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Well, that’s weird

I was on the phone to my old man the other day, reminiscing about the time he shot a huge rat in the family hunting cabin and all the little rats went screaming insane around us for a day. I had it in my head that a master rat was known as a rat king, but it turns out these are rat kings — a bunch of rats that somehow get tangled at the tails and live out their days as a big traveling clump o’ rats.

First reported in 1564, they may or may not be for real — despite several found in museums and sightings well into the 20th C. The Rucphen rat king (above) shows what looks like damage and healing of the knotted tail bones on x-ray, so if it’s a fake, it’s a clever one.

Surviving rat kings are made up of black rats, Rattus rattus, which have been almost completely displaced in Europe by the brown rat, Rattus norvegicus. So that explains why there aren’t any more. That, or because the whole thing was bullshit.

Rat kings were believed to bring plague — which I suppose they could do as well as any other kind of rat.

Have some Alta Vista translations: the Dutch rat king a Rutphen, the German rat king of Altenburger and the French rat king of Nantes.

Now, does anybody know what a rat patriarch is called?

February 3, 2010 — 7:48 pm
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