Giant Valencia rabbits to return to Spanish menus and Spaniards will soon be enjoying a diet of giant rabbit under plans to reintroduce the rare breed for human consumption.
Giant rabbits can grow as big as a lamb and produce 7kgs (15lbs) of meat.
The Valencia Agricultural Research Institute has launched a breeding program of the rare Valenciano rabbit and predicts that it could be on supermarket shelves within three years.
It is hoped that the animals, which can grow as big as a lamb and produce 7kgs (15lbs) of meat, will prove popular as a healthy and cheap alternative to red meat.
The Valenciano breed was established in 1912 when farmers cross bred large domestic Spanish rabbits with the imported Flemish Giant variety and for decades it appeared on dinner tables across the nation.
Vicente Garcia, the agricultural engineer in charge of the project, said: "These animals were valued by farmers for their meat and the speed at which they bred, often producing up to 16 young in each litter."
During the first half of last century the enormous rabbits were exported across Europe and to Cuba, Argentina and Chile but by the 1970s they were close to extinction in Spain.
"Only a very few examples of the breed still exist in Spain," Mr Garcia told Spanish newspaper 20minutos. The breed had only survived in two isolated areas of Spain, he added, because the giant rabbits were bred by enthusiasts as pets.
The three year project, funded by the Department of Agriculture of the regional government of Valencia, involves selectively breeding those animals with large domestic rabbits with a view to building up the breed for the general market. "We have already started a breeding program and will test the productivity and profitability of the Valenciano with the goal that it will once again be viable to produce for human consumption," he said.
They are about the same size as the renowned German grey giant, but honey coloured.