Every Saturday morning, Denise McClean, director of the will introduce us to one of her favorite furry, feathery or scaly friends.
We kick off this column with Herbie the Flemish Giant Rabbit, who is not only the zoo’s biggest rabbit, but also its most famous.
He has a fan club, and a rap video (see photo gallery on right) on YouTube that has received nearly 3,000 views.
He was born in 2006 in the care of a breeder and soon after was sold to the Queens Zoo. But he wasn't happy there: he didn’t think the other rabbits were according him the proper respect, So he moved to the Prospect Park Zoo, said zoo spokeswoman Sophie Bass.
“He’s a prima donna, He sort of thinks he’s a movie star," she said, adding, “He’s much happier with this crowd."
Zoo visitors flock to him, not infrequently asking for him by name, McClean said.
“He’s got a great personality, he’s social, he’s tolerant, he’s very mellow,” she said.
But while the giant hopping Lagomorpha is loved for his charm, he’s also famous for his heft – a whopping 18 pounds, about the size of a small pig.
"People are absolutely flabbergasted," when they see him, said McClean.
"My cat is 18 lbs, but he’s definitely not as big as Herbie. He’s big. And he’s brown. He looks like the Cadbury Easter Bunny,” said McClean.
Giant Flemish Rabbits weigh between 14 and 20 pounds. Their large ears swivel in all directions to pick up even the slightest sound. Like all rabbits, their teeth keep growing for their entire lives, explaining their constant need to chew on things, which wears them down.
Nobody knows for sure where Herbie and his ancestors originally came from. Some scientists believe they were born after 16th Century Dutch traders brought Argentina's Patagonian rabbit back home with them, where they cross bred with Belgian and Flemish rabbits.
Whatever their origin, their heft makes them a hit. And Herbie is a favorite during the zoo’s Animal Encounters workshop, held Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.
While some animals sometimes shirk the weekend performances, Herbie is always ready to take the stage.
“If an animal is not feeling well or is not in the mood (to do the workshop) they get to sleep in and we bring out somebody else,” McClean said. “We have not had an occasion where we have decided he doesn’t want to see anybody.”