Rabbits can be classified into four size groups - small, medium, large, and giant. The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) currently recognizes 47 rabbit breeds and only three of these breeds fit into the giant group. To be classified as a giant rabbit breed, the rabbit should have an ideal adult weight of more than 11 pounds however; these breeds are known to get considerably heavier than their ideal weights.
This breed has been nicknamed "The Rabbit Beautiful". There are no factual records to verify the origination of this breed but most believe it to be of German descent. ARBA recognizes the Checkered Giant in two colors - blue and black. In 1976, a Checkered Giant won the coveted Best in Show at the ARBA convention but the breed has not seen any glory since. This is a challenging breed to develop the perfect markings which must be distinct which include the check spots, eye circling, butterfly pattern, and the markings on the ears, spine, and tail. For registration bucks must weigh at least 11 pounds and does must be a minimum of 12 pounds.
The history of the Flemish Giant need not be repeated because there are more stories and unrecorded "facts" surrounding this breed's ancestry than most any other breed. It is known that the Flemish Giant made its way to the United States during the late 19th century. ARBA currently recognizes this breed in black, blue, fawn, light gray, sandy, steel gray, and white with sandy being the most popular in the US. The minimum weight for bucks is 13 pounds and for does, 14 pounds to qualify for registration. The Flemish Giant has been nicknamed "The Universal Breed".
The Chinchilla breed group includes the Standard Chinchilla, the American Chinchilla, and the Giant Chinchilla (also known as "The Gentle Giant") with the Giant Chinchilla obviously being the heaviest. This breed was successfully developed in the US from the selective breeding done by Edward Stahl of Missouri. His goal was to develop a breed of ideal commercial value for meat and fur production. Registration weight for bucks is 12 to 15 pounds and 13 to 16 pounds for does. Mr. Stahl has been called "the father of the Domestic Rabbit Industry in America" and thus far is the only breeder to become a millionaire from selling rabbit-breeding stock.
The other three weight groups obviously contain the larger portion of rabbit breeds. The small group which weigh less than 5 pounds contains 13 breeds including the Mini Rex, Jersey Wooly, and Holland Lop, among others. The medium group has the highest number of breeds with an adult weight of 6 to 9 pounds. Sixteen rabbit breeds can be classified as medium-sized like the American Sable, Harlequin, and Rex breed. The large group has 15 breeds such as the Giant Angora, American Chinchilla, and Hotot which range in weight from 9 to 11 pounds when mature.
Many consider the giant breeds as novelty rabbits but they are quite popular in the show ring. We may never know the weight of the largest or heaviest rabbit in the world as the Guinness World Records no longer gives out this title due to the possibilities of owners over-feeding their rabbits to beat the record. However, the Guinness Records do have "Amy" listed as the longest rabbit which measured 4 feet long and weighed in at 42 pounds. Sadly, Amy died in May of 2009 after suffering a heart attack as she was being transported from the UK to Italy to take part in a television show.
THE FIELD GUIDE TO RABBITS, by Samantha Johnson, copyright 2008.