Meet the really big bunnies that call a Nova Scotia farm home

·3 min read
Ragnar, a 25-pound, three-foot continental giant rabbit, stretches out on his owner Christopher Poirier.  (Submitted by Christopher Poirier - image credit)
Ragnar, a 25-pound, three-foot continental giant rabbit, stretches out on his owner Christopher Poirier. (Submitted by Christopher Poirier - image credit)

With his plump, fluffy face and tall ears, Ragnar the big white bunny looks like he belongs in a fairytale, not on a farm.

Weighing about 25 pounds and stretching out to three feet, he's one of four adult continental giant rabbits that belong to Pierce Grey and Christopher Poirier, who swapped their city life in Toronto for a riverside farm near Annapolis Royal, N.S., about three months ago.

The couple has converted the top floor of their barn into a cozy home for their giant fluffy friends — Ragnar, Bjorn, Valka and Paisley — plus a growing number of babies.

"Everyone loves them, everyone's excited about them," Grey said. "Everybody's like, 'I have a Flemish but those are bigger. Oh my God, I want to see them!'"

Submitted by Christopher Poirier
Submitted by Christopher Poirier

Continental giants, the largest breed of rabbit in the world, are similar to Flemish giants, only bigger. They also have slightly different features that give them that "stuffed animal, cute fluffy face," said Grey.

The breed originated in Europe and Grey said the gentle giants are still rare in many parts of Canada, including Nova Scotia.

He believes his family's continental giants are the first in the province. He may be right. Frank Nutar, president of the Maritime Rabbit Breeders Association, agrees he's never come across a continental giant in the region.

Grey's obsession with continental giants began when he adopted a 25-pound rabbit named Otis about five years ago from a breeder in the U.S. Otis, who has since died, often worked as a support animal for kids with autism and at an education centre.

Submitted by Christopher Poirier
Submitted by Christopher Poirier

Otis could often be found on walks around his Toronto neighbourhood, seated in a red buggy, much to the delight of passersby.

"People are just in awe because their kids run up to pet the rabbit and their kids lay down and it's the same size as the rabbit and they're just shocked," Grey said.

The couple's four adult rabbits who moved with them to Nova Scotia are litter box-trained and act more like small dogs than rabbits, Poirier said.

Emma Smith/CBC
Emma Smith/CBC

"I really like their temperament, like you can just go sit with them and you don't have to worry about them acting crazy or scratching," he said.

But these unusual pets come with some challenges, too.

According to Grey, continental giants cost about $400 and require a lot of space and dedication. People interested in having a large bunny may not understand the commitment, and it's why Grey is not planning to part with the family's baby bunnies any time soon.

The giant rabbits also come with some very specific instructions about how they're bred.

"These rabbits are bred not just for size, but temperament is very important because you don't want a crazy giant rabbit," he said.

Emma Smith/CBC
Emma Smith/CBC

'These guys make you smile'

Grey and Poirier are lovers of eccentric creatures.

In addition to their big bunnies, they also own Toulouse geese, melanistic ducks that are entirely black, and deathlayer chickens that lay eggs right up until the end of their lives.

Grey hopes to introduce more Nova Scotians to the unique breed of bunny that has had a big impact on his life.

"You know, you have a bad day, these guys make you smile," he said.

Like many giant breeds, he said they're "calmer, more peaceful, more friendly, more tolerant," which makes them especially good with young kids and people with autism.

"I am on the autism spectrum myself and I think I've always appreciated animals because I guess they didn't bother me like people did," he said with a chuckle.

Emma Smith/CBC
Emma Smith/CBC

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