19 September 2018

A "rat king", three "squirrel kings" -- and three bucks

"Rat kings are cryptozoological phenomena said to arise when a number of rats become intertwined at their tails, which become stuck together with blood, dirt, and excrement. The animals consequently grow together while joined at the tails, which are often broken. The phenomenon is particularly associated with Germany, where the majority of instances have been reported...

Most researchers presume the creatures are legendary and that all supposed physical evidence is hoaxed, such as mummified groups of dead rats with their tails tied together. Reports of living specimens remain unsubstantiated

Specimens of purported rat kings are kept in some museums. The museum Mauritianum in Altenburg (Thuringia) shows the largest well-known mummified "rat king", which was found in 1828 in a miller's fireplace at Buchheim [above]. It consists of 32 rats. Alcohol-preserved rat kings are shown in museums in Hamburg, Hamelin, Göttingen, and Stuttgart. A rat king found in 1930 in New Zealand, displayed in the Otago Museum in Dunedin, was composed of immature Rattus rattus whose tails were entangled by horse hair.

The term rat king has often led to the misconception of a king of rats... The Nutcracker, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, adapts a tale by E. T. A. Hoffmann that features a seven-headed Mouse King as the villain..."
Image and text from Wikipedia. Credit to Neatorama.

Addendum #1:  Reposted to add this example of a "squirrel king" -
The Animal Clinic of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada, got a surprise this week when a city worker brought in six squirrels fused together by their tails...

This particular group of six were nesting near a pine tree and sap fused their tails together. A city of Regina worker found the young squirrels and brought them to the clinic. The animals were sedated and the veterinarian team worked to untangle the mess of tails. Their tails were then shaved of the matted fur and they were given antibiotics to prevent infection.  (Via Nothing to do with Arbroath)

Addendum #2:  Reposted in order to add this related interesting phenomenon found by my wife at the Buck Manager website:

[T]hese three white-tailed bucks were found locked during the rut. The bucks were located on a ranch in east-central Texas and, from the information that I received, one of the bucks was still alive when the trio was found. Apparently, the antlers were cut from the dead deer and one very tired buck was lucky enough to run back off into the woods.
There are lots of comments at the site, some opining that the event was faked and arguing the method of death, and one who reported seeing a buck attack a pair that was already locked.   My wife found another example at the same website:

 "...there is nothing worse than finding a dead buck that you did not shoot, but how would you feel if you found not one, but three dead bucks on your property? Okay, it gets worse. What if those three bucks totaled 450 inches of antler? That is exactly what a hunter in the mid-West found on his Ohio farm..."
"They had the bank of this creek all tore up."
Addendum #3: And reader Lisa knew of a ancient example of the phenomenon involving Ice Age mammoths.

Addendum #4:  Reposted from 2013 to add this image found by an anonymous reader -

- of a squirrel king in Nebraska, with the victims, as in the example cited above, fused at their tails by pine tree sap.

Addendum #5:  Reposted yet again to add this "squirrel king" found locally here in central Wisconsin:

Their tails had become entwined with "long-stemmed grasses and strips of plastic their mother used as nest material," the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center wrote on Facebook... "It was impossible to tell whose tail was whose, and we were increasingly concerned because all of them had suffered from varying degrees of tissue damage to their tails caused by circulatory impairment," the post read.


  1. Our local PBS affiliate did a segment for NOVA ScienceNow about two mammoths who died with their tusks tangled.

  2. It defies belief that this many rats would stand butt-to-butt long enough for this to happen.

    Also, I used to raise rats when I was young, and I don't recall that their tails were flexible enough to get entangled in another tail. My guess is the tails of the ones in the rat king were broken because someone bent them more than the bones inside the tail would allow in order to make them look entwined.

  3. Terry Pratchett used the idea of the Rat King in The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. Very creepy.

  4. I too used to raise rats, and even when they're in massive rat piles I have never seen their tails get even close to tangled -- and if they did to the point where it would cost their lives, I've no doubt that they would chew off their neighbors' in order to get away.

  5. This post needs the Rat King Rug


  6. I have seen this twice and know of another confirmed example....all in grey squirrels. The two I saw (in 2012 and 2009) were nesting in white pine trees on the Saint Michael's College campus in Vermont and handled by a wildlife rehab person. The most recent case was in my neighborhood; the squirrels somehow self separated one with a bent tail; 2 with severed tails. All three survived into the Fall and I have not seen them yet this Spring. I suspect they perished in the winter.

  7. Yeah, nah, I'ma gonna call hoaxes
    The rats here at my place ...guessing neighbour's kids had some, let them escape, they bred, moved to my back garden, moved into my roof space, got live caught by yours truly, got re-homed into a large cage out the big side garden ... groom themselves more than my super clean cats and rabbits.
    The only way they could get stuck together 'naturally' is by the addition of some glue of the super type, whilst they were held down, so hence, un-naturally.
    The whole concept discredits how clever and resourceful rattus rattus are/is.
    Not to mention clean and cute.

  8. i have a small piece of pine tree sap with some hawk feathers stuck in it.



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