De rattenkoning

Caution: this is nasty:

beware the rat king!
Wist je dat? This horrific specimen is the Rat King, a group of rats that have had the misfortune of getting their tails all mixed up. this phenomenon was first written up around the 1500s in Europe, and examples are very rare. The current hypothesis is that: "for the formation of a rat king, rats should first huddle together as they usually do when sleeping in the nest chamber, especially when it is cold. If their tails become glued or frozen together, animals try to free themselves by moving in different directions. These chaotic movements may result in their tails becoming entangled in a tight knot. Even after removal of the initial cause (sticky substance or ice), they are no longer able to escape from the knot. The sticky substance may be blood, food items, [shit?], nesting material, etc.*".

The idea of the Rat King is so grotesque that many people disbelieve it even today, despite scientific samples that have been photographed and displayed in museums. One of the largest, pictured at the top of the page, was found in the 1800s and displayed in a museum in Germany. Another was shown to have callouses on the tails, showing that the nice rattus rattus had been able to live, eat, and move around while attached for some time. A 2005 *paper regarding a living rat king found in Estonia describes a group of 16, with 9 living, half buried in sand under the floor of a peasant's house, (two of which had brains eaten out somehow by the time they got to the museum ((zombie rat kings? or cat kings?)).

The sight of one was taken as a sign of plague in medieval times- probably because a shitload of rats breeding in close conditions in your floorboards could spread the plague. go fig. Legends developed such as that the Rat King was really one creature with many heads. Literary characters from the Rat King villain in the Nutcracker ballet to the Rat King villain in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may have derived some inspiration from this freaky phenomenon.

1 comment:

kiwi-poette said...

I'd never heard of this before. Its an interesting subject. Thanks for reporting on it.