Thumbing through the Instagram handle of Alex the Great — a nearly 30lb therapy rabbit at SFO — is an exercise in serotonin-scrolling.
The San Francisco International Airport is no stranger to left-of-center therapy animals crisscrossing its terminals, offering relief from apprehensions around flying for those who pet them; touch them; hug them (when permitted). In 2019, SFO added a 5-year-old Juliana pig named LiLou to its “Wag Brigade” — a group of now sixteen therapy animals at the airport tasked with easing anxieties among passengers. LiLou quickly captured the hearts of thousands with her painted nails, flouncy tutu skirt, and ability to balance a captain’s hat atop her head as she trotted along the airport’s well-worn carpet.
Among the gaggle of serotonin-affording mammals cruising the Bay Area airport is also a massive, 28lb rabbit named Alex — whose sheer size alone will elicit endless double-takes — having made his debut last year.
“We are so HOPPY to sHARE the news that Alex the Great 🐰 has joined the SFO Wag Brigade!” captioned the San Francisco airport in a March 2022 tweet introducing the giant therapy rabbit. “Alex is a 28lb Flemish Giant rabbit who loves to meet travelers! Welcome, Alex!”
Flemish giants are among the most ancient of modern-day rabbit breeds. It’s unclear exactly when the breed entered into existence, but historians believe they were bred as early as the 16th century in Flanders, near the city of Ghent, Belgium. Because of their inheritable large size, the huge hares were primarily bred for their lean meat; Flemish giant furs are also denser than those found on most rabbits, so their skins were often repurposed into insulating textiles.
Due to their literal dog-like size, Flemish giants are beloved for the easy-going, confident nature that makes them fantastic pets, capable of developing deep bonds with their human caretakers.
(I, myself, was planning on purchasing one in 2014 when I lived in College Station, Texas. [You’d be surprised how easy it is to find a breeder of these rabbits just outside of Houston, Texas — a ninety-minute drive from A&M’s main campus.] But alas: I eventually came to my senses and realized that owning a nearly 30lb rabbit would likely have a bitter outcome, given the fact that I, at that time, also owned two fourteen-foot pythons. That, yes, consumed frozen-and-thawed rabbits as prey. I wasn’t too keen on seeing the circle of life accidentally playout on my patio where I planned on housing said pet rabbit.)
But Alex has by no means been confined to just hopping around SFO’s terminals. Over the past twelve months, the massive rabbit has gone to SF’s Lunar New Year Parade; he’s hitched many rides on his electric child car — Tesla could never, tbh — while getting to and from gigs; the same, too, can be said of his tricked-out, illuminated stroller; worn countless Santa Hats; met much smaller rabbit kin, as well as other four-legged bbs; gone to Outside Lands and stole the show.
He’s a queer ally. He’s a best friend. He’s everything good and pure and benevolent on this mortal coil.
So, next time we’re flying out of SFO, we’re high-key buying pre-cut apple slices at a nearby Hudson News store. Why? They’re favorite treat of Alex, and it’s the least we could do for him after helping us lower our blood pressure before boarding time. And if you do see Alex hopping, strolling, or riding about the Bay Area, just make sure you get consent from his handler before snuggling him.