Thursday, August 28, 2014
Rat kings are formed when a number of rats become intertwined at their tails and get stuck together with blood, dirt, ice, excrement or simply knotted. The animals grow together forming one large beast.
The earliest report of a rat king comes from 1564. Historically, the rat king was viewed as a bad omen, and probably with good reason. Rats carry a number of diseases, perhaps most notably plague, so it is understandable that people would associate bad luck with a large cluster of rats. Diseases tend to arise more readily when animals are confined close together, so the location of a rat king could be a breeding ground of disease.
Specimens of purported rat kings are rare and kept in some museums. The largest well-known mummified rat king was found in 1828 in a miller’s fireplace at Buchheim, Germany. It consists of 32 rats.
Depending on the source, the number of reported instances varies between 35 and 50 finds.
The occurrence is particularly associated with Germany, where the majority of rat kings have been located. In April 1929, a group of young forest mice was reported joined in Holstein, Germany, and there have been sightings of squirrel kings. Most rat kings show formations of callus at the fractures of their tails, which according to proponents show that the animals survived for an extended period of time with their tails tangled.
Sightings have been sporadic in modern history, with some rat kings being reported alive. The most recent claim comes from an Estonian farmer’s discovery in the Võrumaa region on January 16, 2005.