Eastern States Flemish Giant Rabbit Breeders Association

The Premier Flemish Club for those interested in showing and raising the Flemish Giant


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Posted on September 30, 2016 at 5:20 PM


One of my pet peeves with new breeders is they think the bigger the Flemish it must be better. That is so far from the truth! Big is nice, but a long narrow 20 pounder is normally a poor breeder based on past experience. The does don't want to lift and the bucks are lazy breeders with little stamina. And those long narrow animals produce the same for generations. So many times I see people post a picture of their 3 or 4 month old not posing and give the weight and ask if it’s big enough. Until a Flemish is 14 months old I don't worry about the weight unless I’m showing it and check to make sure it meets required minimum weight for its class. There are a lot more important things I focus on.

A combination of things make up a good Flemish. To start with, bucks should have a nice, full blocky head; does more feminine with a pair of ears well held on by a thick ear base. Odd as it may seem, the ears bring the other parts of the body into harmony; you don't want them too short or too long. Balance is the key.

The shoulders should be nice and full and reasonably high to give a good start for the base of the arch. You don't want them flat on top but be slightly rounded. Bob Shaftoe once said the rise should start 2 fingers behind the shoulder blades and should increase in width as it gets higher. A nice full loin and well sprung rib helps this. Any sign off hipness indicates a weak loin.

If the rise peaks too soon it usually shows a flat spot on top of the upper hind quarters and too late it drops off making the hind quarters flat. Ideally if the rabbit is posed properly you should be able to draw a line from the highest point of the rise down to the forward portion or tips of the hind toes.

The top of the upper hind quarters should still show width and massiveness and continue in a nice rounded curve to the ground. Undercut lower hindquarters is a major fault and hard to breed out. If your rabbit possesses most of these qualities the weight will be there. The white is a 3 month old buck, already showing good rise and balance, the light gray senior doe shows good rise and massiveness.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and may not reflect the official views of Eastern States Flemish Giant Rabbit Breeders Assoc. This article may not be republished without permission from the author.

Silver Tip Flemish, Silver Black Giants or just Tweeners?

Posted on July 31, 2015 at 9:05 PM

Silver Tip Flemish, Silver Black Giants or just Tweeners?

Silver Tip Flemish, Silver Black Giants or just Tweeners?

A Look at the History behind one of our lost Varieties

by Juan A. Pérez

Recently my son Ian and I were evaluating a litter of Steels and Light Grays, and stumbled upon a few “Tweeners.” For those of you not familiar with the term, a Tweener is usually a light gray that is too dark (usually with poor ring definition and heavy ticking), a Steel that is too light in surface color and/or dark in belly color or a Black with a sizable amount of light gray or white hairs.

Since Ian’s experience with Steels is not too vast-and mine was brief in 1999 and 2004-we decided to seek the advice of our friends and experienced Steel breeders Roger and Brian Hoornbeek (NY) and Larry Rishel (PA). Both the Hoornbeeks and Larry advised us that a Tweener ought to be kept if: 1. the animal has great type; and 2. the animal is a doe. I immediately thought of Harold May’s memorable advice about breeding Steels:

“Just a word in closing. Don’t be afraid to keep those lightly ticked Black does for brood does. They can be very useful. However, make sure that they are big, and have very good type, with a good quality coat of fur. Bucks of questionable color and fur quality should never be kept beyond weaning age.”

Harold May was obviously referring to a Tweener when he wrote “lightly ticked Black does.” The Hoornbeeks and Larry reaffirmed the advice of the greatest breeder and exhibitor in the history of the Flemish Giant breed.

I looked at the litter of Steels and Light Grays again and asked myself: is it possible that the Tweeners are descendants of the Silver Tip, also known as Silver Black Giants? I then embarked on a lot of asking, reading and theorizing.

The Silver Tip, also known as Silver Black Giant, was a short lived variety of the Flemish Giant breed. Its existence is well documented, with show catalogs having the variety included as early as 1918. The National Federation of Flemish Giant Rabbit Breeders’ (NFFGRB) website lists the period of 1919 to 1921 as the timeframe of the variety.

As far back as 1920, John C. Fehr covered the Silver Tip variety in his book The Flemish Giant for Pleasure and Profit. On page 38 of the chapter Color Breeding he openly expresses his opposition to their breeding, and considers the Silver Tips not a variety but a Black Flemish with equal distribution of white hairs over the entire body, head, ears, feet and tail. Fehr admits that they are beautiful but warns strongly about crossing them with blacks and light grays:

“For you may produce a beautiful black or gray out of silver tips, and he or she may in turn produce stock that is all sprinkled with white hairs, probably not in the first generation, but rest assured it will come out in the second or third generation. ”

In 1920 F.L. Washburn also presented a similar thesis about the Silver Tips in The Rabbit Book. He describes them as sports from the Black Flemish, having black fur with silver or white hairs over the body. He states that if the variety were to be standardized, it will be the source of beautiful fur.

Twenty years after Fehr and Washburn dismissed the relevance of the Silver Tips, the variety received some national attention. According to the NFFGRB’s 1940 Convention report, the variety was recognized between the 1920s and 1930s:

“Soon after this we discovered the appearance of silver tips, a Black Flemish full of gray hairs now known as Silver Black Giants. Breeders crossed these with their Steels and Grays, and soon our Steels and Grays were full of pure white hairs. This was one of the biggest set-backs the Flemish had and the Federation was compelled to disown the Silver Tip, even though a standard had been provided and approved in one of our early Year Books.

The parent body was asked to also change the name of said Silver Tip Flemish to Silver Black Giants, and eliminate this color from the Flemish classes; and through efforts of the Federation, the breeders were soon persuaded to breed this animal by itself, and by discarding many fine specimens, especially bucks, the gray hairs were finally bred out of the Steels and Grays, and today we are practically free from this trouble.”

Secretary Griffin did not elaborate on how the Silver Tips got here; he said “discovered the appearance.” It is plausible that the Silver Tips were animals with too much ticking, good size and type, and breeders added them to their breeding program.

I also want the reader to go back to what Harold May, Larry Rishel and the Hoornbeeks said: “Keep a doe, never a buck.” Isn’t that in line with Secretary Griffin’s statement “by discarding many fine specimens, especially bucks”?

The following reference is another example of how established this variety was between 1920 to the 1940s:

“Some believe that the Silver Black Giant was nothing more than a Black Flemish Giant with white hairs distributed through the body creating the “silver” coloring. Unlike the Silver Fox of the time, the white hairs on the Silver Black were full white hairs, not white tipped hairs and breeding between the Silver Giant and Silver Fox was discouraged.

Since no records exist as to the breeding lineage of the Silver Black Giant, the belief that it was a Black Flemish Giant can be neither proved nor disproved. The Silver Black Giants popularity survived from 1924 to the middle 1940s when interest in the breed began to decline. By 1950, the breed was removed from the “Book of Standards”, the official ARBA standards listing, and it has since become extinct.”

Please note that in the last paragraph, the Silver Black Giants were referred to as a separate breed, and it was apparent that it survived beyond the 1940s timeframe .

Secretary Griffin’s report underscores that the addition of Silver Tips damaged the color of the Steels and Light Grays, a setback he estimates to be 20 years. Harry Rice, one of the most respected Flemish judges ever, mentions that around the 1940 good color was relatively abundant in those 2 varieties:

“In the forties, there were plenty of good colored steels and light grays, but they were never as popular as the Sandies. Sure wish I had saved one of those light grey pelts so that I could show you young fellows what color they were then.”

Harry Rice writes in 1990 about the color the light grays were back in 1940, and it’d be

reasonable to say that he was referring to the real light gray color of the 1940s, not the color affected by the Silver Tips as described by Lewis Griffin. It is also possible that Rice was making a contrast between the light grays of 1990 and 1940. It is important to notice that he was as concerned about our colors as Griffin, Fehr and Washburn were.

As I write about this, I can’t help it but think about how important it is for us to guard the colors of our light gray and steel varieties. Not only was the Silver Tip experiment detrimental to the breed, every time we cross colors indiscriminately-even compatible colors-we have an effect on the breed.

We have work to do. As recently as the PA State Convention in February of 2013 we heard the judge admonish all of us light gray breeders for having animals too dark in color and lacking ring definition. As a matter of fact, some of us thought that the judge was evaluating Steels-and he was judging the light gray senior doe class! And it happened again at the 2014 PA State Convention! When I brought my light gray doe to the judge’s table, I saw 3 “Steel Senior Does” already there. A close friend said: “Juan, those are not Steels, those are light gray senior does. They look very dark-don’t they?”

With this in mind, I’d like to offer one final thought, also from Secretary Lewis Griffin:

“Now just a word of warning, let’s profit by our past mistakes. Our experience with the Silver Tips and German Patagonia Giants should be enough to put us on guard. Let’s guard our color, and use only very selective breeding from now on, and the only way this can be done is: Sandies and Fawns bred by themselves, and Steels, Blacks and Light Grays by themselves. So please remember a breeding takes months, yes years to undo, so watch your step. Only breed what you feel sure will get best results. ”

I invite all of the Steel, Light Grays and Black Flemish breeders to share their experiences on this topic. And in case you’re wondering, Ian and I didn’t keep any Tweeners, Silver Tips or Silver Black Giants-or descendants thereof.

I would be remiss not to thank and recognize the help of my dear friend Cathy Caracciolo. Cathy was instrumental in researching old Flemish documents via search engines. She also was kind enough to photocopy a series of references dating back to the 1920s. I also am indebted to the Federation’s Official Historian, Chis Stover, who added a good deal of information and gravitas to this writing via personal communication.



Herb Carter's passing

Posted on February 17, 2015 at 12:45 AM


Tonight I learned that our fellow Flemish breeder Herb Carter has passed away. Herb and his wife Emily were very well known for there Black and Blue Flemish and were both a wealth of knowledge with the Flemish Giant. Herb and Emily were both very involved in both the NFFGRB and ESFGRBA. If you ever had questions, Herb was one that was always willing to answer them. Herb and Emily will both be missed. My sincere condolences go out to the Carter family.

Brian Hoornbeek

President, ESFGRBA

Emily Carter, A Tribute

Posted on July 12, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Emily Carter has passed away. She and her husband, Herb have been longtime Flemish Giant breeders, known particularly for their outstanding Blacks and Blues. Together, over the years, they have won almost every award for their excellence in in the Flemish world, including the prestigious Master Breeder award. Emily battled cancer long and hard, and didn't allow it to keep her down. Even in the roughest of times, she always managed to come to the shows to see her friends and show their animals. She was a staple at the writers table, and supported the Eastern States Flemish Giant Rabbit Breeders Association 100 percent.

Lynn Waters Bolyard




Kathy Chapin : I was taken by sadness as soon as I learned the news last night. But then I thought about how long she'd been ill and what a fight she'd gone through. All the pain and suffering has been taken away now, so for that I am glad. BUT without a doubt she'll be solely missed, by so many.

I'll never forget a few years back, at Convention, she and Herb gave me one of their blue bucks. I was so honored and surprised, I asked why would you want to do this? And she said that they'd heard how dedicated to the blues I had become. That they had worked for many years on their blue herd and that soon they wouldn't be here any longer. They wanted to be sure that their line carried on afterward and this was one way of doing that. I promised them, I'd do my best. It just seems like yesterday now.

RIP ~ Ms Emily Carter. We all love you so!!

South Mountain Rabbitry: Lynn, we will miss her dearly, and we're thinking about Herb here in the east. Always loved talking to Em at Cortland, both at Harold's old place and the new venue at the fairgrounds. I was sad all last night.

In the memory of Emily. You're already missed, by your Flemish family.

Ginger Walters: I am so heartbroken to hear this. She sold me my first pairs of flemish when I was 13.

Robert Bomia: A long time Breeder of Flemish Giants from PA., Emily Carter passed away this am.. Emily was a Senior Member of the Eastern States Flemish Club, and National Flemish Federation. She will be missed by all that knew her. Our condolences to Herb her husband, and family.... May God be with them in this time of need.. Barb Trone said there will not be any services.

Regards, Bob Bomia

President, NFFGRB

And many breeders and friends lifted their glass in tribute to this wonderful woman. We wish her well in eternity, and we keep Herb and the family in our thoughts and prayers. As per Emily's wishes, there were no services.

                 Our Dear Friend, Emily  

How do you really say what you feel? What are you thinking? What is in

your heart? Well, here goes! We only hope Emily is looking down on us

and hears what we want to say.

We have known Nick and Emily Carter for twenty to twenty-five years.

We were not always close friends but became close right about the time

Emily was diagnosed with cancer. We have never known anyone who had

a brighter out-look on life than she did. Even through all her hard-ships and

suffering you never heard Emily complain. If there was a show in Cortland,

New York, she always was determined that she and Nick would make the trip.

She also made a point of coming to York for our local show in March each

year. There were always donations of food items for each show. Nick would

make several dishes and no matter how bad Emily felt she would always bake

for these shows. There were also numerous visits from Nick and Emily to our

home. She enjoyed coming to our home for a visit and to go out to lunch.

Emily also enjoyed going out to dinner with a group a rabbit breeders.Although

she could not eat much she always ordered as though nothing was the matter

with her appetite.  Emily was alwayswilling to do her part at any show she went to.

If she was not writing at the judge's table she was preparing the show reports

 Every summer Emily would make endless jars of jelly. There was a great varietyof

flavors. She made this for her family and the endless line of people that shewould

see. There was always a nice tote bag full of jars of jelly to be handedout for her

friends and acquaintances.

 Many people, including ourselves, knew Emily as an experienced and dedicated

rabbit breeder. We would also like to remember her for her greatpersonality, 

kindness, and concern for others.

 We love you Emily and will always think of you.

 John and Barbara Trone


An Article by Dr. Wendy Feaga

Posted on February 6, 2013 at 10:15 AM

Mucoid Enteritis

The following is a reprint of an article received by Dr.

Wendy Feaga, with her permission.

Wendy is a member

of the AFNZRB.


ARBA Rabbit & Cavy Health Committee

I am seeing an unusual number of young rabbits dying with a jelly diarrhea. In some cases I am loosing adults and nursing does. What is going on?

A number of rabbitries are reporting losses of 4-8 week old rabbits, some with no signs of illness, some with just a hint of diarrhea, but many with full blown mucoid enteritis with rapid weight loss (wasting), diarrhea and jelly stools. You may be lucky to lose one or two in the litter or, the entire litter may die over a period of a week.

Generally the adult rabbits are unaffected, but this time we are seeing some adults dying especially nursing does.

The first reports of unusual deaths due to diarrhea surfaced after the 2008 ARBA Convention in Michigan. One exhibitor thought that the floor boards were to blame, but I saw convention rabbits on risers which came down with the jelly diarrhea at the end of the convention, or very soon afterwards. So there was not a good correlation between the ARBA boards and disease.

Often there are complaints of illness after the ARBA convention – the convention rabbits are exposed to other rabbits, new water supplies and general stress, so illness is expected.

It appears we are seeing a new infectious agent to which the rabbits have never been exposed, and this is fairly wide spread. We are seeing deaths in adult rabbits, sometimes losing as many as half the adults, an age generally resistant to diarrhea, or at least an age which usually recovers totally in a few days of pulling them off pellets and just feeding hay.

In the 4-8 week olds, pretty much all that show signs of illness will die regardless of what you try. Rabbits over 3 months of age are more likely to survive. I have tried various medications on the babies with little success.

One that survived was given just hay and water and no medications. Subcutaneous fluids are helpful in the older rabbits, but as I said before, little appears to save the 4-8 week olds.

Fecal exams may show coccidiosis, but treatment for coccidiosis is unsuccessful leading me to believe that there is an additional disease and not simply coccidiosis.

Often I have seen clostridia in fecal samples of rabbits with diarrhea, but have not seen unusual numbers of this normal bacterium in these youngsters.

High protein feeds will aggravate the problem and should be avoided when the rabbitry is experiencing these losses. Although feeding hay is no guarantee of avoiding this current strain of mucoid enteritis, it remains the best recommendation to lessen your losses. Be sure to give fresh hay each day to nest box babies to insure their first meal is hay to establish the correct pH and microbes in their GI tract. In an out-break, I recommend giving fresh hay twice a day to does with litters over 3 weeks of age.

Instead of full feeding these does and litters, feed pellets twice a day and limit the pellets so they are cleaning up each feeding in a couple of hours.

It’s important to provide good sanitation by removing soiled bedding and cleaning the cage floors with a wire brush to remove visible manure, feeding hay on a regular basis, avoid over-crowding, and providing water in a closed water system (impossible in winter when freezing water forces us to use bowls). Before moving a new rabbit into a new cage, especially doe and litter, be sure to thoroughly clean and disinfect that cage and equipment. But the bottom line is that the rabbits need to develop and immunity to what appears to be a new infectious agent.

My hope is as this disease goes through a rabbitry that the stock which are exposed and survive will have immunity so that eventually this disease will run its course in a year. Also the normal evolution of an infectious disease is to become less virulent over time because when it is this virulent it dies with its host. A successful organism does not kill its host so it can continue to spread through populations.

Bob Shaftoe, Rest in Peace

Posted on December 24, 2012 at 11:10 AM

Most of us knew and admired this stoic British ARBA Judge.  He was a friend, mentor, advisor to so many over the years.  His passing leaves a  void that is not easily filled.  He was one of the 'old timers',  a judge from 'back in the day' and he could tell you stories about people, shows, conventions, times and places.  And we would listen.....  He judged with professionalism and integrity.  Behind the show table, he not only judged, but taught as he went.  We learned so much from this Judge, with the staunch British accent, and the easy smile.  We say, not only Rest in Peace Bob, but a Giant Thank You!! 

Ronald “Bob“ Shaftoe ARBA Judge Bob Shafte

SHAFTOE, Ronald “Bob“ - Bobby Shaftoes gone to sea To sail for all eternity Peacefully at Victoria Hospital on December 22nd, 2012, Ronald “Bob“ Shaftoe of Ingersoll in his 81st year. Beloved husband of Sheila Shaftoe. Loving father of Robert, Susan, Christine, Jacqueline and Julie. He will be missed by his several grandchildren and great grandchildren. Dear brother of June, Eunice, Robert and Harry. Predeceased by his sisters Alma and Iris. Private arrangements entrusted to NEEDHAM FUNERAL HOME. In memory of Bob, contributions to Childhood Cancer Research at L.H.S.C. would be greatly appreciated. Condolences may be left at www.needhamfuneralhome.com 12181984