April 4, 2017
World of Rats

Rat in laboratory © The Rat Gazette - Photo: Arjan Schuitman

The 4th of April is world rat day. A day to promote fancy rats and to emphasise rats can be great pets. Originally the special day for rats was introduced in 2002. Fancy rats are brown rats cross bred for their special characteristics like shape, size and color.

The rats we know best are the black rat (roof rat, house rat, ship rat) and the brown rat (Norway rat, sewer rat, street rat). Both the black rat (Rattus rattus) and brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) most likely originate from South East Asia.

Black rat in Karni Mata temple - India © The Rat Gazette - Photo: Arjan Schuitman
The black rat spread via Western Asia, Northern Africa in the Roman time and to Europe in the first century. After that the Europeans spread the black rat to almost to each corner of the world during their efforts to conquer the world. This is also the rat that got the bad name by spreading the plague. Of course we all know it was not the rat itself that spread the plague but the flea that was carried around by the rat. Black rats enjoy the more warmer conditions.

Fancy brown rat © The Rat Gazette - Photo: Arjan Schuitman
Although originated from the same area the brown rat followed a different route to Europe and came via China, Mongolia and Russia. Most likely the black rat arrived earlier Europe and existed in far greater numbers. With all the man made changes of the environments (urbanization, construction materials, industrialization, hygiene, pest control ect.) the conditions for the black rat became harsh and more favorable for the brown rat. The brown rat took over however not in competition with the black rats. Brown rats were also spread with ships of the explorers and live (almost) everywhere humans also live. Brown rats can survive in more diverse and colder conditions.

Jack Black
We recognized the rat as pet before we did as a research model for science. Her Majesties rat catcher Jack Black is the first known rat breeder. Around 1850 he already cross bred remarkable colored rats he caught during the dark hours in London in order to create new varieties which he could sell to the rich and famous.
The first structured research with rats date back to 1903. Since then countless rats had to undergo a great variety of experiments. Some actually very successful and leading to the development of medicines and others just cruel for the rats.

The rat, probably the most hated and liked animal at the same time. An animal we have a lot of knowledge about but we know so little from. A very successful and smart animal with special skills. We introduced it to almost every corner of the globe. A rat is never far away from where we are and live. Part of the success of the rat is because we humans provide food and shelter and profits from our progress. An animal that adapts easy to the environment instead of changing the environment to be able to live in it. Rats have given us a lot of information and knowledge due to all the experiments and research we conducted. With that we were able to develop treatments and medicines. Of course the rat also causes problems in competing with us for with the same food and are known for spreading diseases.
But are we humans not exactly the same?

Black rat in Karni Mata temple - India © The Rat Gazette - Photo: Arjan Schuitman

Happy World Rat Day!

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