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 Rat Rodents - Pictures
Photo source:
The Alphabet Rats © 1997

Rat Rodents - Myths

People often look upon rats as dirty and dangerous creatures that should be exterminated. Such misconception is a result of a lack of knowledge among people about these animals. Rats are blamed for spreading the bubonic plague, which wiped out the large part of population of Europe in the 17th century.

Actually, the plague was spread by fleas, which lived in the rats' fur and were able to transfer to people. Many people think rats to be dirty, but the fact is that these creatures groom themselves constantly and wash their faces with water.

Rat Rodents - Origin and history

 Rat Rodents - Pictures
Photo source:
The Alphabet Rats © 1997
Rats are mammals and belong to the order "rodentia" (the Latin word meaning "to gnaw"). Their close relatives are rabbits, hamsters and gerbils. There are two widely spread types of rats: the black rat (rattus rattus) and the brown rat (rattus norvegicus). Both of them are thought to have originated in Asia and spread into Europe. Indirectly these animals are responsible for a great number of deaths among humans.

There exist many other types, such as kangaroo rats, Nile rats, giant rats, mole rats, rock rats, rice rats, cotton rats, wood rats and some others. In Hinduism rats are considered to be sacred animals and there are Rat temples in India. In Asia, rats were domesticated in the 17th century and kept as pets.

In the 19th century rats were captured for ratting contests where terriers competed to kill the most rats. Such shows were rather popular in Europe. In that time rats were also bred for lab tests and became very helpful in studying genetics, nutrition, intelligence and various diseases. Scientists noticed that rats are very intelligent and can make excellent pets. Breeding and keeping of tame rats became popular in the 19th century and the rats that we have today are very different from their wild ancestors. A great number of breeds and strains of domestic rats resulted from inbreeding by research laboratories.

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