Bigwig is a large and strong rabbit known for the tuft of hair on his head from which his Lapine name, Thlayli (literally translating to "fur-head"), is derived. He was part of the Sandleford Owsla with Silver and Captain Holly. He with several others left with Hazel and Fiver. Because of his stubborn nature Hazel hesitated at first to bring him along, thinking Bigwig might be a bully and trouble maker. Luckily Bigwig proved to be one of the most valuable members of the party. He is notably the strongest of the Sandleford rabbits and an accomplished fighter. He survives two normally fatal situations, being snared in Cowslip's Warren and a brutal fight with General Woundwort. He is also known to be the bravest and strongest of the group.
Bigwig is known for being stubborn and tends to be impatient. Hawkbit stated that he knew Bigwig was too stubborn to get killed by Woundwort after he recieved some serious injuries from his final encounter with the general. Bigwig can be very short tempered and a bit of a bully, especially if others weaker than him question his ways. Unlike most bullies however, Bigwig is no coward. The greatest display of his immense courage was his willingness to fight against the terrifying General Woundwort in order to defend his warren. Much like Woundwort himself, Bigwig not only has raw power but also a talent for military strategy. His tactical thinking gives him a vital advantage in his fight with Woundwort as he tells his allies to bury him under the earth and then waits until Woundwort is right on top of him, before launching a surprise attack.
In the beginning, it is unclear to who is leader, but Bigwig comes to follow Hazel in time, recognizing him as being able to lead, while he is not. He is also shown to be quite sexist, unwilling to accept Hyzenthlay as co-chief rabbit because she was female. However, he eventually comes round to the idea. In the television series, his sexism is also shown by his insistance that "bucks don't dig" which is unreasonable as the only doe in the group at the time is Blackberry. Nonetheless he is willing to put this aside for the sake of the warren, but claims that he will only dig if it gives Watership Down a strategic advantage. Bigwig is very loyal to Hazel, and follows his orders without question, even if it means he may die.
Bigwig is one of only three known rabbits, the other two being Campion and Hazel during the television series, who is able to hold his own in a fight with General Woundwort, who had previously slain numerous Elil in addition to fellow rabbits. However it should be noted that in the film and book, Bigwig has the advantage of surprise during their battle and therefore lands a crippling blow on Woundwort before the general can strike back. Despite his strength and skill it is implied that if Bigwig had not caught Woundwort off guard, the general would have killed him. During their final battle in the television series, Bigwig holds his own without using the element of surprise but ultimately Woundwort proves to be the stronger fighter. Although Bigwig survives he misses the remainder of the battle between the Darkhaven army and Watership Down due to his injuries.
In addition to his fighting abilities, Bigwig also displays a resilience that is surpassed only by Woundwort and Campion, not only surviving a fight with the general himself but also recovering, after briefly losing consciousness or perhaps even momentarily dying, after being caught in a shining wire.
Bigwig is a rabbit that Hazel did not expect to have support of when leaving the Sandleford Warren, and eventually becomes glad that Bigwig joined them. Although Bigwig is at first to trust in either Fiver or Hazel, he learns to believe in Fiver and his sixth sense, and despite having a few quarrels with Hazel, becomes one of his most loyal rabbits and key to holding Hazel's authority together. He is no coward, and is very strong, proving to be very helpful in fights, and is the only rabbit to ever defeat General Woundwort. He is also quite clever, managing to come up with a plan to escape Efrafa with does.
Tales from Watership Down Edit
Bigwig features in several stories in the sequel book, however he takes a minor role. He is key to holding down Hazel's authority, and without him, as stated by Hyzenthlay, "there would be no authority left in the warren." He is very loyal to Hazel, and warns him several times when his authority as Chief rabbit is at risk. At first, he is against Hazel's idea of having a female chief rabbit, and makes this known to Hyzenthlay. However when Hyzenthlay did not return to the warren after heading out on her own, Bigwig goes to look for her and is glad to see that she is safe, coming to accept Hazel's idea.
In the film, Bigwig retains his book personality. He is strong and brave, but is also impatient and at first unwilling to trust in Fiver's visions, however, he and the others come to trust in Fiver and respect Hazel's authority. At Sandleford Warren, he is seen guarding the entrance to the Threarah's Burrow, and allows Hazel and Fiver to visit the Threarah. Later that night, he joins Hazel's group of rabbits who want to leave the warren, along with Silver, saying that he has left the Owsla after what happened earlier that day. At Cowslip's Warren, he does not believe Fiver when he warns them about the warren, and believes that Fiver is trying to spoil the situation for the rabbits and he mocks him for his visions. After angrily telling Fiver that he is going to make sure that no other rabbits will follow him, Bigwig runs headlong into a shining wire. Hazel sends word by Fiver to gather the other rabbits as they may be able to free Bigwig. Bigwig struggles to breathe in the snare, and at first appears to have died, even though Blackberry has managed to dig out the snare peg and free him. Bigwig manages to stand, startling the other rabbits, and says that he wants to kill all the rabbits of Cowslip's Warren.
When Fiver interjects, Bigwig carries on traveling with the others. He and the others travel along in a ditch, when Bigwig hears something calling his name. He becomes frightened, hiding behind the others, and become convinced that the Black Rabbit of Inle is calling for him. However when the moaning creature appears, it turns out that it is Captain Holly, who has been searching for them.
When the rabbits discover an injured Keehar on the down, Bigwig is at first reluctant to help it, but after listening to the gull tell stories of his homeland and life, Bigwig becomes fasinated by him. He becomes good friends with Keehar and usually the rabbit asked by others to speak with Keehar. Bigwig is tasked by Hazel of coming up with a plan to escape Efrafa with as many does as possible for the warren and infiltrates Efrafa as an Owsla officer. In Efrafa, he found and befriended a doe called Hyzenthlay, and together they came up with a plan to free some of the does. His plan is almost foiled by the efficiency of Efrafa and its officers, and the naivety of a young doe, Nethilta. He converses several times with Keehar, and by him, relays his plans back to Hazel and the others, who are waiting for him outside of Efrafan. On the night of the escape, he also manages to free the buck, Blackavar. Bigwig felt immensly sorry for Blackavar after learning what happened to him in Efrafa. Bigwig was determined not to leave without him, and attacked his Owslafa guard, Bartsia and broke his leg. He led the does away from Efrafa under the Iron Road, where they were cornered by Woundwort and his Owsla. They escaped as Keehar attacked Woundwort creating confusion, and fled towards the river. He watched Woundwort and his Owsla vanish as he and the others floated away on the boat.
He enjoyed a brief period of peace before the Watership warren was discovered by Woundwort and his Owsla. When Woundwort attacked, Hazel ordered Bigwig to not give into them, as he, Dandelion and Blackberry (and in the film, Hyzenthlay,) run to Nuthanger Farm to free the dog. Bigwig fights the General himself, and managed to badly wound the General in underground combat. Bigwig was severely injured during the fight, and everyone was worried that he would die. He survived, but never spoke of what happened underground.
In the TV series, Bigwig is large, loyal, and strong rabbit, with a large mane of fur around his neck and shoulders, thus, making him most likely a Lion Headed Rabbit. At first he and Hazel have differences over who is the leader, but Bigwig eventually tells Hazel that it is not him, and that Hazel should lead. He is the Captain of Owsla on Watership Down, and is often seen at Hazel's side. Although sometimes a bit of a bully, Bigwig is very caring for others. He is very protective of Pipkin, the youngest rabbit, and protects and comforts him when he needs it. Several times, he is seen training the Watership Owsla, along with Pipkin.
In the third season of the show, he falls in love with the doe, Spartina. When it was revealed that Spartina was a spy for the Darkhaven Warren, he became upset and angry. Despite this, he traveled to the edges of Darkhaven and waited for Spartina to return safely. In the end, he settles down with Spartina.
His design was changed slightly from the others seasons in season 3. In the first two seasons, his mane sits around his neck, with a dark brown coloration. In the third season, his mane is changed to a lighter color, and connects to his belly fur. His brown tipped tail has been removed.
- Bigwig is voiced by Michael Graham-Cox in the film.