The Myth of the Rat King

If you are eating right now, you might want to save this article for later. Despite the cute picture and the cartoonish-sounding title, rat kings are not adorable pet rats in fancy dress. On the contrary, what we know of rat kings is the stuff of nightmares.

A rat king is group of rats whose tails have become entwined, and the first known sighting of one was in Germany in 1564. It was once thought that rats would twine their tails together on purpose to stay warm in cold environments and to protect themselves. People believed that these rodents would operate as one animal, moving about to find food and water. Rats have undoubtedly been found in such a state, and you can even view some preserved specimens in a few museums around the world. Some particularly gruesome specimens contain 30 rats or more. The idea that these animals joined together by choice or for survival is where myth enters the picture.

haltonwildlife.ca
haltonwildlife.ca

Here’s where things get really gross. Rather than voluntarily tying their tails together, rat kings are formed when the animals end up stuck in cramped quarters for a period of time. They produce a greasy sebum, or body oil, that helps keep their skin hydrated and assists them in moving through tight spaces by greasing up surfaces. This substance can cause the rats to get bound together. In addition, urine and feces in large quantities could cause them to get glued together near the tail area. There was even a recorded case of a squirrel king in 2013, where some squirrels got matted together due to tree sap.

The animals do not benefit from this condition, either. In fact, if a pack of rats became joined in this way, they would likely die very quickly and in severe pain. Most rodents would simply chew their tails off to escape.

So, if rat king formation is not voluntary, and the animals could usually escape from the predicament, why are there so many specimens in museums? Some scholars believe that many are fakes, and that the tails of the animals were stuck together after they were killed. Alternatively, some of them could have been made up of rats too tangled and matted to escape and subsequently died in their entwined state. In any case, the poor animals certainly did not come together in order to form some super-survival rat-beast.

Until the formation of a rat king can be replicated in a lab, we probably won’t know everything about them. Oddly enough, there are researchers who want to study the phenomenon, but funding for such a study has not been forthcoming.

Because you were warned that this would get disgusting, here is a picture of a preserved rat king. Sweet dreams!

mancunianmatters.co.uk
mancunianmatters.co.uk
Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • The Wise Seemingly Mad People Of Gotham

    Throughout history, not many people have been very fond of taxes being raised or new taxes appearing. And that is even true as far back as 1200 when the small sleepy medieval town of Gotham played an incredible rouse all to get out of paying taxes. Gotham a small town...

    Read More
  • As Flashy As A Sea Sapphire

    Growing up any kid would like to be able to control color on demand. Explode into different shades of light and cause your very own firework show. There is actually a creature that is able to flash up brightly and then completely disappear, on the fly. These ant size creatures live in subtropical or warm...

    Read More
  • Camels Disqualified From Beauty Contest Due To Botox Use

    It sounds like such a mad thing to do, to inject a camel with botox. But in the money mad world of Saudi Arabia’s Camel Festival anything is possible. Plastic surgery is now a big problem that organizers of King Adbulaziz’s Camel Festival are having to deal with. This festival...

    Read More
  • The Rapist Hunting Warrior Woman

    The Hundred Year War between France and England was the birthplace of many legends and tales of revenge. Years of turmoil and battles created the perfect outlet for warriors to become legends. Or they became the perfect place for you to seek your vengeance: to hunt your demons. That is what Marguerite de Bressieux did,...

    Read More
  • Swarm Robots Ready For Mass Production

    If you have had ever had nightmares about robots taking over the world, then maybe you should close this article right now. The Zebro swarm robot is an insect hive mind-like robot which is pretty much ready to be mass produced. Why are we potentially causing a Terminator plot like scenario? ...

    Read More
  • When Ants Go To War They Bring The Medics

    A species of aggressive Viking-like raiding ants actually save their wounded and then stitch them up. Yes, it appears they have dedicated doctor and nurse ants ready to save the wounded. And the incredible thing is researchers have determined that this strange behavior actually gives the injured ant a 90%...

    Read More
  • Secret Painting Found Behind A Picasso Masterpiece

    A new scanning technique put together by art researchers in the US continues to undercover amazing art secrets. The newest discovery has been found beneath a Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece: The Crouching Woman or “La Misereuse Accroupie” as called in French. Scanning systems for art pieces have existed for some time...

    Read More
  • The Man Who Fought WWII For 30 Years

    The mission was to stay out of sight and collect information about the Allied troop movements. The Location was the island of Lubang in the Philippines. Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda from the Japanese Imperial Army was tasked with a Rambo-like top secret mission: him and his four man team against the world. At least that is...

    Read More