Coimbra Exhibition

The Rat King of Saru

Place of OriginSaru, Võru county, Estonia
DescriptionThe expression 'rat king' refers to a rare phenomenon - a group of rats whose tails have become intertwined. Before the year 2005 only 58 reliable finds of rat kings have been reported, 6 of which were preserved in collections.On 16 January 2005 a farmer discovered a squeaking huddle of rats on the sandy floor of his shed. A cluster of 16 rats was excavated from the frozen sand of the shed floow. At the time of discovery only about 9 of the rats were alive. About two months later the rat king of Saru was transported to the Natural History Museum at the University of Tartu, where it was preserved in alcohol. It consists of 13 adult black rats (Rattus rattus): 7 males and 6 females. One specimen of the original 16 was disposed of by the finder and two were taken by a predator, probably a polecat. Of these two, only one tail remains in the knot. Due to extended exposure to open air, some of the rats have suffered various injuries, and their appendages were somewhat dried out. Since the tails of the rats dried up, the knot became loose. Nevertheless, the heavily compressed parts of the tails testified that the knot had once been very tight.
Tagszooloogical collection
Dimensions500 mm x 500 mm x 150 mm
Material/Mediumwet specimen, animal
Institutional Link to Object
Institutional Link to Online Portal
Image LicenseCC-BY
Image Rights Holder©University of Tartu
Photographic CreditsAavo Kaine
Metadata RightsCC-O