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Old 09-14-2012, 11:21 PM
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Are Rat Kings real?

First, the definition of a rat king (from Wikipedia): "...phenomena said to arise when a number of rats become intertwined at their tails, which become stuck together with blood, dirt, ice, excrement or simply knotted."

This just seems highly incredible, and most sources cautiously categorized it as folklore despite the presence of mummified specimens.

You would think if this was a real thing, there would be more contemporary examples or accounts (outside of that given by Dennis on 30 Rock), so my skepticism held fast. Then I happened upon this documentation of a similar occurrence involving juvenile squirrels.

So what do the Dopers out there know about this phenomena? Any first hand accounts? Is this really a thing?
Old 09-14-2012, 11:50 PM
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My ex-girlfriend's mother's dog found a Squirrel King once. Does that count?
Old 09-15-2012, 12:01 AM
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I have to call shenanigans on this. Rat tails are not going to get entwined with each other, these are obviously man made fabrications. I also fail to see how a squirrels short tail hairs could get "knotted" together.

This is people being cruel to animals or telling stories.
Old 09-15-2012, 12:17 AM
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Did anyone notice in the link that the squirrel's tails were entangled in Christmas tree lights? Not exactly the same thing as a Rat King.

I could see this happening to juvenile rats. Perhaps huddling together in a chewed out log to avoid the cold and eventually getting their tails enmired in their feces which hardens and leaves them continuing to gnaw wood until their eventual death and dessication. I could also see some nutty or bored farmer tying their tails together to create the oddity.
Old 09-15-2012, 08:08 AM
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Whence "king"?

Last edited by Son of a Rich; 09-15-2012 at 08:09 AM.
Old 09-15-2012, 09:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
Did anyone notice in the link that the squirrel's tails were entangled in Christmas tree lights? Not exactly the same thing as a Rat King.

I could see this happening to juvenile rats. Perhaps huddling together in a chewed out log to avoid the cold and eventually getting their tails enmired in their feces which hardens and leaves them continuing to gnaw wood until their eventual death and dessication. I could also see some nutty or bored farmer tying their tails together to create the oddity.
The rats could, and would, just gnaw through the hardened feces. They can chew through anything. They'd likely chew through their tails, too.

A rat's tail doesn't have a lot of give to it, especially at the midsection, and it isn't bendy enough to make any sort of knots.

I call shenanigans.
Old 09-15-2012, 09:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astro View Post
I also fail to see how a squirrels short tail hairs could get "knotted" together.
What kind of squrrels had you in mind? Some species have quite bushy tails - and i could well imagine it at least being possible for them to get matted together, either by something very sticky (pine resin?) or by plant burrs.

I can't imagine many plausible scenarios in which this would happen accidentally though, and if it did happen, I expect one of the animals would either gnaw through the tail of the other and/or fight it to the death.
Old 09-15-2012, 10:57 AM
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I always thought "rat king" referred to a giant sort of boss rat that was twice the size or more of its kin. Never heard of the OP's description before this.

http://weird-encyclopedia.com/rat-king.php

Quote:
A rat king is a rare phenomenon arising in rats. A number of rats become intertwined at the tails, and are joined with blood, dirt, and excrement. Consequently, the animals grow together, joined at the tails, which are often broken. The phenomenon is particularly associated with Germany, where the majority of instances have been located.

Rat kings have always been a subject of fear and superstition, and killed upon discovery. Nevertheless, there were occasional findings of dead and subsequently mummified rat kings. The museum Mauritianum in Altenburg (Thuringia) shows the largest well-known mummified "rat king", which was found in 1828 in the fire-place of a miller in Buchheim. It consists of 32 rats. Alcohol-preserved rat kings may be viewed in museums in Hamburg, Hameln, Goettingen and Stuttgart. Altogether, the number of well-known finds of rat kings is small. Depending upon source, it varies between 35 and 50 finds.

The earliest report of rat kings comes from 1564. With the displacement of the black rat by the brown rat in the 18th century, the phenomenon has died down. For instance, since the beginning of the 20th century, there have been fewer sightings of rat kings, the most recent find dating from April 10, 1986, and comes from a French discovery in the Vendée.

The "rat king" arises particularly in the black rat (Rattus rattus). The only find involving sawah rats (Rattus rattus brevicaudatus) occurred on March 23, 1918, in Bogor on Java, where a rat king of ten young field rats was found. Similar groupings arise occasionally in other species: in April 1929, a group of young forest mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) was discovered in Holstein, and there continue to exist reports of squirrel kings, of which the Zoological Institute of the University of Hamburg allegedly have a specimen. Rat kings are not to be confused with conjoined twins, which arise in several species. With the rat king, the animals grow together only after birth and are completely separate during birth.

Historically, rat kings were seen as an extremely bad omen, particularly associated with plagues. Such events also occurred, since rat kings arise only if too many rats exist and are according to little place for new buildings. With an increase in the size of the rat population comes an increase of the chance of outbreak of disease, for example the Black Death, which is spread by rat fleas.
Old 09-15-2012, 11:11 AM
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Another vote that this is pure hogwash.
Old 09-15-2012, 06:50 PM
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Maybe mummified remains exist, but the fossilized body of the Cardiff Giant also exists. Doesn't make him real.

The important question: can the Rat King beat up the Gerbil King?

I'd believe it more in squirrels due to their fluffy tails. Rats may have a reputation to live in filth, but their fastidiousness at cleaning themselves is equal to cats. YouTube "rats washing" or "rats cleaning" for cuteness. Those dried on turds would be long gone. And as said, their tails are thick and bend just a little. They are not fully prehensile at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Son of a Rich View Post
Whence "king"?
Wikipedia has some explanation. Usage of the term was used for a social loafer. Then some theories, like a bastardization of French, or because it was thought to be one large animal with many body appendages. Umm... also King Rat is a book by James Clavell. And the picture of the pickled rats makes me think of a "vinegar mother," another similar term.
Old 09-16-2012, 09:20 AM
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I have had pet rats and i second the notion that their tails are much too stiff along a great percentage of their length to "randomly" tie together. Now I suppose a particularly lowbrow individual may be able to somehow intertwine the flexible tips together as some sort of perverted joke, but I doubt it
Old 09-16-2012, 10:48 AM
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I have to agree with those who mention that rats and squirrels would gnaw their or others tails off to get free. The probability of this happening to live animals seems to be much lower than the probability of a hoax.
Old 09-16-2012, 11:42 AM
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A rat king is a plot point in Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. The characters speculate on various ways that they could come to exist, but it turns out that
SPOILER:
the rat king in the book, like presumably all such, was deliberately created by a sick and twisted human.
Old 09-16-2012, 12:55 PM
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The Rat King was my favorite Ninja Turtles character.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_King
Old 09-16-2012, 02:01 PM
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I'm the Rat King. Duh.

More seriously, rats aren't stupid. They don't have meetings where one proposes "hey, let's interlace our tails and become a super-rat conglomeration!" would get "rat"ified.
Old 09-16-2012, 09:57 PM
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Why "king"? I'd expect a rat king to have super powers or control over rats, but this sounds like a permanent 3-legged race. Not even gross or scary.
Old 09-16-2012, 10:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thelurkinghorror View Post
Maybe mummified remains exist, but the fossilized body of the Cardiff Giant also exists. Doesn't make him real.

The important question: can the Rat King beat up the Gerbil King?
Write your own Richard Gere joke.
Old 09-17-2012, 09:27 AM
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Originally Posted by AaronX View Post
Why "king"? I'd expect a rat king to have super powers or control over rats, but this sounds like a permanent 3-legged race. Not even gross or scary.
I believe the "king" bit came from the belief (not sure whether true or not) that, when the tail-tangling occurs and renders the rats essentially helpless, the other rats in the colony will bring the rats food to keep them alive. Kind of like bringing tribute to a king.
Old 09-17-2012, 10:00 AM
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Oh, I was hoping they got around by cartwheeling.
Old 09-17-2012, 11:06 AM
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Oh, I was hoping they got around by cartwheeling.
They can't do that themselves, but a hoop snake can wrap around them and the rats form the spokes to a grotesque wheel.
Old 09-17-2012, 11:27 AM
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Dunno about rat kings, but King Rat is a proven phenomenon.
Old 09-17-2012, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Kenm View Post
Dunno about rat kings, but King Rat is a proven phenomenon.
Excellent film. Brief appearance by Richard Dawson, from Hogan's Heros and Family Feud at the end of the movie.
Old 09-17-2012, 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by GiantRat View Post
I'm the Rat King. Duh.

More seriously, rats aren't stupid. They don't have meetings where one proposes "hey, let's interlace our tails and become a super-rat conglomeration!" would get "rat"ified.
Quote:
Originally Posted by AaronX View Post
Why "king"? I'd expect a rat king to have super powers or control over rats, but this sounds like a permanent 3-legged race. Not even gross or scary.
If anything, it's much more (small r) republican. It's more of a Rat Senate than anything.
Old 09-17-2012, 03:01 PM
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Originally Posted by FriarTed View Post
Write your own Richard Gere joke.
I am immensely proud of my restraint in not going there in this thread.
Old 09-17-2012, 04:46 PM
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You guys do know my reference was to a gerbil going into and getting lost in an anus, although it's a SuperGay, not Gere. He meets the souls of the other animals who died in there. Family Guy did Gere.

The whole story of the Rat King reminds me of the grotesqueries of the Cats of Kilkenny.
Old 09-17-2012, 04:50 PM
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It has to have been Gere, otherwise the joke about gerbils having difficulty with manual transmissions doesn't work. I mean, how you gonna make the joke work with Brad Pitt?

And please tell me South Park has at least made a clear reference to Cats of Kilkenny. That one writes itself.

Last edited by Inigo Montoya; 09-17-2012 at 04:52 PM.
Old 03-08-2014, 09:53 AM
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I really doubt it's real because according to Wikipedia:
"The phenomenon is particularly associated with Germany, where the majority of instances have been reported."
Why would this happen especially in one country? I think a good analogy is crop circles. They started in England and are mostly found in the English speaking world.
Old 03-08-2014, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by The Great Sun Jester View Post
It has to have been Gere, otherwise the joke about gerbils having difficulty with manual transmissions doesn't work. I mean, how you gonna make the joke work with Brad Pitt?

And please tell me South Park has at least made a clear reference to Cats of Kilkenny. That one writes itself.
My google fu is proving inadequate...care to share the manual transmission joke
Old 03-08-2014, 12:57 PM
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Dunno about rat kings, but King Rat is a proven phenomenon.
The book was an awesome read as well. I liked it AND the movie. How weird is that?
Old 03-08-2014, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by denys55 View Post
I really doubt it's real because according to Wikipedia:
"The phenomenon is particularly associated with Germany, where the majority of instances have been reported."
Why would this happen especially in one country? I think a good analogy is crop circles. They started in England and are mostly found in the English speaking world.
It's not "one country." It's Germany. Europe's Florida.

But also, Cecil's current column is on guys freaking out and imaging their penis is disappearing. It only occurs (probably unrelated) in parts of (Western?) Africa and some of the Pacific Islands and small parts of China. Something happens and quickly spreads through the community as hysteria/a meme.
Old 03-08-2014, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by drachillix View Post
My google fu is proving inadequate...care to share the manual transmission joke
I'm guessing a punch line about "getting into gear".
Old 03-08-2014, 05:25 PM
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I don't know how authentic rat kings are, but I've seen an example of what is claimed to be an authentic specimen, in the Otago Museum in Dunedin in New Zealand.
Old 03-08-2014, 06:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sinisterniik View Post
I always thought "rat king" referred to a giant sort of boss rat that was twice the size or more of its kin. Never heard of the OP's description before this.

http://weird-encyclopedia.com/rat-king.php


*chuckles* Good memories sir! Good memories.
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