Rat kings


61 Responses to “Rat kings”

  1. billd6 says:

    Sure hate to run across an alligator king

  2. A New Challenger says:


  3. Takuan says:

    at least giving us the Black Death was an accident

  4. Tom_Paris says:

    Rats are not all bad!
    They can be HEROES!!

  5. mujadaddy says:

    “Rattus rattus brevicaudatus”

    Man, that gives me an idea for a rap song…

  6. cinemajay says:

    Unicorn chaser stat!

  7. xopl says:

    Looks more like the mummified remains of the daily catch of a professional rat catcher.

    Living rats getting their tails entangled? Come on.

  8. mortis says:

    I expect to see these in the new 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.

  9. Antinous says:

    Live, single, non-desiccated unicorn chaser, to be specific.

  10. savage_lucy says:

    They have one on display, in a jar I think, of a rat king consisting of a family of juvenile rattus rattus at the Otago Museum in Dunedin, NZ. Apparently horse hair used to build their nest started the knots. It’s in the “”Animal Attic” at the top of the museum, which is a very cool/creepy place indeed.

  11. seyo says:

    Yeah, I don’t buy it either.

  12. russelljsmith says:

    Going to have nightmares…

  13. License Farm says:

    Well… that’s one of the more disturbing things I’ve ever seen.

    However, I too have my doubts. Wouldn’t a rat that feels itself to be stuck attack, claw and gnaw its way out of that sort of predicament, even at the cost of its own tail or perhaps its entire hind quarters?

    I expect there will be a movie called Rat King bearing mostly an accidental resemblance to this concept on the Sci-Fi Channel next month, latest. It will star Marc Dacoscos, Yancy Butler and Mickey Rooney.

  14. Camille says:

    I remember reading a book when I was a kid about talking rats who imprisoned a group of friends and created a sort of “human king” because their arms blended together. Not as creepy as it sounds but it still scared the hell out of me.

  15. StridentLobster says:

    Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would’ve been an even cooler cartoon if the Rat King looked like this, instead of a muscleman in a ratty (pun or not, your call) leather outfit.

  16. anthony says:

    I always post too late.
    In the Nineties artist Katrina Fritsch made a huge rat king sculpture, with eight foot tall rats. I vaguely remember there were some storage issues with the piece. Art storage must be a daunting business these days.
    link to “Rat King” pics:

  17. klaradox says:

    oohh..The poor little fellaz..I like taking pictures of dead animals, but only to pay my respect to them, ‘coz they are usually just abandoned and rotting somewhere totally forgotten..But to tangle them together to make a morbid flower and naming them a “king”? hhmmm…. Why didn’t I think of that? :)) Well I guess because ‘respect’ means letting them deteriorate with dignity and in peace… Man, I’ve just realized I sound like a sicko. I am not! I hope…

  18. orsted says:

    Maybe they were having a conference at the time:


  19. Overnight Lows says:

    I now look at the Nutcracker very differently…

  20. Antinous says:

    Or it’s just a mass of slugs fished out of a bucket of salt.

  21. Thorzdad says:

    That’s the creepiest thing I’ve seen in a long time (true or not)

  22. Dick Jokes says:

    Eerily enough, this reminds me of “Luther Blissett” as well…

  23. Robert says:

    Rat kings were hoaxes played upon the gullible uneducated class (peasants and royals both) who also believed things like cats steal your breath and bats want to tangle in your hair. It’s just cryptozoological embuggerance.


    I can see two rats possibly getting tangled together from time to time, but more than 2, and frequently enough for the phenomenon to enter the popular culture? Highly unlikely. Looks like a hoax on the order of Jackalopes, furred trout and Fiji Mermaids, except more difficult to debunk. There certainly would have been no lack of dead rats to carry that out with in the historical times/places noted. I recall reading about a Rat King in the last few years in a piece of fiction. Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, maybe?

  25. Dan says:

    holy #$@&!!! that is absolutely terrifying. mind-numbingly horrific. I can’t believe the phenomenon actually exists.

  26. Michael Who says:

    Terry Pratchett has a rat king as a malignant gestalt entity in “Maurice and his amazing educated rodents”, a “pied piper” parody.

  27. Antinous says:

    Looks like a hoax on the order of Jackalopes…

    Except that jackalopes turned out to be real – sort of.

  28. harryhoody says:

    @Thorzdad: I agree. I am totally creeped out. In fact, I never want to see that picture again.

  29. Bacculus says:

    Real or not, all I can say is: hideous.

  30. pupdog says:

    There’s mention of a rat king in Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps, and I got a little creeped out by the description, but I have heard stories from older relatives about discovering a rat king in an old barn, and that story was FAR more scarring to my psyche as a youngster…

  31. trifles says:

    Not saying yea or nay on the subject, but from observation (via domestic rat ownership):

    -Rat tails aren’t flibbery — they have bones in them, and while rats will often wrap their tails around an object to maintain balance, they’re not like possums. Here are some photos of rats clinging to rope, and you can see that much as they’d like to, they can’t twist their tails much beyond a weak hook (they can’t support themselves solely by their tails, either). Further, you’d have to actually break their tails in order to bend them enough to knot — they won’t accidentally do so.

    -Rat populations, while they can get huge, depend greatly on the available territory. If there’s room and resources for a large colony, fantastic, but it sounds as if “rat kings” would require an overcrowded living environment that’s unlikely to occur in the wild — see infanticide and territorial/aggressive behavior (those links also discuss the kinds of fighting and wounding that can occur — tails aren’t part of it [though the testicular area is]).

    And now… a rattie chaser: a rat, an art pose, and the temptations of candycanes.

  32. antfarmer says:

    I was an animal caretaker in a research lab for a few years, and I took care of rats in cages. I have good reason to dismiss this as a hoax or at least, the result of human intervention.
    1) It is unlikely that with the difficult of a “rat king” successfully finding enough food for all mouths, that all the subunits would live. If one member died, it would immediately, within seconds, be eaten by the others. Rats are cannibals and won’t even wait for death to start eating a disabled fellow rat.
    2) It is unlikely that that many rats would mysteriously be of such a similar age that they would survive together. Even if this sort of entanglement was possible, you would expect to see fragments of tails of the dead ones.
    3) Rats usually go into burrows and tight places. This mass of rats would not be able to hide or locomote effectively. It would be taken out by a preditor.
    4) There is no chance that this many rats could feed normally, unless they were in a bag of grain or a silo or nearly endless food store. Rats are competitive for food, so there would be deaths from fighting for resources.
    5) Rat tails are not like string. They bend but are just flexible, still stiff enough that they would not get tangled like this. This was a prankster’s macrame/weaving project, somebody with a bag of dead rats who went to some effort to carefully intertwine the tails. The result is as convincing as the Hodag photos of Rhinelander Wisconsin.

    Garter snakes overwinter in protected places all balled up in a snake mass, but they successfully sort themselves out in the spring. For anyone who is still a believer, go watch a cage of rats for a day and I think their behavior will convince you otherwise.

  33. mellowknees says:

    all I can say is — BARF!

    And I’ve had rats as pets…but still…even if this is a hoax, it’s a disgusting idea and now I’m going to have nightmares. THANKS!


  34. Takuan says:

    one can only hope they were already dead

  35. Avram says:

    A rat king figures in Alan Moore’s and Ian Gibson’s SF comic, The Ballad of Halo Jones.

  36. Stefan Jones says:

    I’d love to see a cutsey stuff-toy-rat version of this featured in CRAFT.

  37. gobo says:

    Some researchers claim that when X-rayed, rat king skeletons show calloused bone in the tails and atrophied tail-tips, indicating they’d lived with tails intertwined for some time before dying.

    Rat kings? Sure, why not.

  38. Takuan says:

    evil men could tie living rats together, yes

  39. monospace says:


    what about rat queens!?

    Here ya go:

    “Great King Rat was a dirty old man and a dirty old man was he…”

  40. Antinous says:

    evil men could tie living rats together, yes

    You don’t have much experience with live rats, do you? It would take a lot of evil men who would then be very bloody, evil men.

  41. scalefree says:

    It’s somewhat hard to find but Rat Kings play a role in the extremely excellent The War for the Lot by Sterling Lanier.

  42. Takuan says:

    ah but I do, cute little hoodies that lovingly widdle all over you. Also feral Norways that jump right over you when cornered. I never said such evil men would be gentle about it. Humans really do suck sometimes

  43. joanna says:

    antfarmer: “Even if this sort of entanglement was possible, you would expect to see fragments of tails of the dead ones.”

    I’m afraid that this was the proverbial straw. I’m definitely going to have nightmares now.

  44. Tom says:

    Looks to me like what you’d get if you were after a rat colony with cats and poison.

    Cats, or some other form of physical threat, causes rats to form into defensive circle. Poison kills them like that, probably somewhere under the floorboards where you can’t get at the corpses. After a couple of decades the floor is pulled up and lo and behold, a rat king.

  45. minamisan says:

    that’s nothing compared to what happened when Long Horses got their tails tangled together :)

  46. Takuan says:

    that’s why I prefer long pig

  47. Sensoz says:

    So… The Medusa is actually a Snake Queen! That makes sense!

  48. DickStock says:

    Just in time for the Year of the RAT~!

  49. Pekar says:

    This sounds like the Museum of Jurassic Technology material to me.

  50. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Once you’ve been to the Museum of Jurassic Technology, a lot of phenomena start looking suspicious, same way seeing This Is Spinal Tap makes all rock interviews sound potentially absurd.

    I think my favorite display was the one about audio mimicry between beetles and faceted gemstones.

  51. Jake0748 says:

    Is this from Ripley’s Believe it or Not?

  52. coveralls says:

    there is something horrible about the name “rat king.”

  53. rhodonite says:

    what about rat queens!?

  54. overtonewiz says:

    Ahh, the rat king is the perfect metaphor for government… (:D)

  55. anthropomorphictoast says:

    @ A New Challenger: Seconded that…yikes O.o;

  56. McProf says:

    I submitted this entry on Rat Kings several months ago–I was living in Vorumaa and my friend Evar Saar is the photographer who got the scoop:

    Here is another set of pictures from Estonia:

    The local paper got scooped: the farmer hid the rat king so the regional-language weekly could publish it:

    and the actual photo:

  57. coaxial says:

    Well I guess this explains the seven heads of rat king in The Nutcracker.

  58. cinemajay says:

    Props for the uni chasers. I had a bottle of pepto while waiting.


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