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Rats - History

Pet rats’ have only been around for about a hundred and fifty years. Developed from the wild Brown Rat, Rattus norvegicus or Norway rat, which actually originated in Asia. The Brown Rat is not to be confused with the Black Rat. It is the Black Rat that causedBlack dalmation rat the Great Plague; they are two distinctly different sub species. The Brown Rat began mutating and started to throw pied (two coloured) young. In London in the 1860’s there are records that show they were used for ‘entertainment’ in pit fights. When the first albino rats were thrown, people started to keep them as curiosities, and once they started handling them without fear the pet rats, or should we say captive rats, became tamer and stopped instinctive biting. These captive rats were not far from being wild at this stage. Bearing in mind that these rats had no reason to trust humans and every reason to fear them.

Baby ratsA Victorian gentleman, Jack Black, who was the Royal Exterminator, kept cages of wild rats with colour variations that he caught and displayed. Around the same time a man called Shaw is credited with actually breeding the first pet rats. He bred fancy rats: colour variants, pied and albino rats and sold them as pets. The brown rat has been as despised much as the Black Rat. The new Pet Rats were seen as a different species because of their colour and temperament. Clubs were formed to show fancy rats. Right up to today there are folk who still think that rats are vermin – but then there are rats that aren’t as unforgiving.

There are thousands of specialist rat clubs and associations around the world.


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