, but that can still play and cuddle up with you when you want, then that’s another good sign that you may want to consider a Conti.
In general, the Conti does make for a great pet around the house and in any closed off outdoor space, like a backyard. They are very comfortable with human interaction and easy to take care of for the most part. However, for the inexperienced owner, it may be more work than they bargained for.
Make sure you assess your personal lifestyle and day-to-day needs before considering any pet. If the Conti fits within your needs and will make you happier, then it might be the right pet for you and your family!
What is the cost of owning and caring for a Continental giant rabbit?
Before purchasing any pet, you should always consider the cost of owning it. If you can’t afford the costs that come with owning a pet, it will negatively affect both your life and theirs. Don’t get caught off-guard and do a quick cost-analysis before making a decision.
Currently, the cost of purchasing a Conti is between $300 and $500 USD. Add to that your trip to pick it up (assuming your picking it up yourself, as most breeders won’t deliver). If there is a delivery option, expect that to be factored into your cost. Depending on where it’s coming from, delivery can cost anywhere from $125 to $500 USD.
You’ll then have to purchase a cage, bedding, food, litter box (optional but recommended at the start), grooming equipment, toys and any other additional items. I’ve broken down these costs below:
- Cage: $75 to $200 USD
- Bedding: $50 to $100 USD
- Food: $50 to $80 USD/month
- Litter box (large): $50 to $100 USD
- Grooming supplies: $20 to $50 USD
The total initial costs of purchasing a Conti would be anywhere between $650 and $1,500 USD.
These are just the starting costs. Remember, you’ll have to purchase food on a weekly basis, as Conti’s require fresh vegetables and pellets for nourishment. You’ll also need to replenish the litter box every few days. On top of all this, most items will go through wear and tear over the course of the bunnies life, which need to be updated and/or re-purchased.
One final thing to consider before purchasing is the waiting period. As Conti’s are a unique pet, they are not as readily available as other generic pets, like cats and dogs. Most US breeders have an average waiting period of one year, so the chances of getting one immediately are unlikely.
While the initial cost of purchasing a Continental giant will be pricey, monthly costs are mainly attributed to food.
Initial cost: 7/10
Recurring costs: 3/10
Is a Continental Giant Rabbit Right For You?
Now that we understand what a Conti is and we’ve gone over some of the major requirements of owning one, let’s go over some of the pros and cons of having a Continental rabbit as a pet.
- They are docile, gentle and make for great overall pets around a house
- They do not require a lot of maintenance when compared to other larger pets, such as a dog
- Conti’s are family and child-friendly
- Food requirements are simple as their diet consists of rabbit pellets and fresh vegetables
- They are very unique as a pet
- Conti’s can be kept inside and do not require to be walked
- They come in a variety of coats and colours
- The initial costs to owning one is not cheap
- You must own a medium or large home in order to make space for a Conti
- You must have a backyard or some green space for it to roam
- Their lifespan is only 4-5 years
- The waiting period for owning a Conti can be over a year long
- They do require some maintenance and care, including grooming
- Conti’s can chew and tear apart household items if not monitored
How to Take Care of Your Continental Giant Rabbit
So you’ve made the decision to purchase a Continental giant rabbit … Awesome! Below are what you’ll need to know before making a purchase, including care and household requirements.
Due to its large size, the Conti does best in a house with plenty of space. Assuming you have a house, make sure that it’s cleared out of any clutter and loose items in order to provide your bunny with ample space to hop around. Even having a dedicated open space for it to roam around in your house is a good idea.
If you do decide to give your Conti the ability to roam around your entire house freely, ensure that all items, furniture and appliances are rabbit-proofed properly.
Make sure to purchase a large dog crate with lined aluminum caging and bedding so your Conti has a hideaway to relax in and retreat to when needed. While you may choose a dog bed for your Conti, other options for bedding can be straw, hay, wood or paper pellets/shredded cardboard. Make sure to frequently replace the bedding if it is one of these options to ensure good hygiene and eliminate odors.
While a litter box will provide a place for them to do their business, all new Conti’s (like most pets), need to be potty trained. Once they’ve learned to use the litter box, taking them outside to do their business can be the next step. Be ready to put in some effort at the start, especially if you don’t want rabbit pellets all over your house.
Make sure to prepare and have food ready for you new Conti before you get them. You should feed your rabbit a variety of foods, including high quality rabbit pellets/hay as well as fibrous vegetables to keep their diet balanced.
Hay and pellets make up most of their diet, but leafy greens and other vegetables are just as important when thinking about your rabbits nutrition. Finally, and this should be an obvious one, make sure your Conti always has access to clean and fresh water.
Like any animal, the Continental giant rabbit is prone to some health risks, however they are minimal and very avoidable/treatable. They can develop something called sore hocks, which comes from being caged or provided inadequate flooring. By allowing your bunny ample room to roam plus a comfortable cage will significantly reduce this risk. Giving them lots of room also prevents any other mental or physical issues.
Conti’s, like many other breeds, can develop overgrown teeth, which can lead to dental issues and additional costs for you. To prevent this, owners should provide their rabbits with rough chew toys in order to help them naturally grind their teeth down.
Making sure that hay, along with other vegetables, is part of your rabbits diet is very important to teeth filing, passing hairballs, and preventing intestinal issues. You also need to be aware of their serving sizes when feeding a Continental giant. Because they are larger, the natural tendency will be to feed them more than usual. However, if your Conti becomes obese, it will be much more prone to health risks and grooming will be difficult.
As I’ve mentioned before, Continental giant rabbits are intelligent, friendly and very easy-going when it comes to human interaction. They will even play games with you, can be trained, and will respond to their name after some time with their owners.
Despite their friendly and docile behaviour, it’s important to sit down and discuss the habits and needs of your future pet with your entire family or any roommates/partners you have living with you. Understanding how to handle and interact with your Conti before it comes to your home will prevent any harm coming to it and avoid awkward interactions.
Buying a Continental Giant Rabbit
You’ve gone over the pros and cons, assessed the needs, and prepared your house and family for your new pet. Now it’s time to purchase a new Conti! Next, we’ll go over where and how to buy your new pet.
Where to Buy a Continental Giant Rabbit
USA Conti Breeders can help you find the best quality of Continental giant rabbits in North America. All breeders associated with our group work hard to produce and maintain the healthiest Conti’s in the USA. New bloodlines being imported and introduced into our lines on a consistent basis to guarantee stronger immune systems and higher quality breed standards.
Several of our breeders are members of the British Rabbit Council (The BRC) as well as the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA). This ensures peace of mind for our buyers, to understand that the USA Breeders are doing their best to explore every avenue and learn all there is to know about this great breed.
By doing this, you can be guaranteed to have a support system behind you and your new rabbit. Additionally, we do not require unrealistic, demanding, evasive, or intrusive adoption or sales contracts to be agreed to or signed in order to purchase one (or more) of these beautiful giants.
For best results, we suggest that you contact a minimum of 2 USA Conti Breeders who are nearest to your location and ask to be added to their waiting list. Doing this will improve your chances of getting the Conti of your dreams.
You are also welcome to fill out a contact form and answer a short questionnaire, which allows all of our USA Conti breeders instant access to your desired interested. To fill out this form, please click on the link below, or follow this facebook group link, where you can also find more USA breeders, as well as breeders located in the UK, Canada, and Mexico.
USA Conti Breeder Membership
If you are currently breeding Continental Giants and would like to be added to this listing, free of charge, please contact us via one of the contact tabs at the top of the page. We will be more than happy to discuss our values with you and make our best attempts at quickly adding you to our list as a breeder.
What to Know When Buying
There are a few important things to be aware of when searching for your new Conti. First, know what you are buying and trust who you are buying from. Make sure you go through all the general health exams of any Conti you get, regardless of where it comes from. Most breeders will ensure that medical exams are done and shots are provided, however double checking is always necessary.
When you are discussing with the breeder/seller, always ask about any health guarantees and their full sales policy prior to purchasing. Don’t rush into any purchase – always ask questions and be respectful with the seller.
If you are already a Conti owner and looking to start breeding your own Conti’s, there are some steps to take before getting started. In this section, I’ll cover everything you need to know to start breeding Conti’s
When Breeding Conti’s, always start with the best Giant buck and doe you can get. They should initially be bred between the 8th and 9th months of age. Most Flemish Giant Rabbit breeders do this because if their doe is not producing by the time they are above 9 months of age, it may be harder to get her to conceive.
Both of your Continental Giants (buck and doe) should weigh at least 13 pounds before they are bred, and otherwise be healthy. An additional word to the wise is that if your doe is obese she could have difficulty in producing offspring. Therefore, it is important that your Continental Giant doe maintain a healthy weight during her entire life.
Tips for Breeding Continental Giant Rabbits
We’ve all heard the saying “they breed like rabbits”. Whoever coined this phrase has probably never actually bred rabbits, as it is not as easily done as it sounds. Anyone who has been involved in raising rabbits can agree that sometimes things simply do not work out as well as they would like them to.
There will always be obstacles when breeding Conti’s, however there are some steps you can take both before and during the breeding process, which can help increase your chances of successfully breeding Continental Giants.
Make sure your Continental Giants are getting 14-16 hours of light per day. All breeders should have an outdoor space where their rabbits can safely roam during the day in order to stay healthy and active.
House your Conti bucks and does (not together, but) near each other; their scent glands help activate their hormones. A good option is having a fenced-off and seperate outdoor space for both – this allows them to be near each other but not in direct contact.
Getting them “In the mood”
Since rabbits do not have a heat cycle, as dogs and cats do, they can reproduce at any time. However, the trick is to “get them in the mood” before attempting the breedings. While every breeder struggles with this, there are a few things you can do to help.
- Breeding during the Spring and Summer months is usually more optimal than Fall and Winter. During October and November, most Conti’s are getting ready for Winter and hunkering down, leaving them uninterested in breeding.
- If your Conti’s are too young, they might want to breed but aren’t mature enough yet. In other words, they’ll be shooting blanks. Make sure your bucks are between 8 and 9 months at least before breeding.
- Make sure your bucks and does are always near each other to activate their hormones.
- If the doe isn’t being receptive to a buck, try switching their cages – put the buck in the does cage and the doe in the bucks cage. Then place the doe back in her cage with the buck – sometimes this sparks their interest.
- Be patient. Sometimes it just takes time for them to breed.
Ensure that the rabbits’ feed is no more than 60 days old and you are feeding them fresh, organic vegetables. Old feed loses its nutrition after about 60 days and veggies covered in pesticides will affect breeding.
Add 1 tsp of Apple Cider Vinegar per gallon of drinking water (if you add too much, they may not drink it). Apple Cider Vinegar provides a number of health benefits, including preventing urinary tract infections and keeping HP levels regulated. As a breeder, you want to make sure to produce a healthy offspring and prevent any issues when possible.
One of the most common causes of breeding problems is a rabbit being either under or over their recommended weight. This can be tough to monitor with Continentals because they are larger than your average bunny.
Underweight rabbits may be physically incapable of breeding successfully, while an overweight Conti may lose interest in mating. A doe can even have trouble getting pregnant when overweight. Make sure to establish their target weight and adjust feed intake accordingly to maintain ideal weight during breeding.
Allow your Continental Giants to have lots of exercise outdoors, where they can run, jump, and interact with each other. It keeps them healthier, and healthier bucks are more likely to produce good litters than a lazy ‘couch-potato’ boy would. It also increases stamina and the interest in breeding – the better they feel, the friskier they’ll be.
Environmental temperatures can affect the reproductive performance of your breed. Make sure to keep your bucks in a cool area (under 85 degrees Fahrenheit) when preparing them for breeding.
You can also change the temperatures in the area the rabbits are in — if its hot, put a fan near them; if its cold, put up a heat lamp up for a little while. When you change their body temps, their hormones will kick in.
Don’t limit your breeds
Don’t limit your Conti breeding stock. If one buck/doe combination doesn’t work, try using a different buck. Most of the time, breeding two Conti’s is easy, however sometimes you’ll get a doe with a difficult personality and is quite finicky towards certain bucks, so trying different options can help.
- After a breeding occurs and the buck ‘falls off’, roll the doe over onto her back and tilt her rear end up a bit… in other words, let gravity play its part.
- Does will be more receptive when their vents are a dark reddish-purple color.
- Try to breed your Conti’s at various times of the day; in other words if you breed them in the evening – change it up, and try mornings and afternoons.
- Try to breed them in a different location; instead of taking your doe to your bucks’ hutch, breed them on the table, or on the ground, or in an exercise pen in the yard, etc.
- Breed them every day for several days in a row, during different times of the day, and in different locations (sometimes a combination of all of the above is what it will take to get the job done).
- Take your Conti Giants for a nice car ride – silly as it sounds, it works like a charm. The vibrations from riding in the vehicle will have them date-ready before you know it.
- Add electrolyte-additives to your Conti’s drinking water.
- Still having problems? Completely separate the doe and buck for a few days or so (where they can’t see or smell each other), then go back to housing them next to each other for a day or two and then breed them, daily, for the next couple of weeks.
- Try leaving a light on 24/7 for one or two weeks, then breed them.
- Never give up!
Breeding for Quality
Ideally, breeding conti’s should be done by pairing like colors . In other words, to get pure, clean fur coloration, you should strive towards breeding like-colors; chestnut to chestnut, black to black, and so on.
One problem with this is that in the United States, currently, there are a limited number of Conti’s to work with. Therefore, acquiring several Giants of one color may prove to be difficult.
Furthermore, make sure the Conti’s in your breeding program compliment each others strengths and weaknesses. For example, breeding a buck and doe who both have weak bones will only increase that problem.
Once Continental Giant ownership increases, however, it will become easier to maintain the above standard practices. With that said, please keep in mind that if you are intending to breed Conti’s, follow the rule of use it or lose it; it’s better to breed a black Conti to a yellow one, rather than risk non-productivity.
The gestation period (length of pregnancy) is the same for Continental Giants as it is for all other breeds of rabbits. From the date of a successful breeding, your Conti doe should kindle (have babies) between 28-31 days later. Typically, most will deliver (6 to 12 kits) on day 31.
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