Geek Trivia

An Entanglement Of Rats Is Called A?

Rat King
Rodentia Knot
Sewer Mass
The Design Of Which Of These Common Office Objects Was Directly Influenced By The Quakers?

Answer: Rat King

One of the joys of tirelessly researching trivia big and small is the sheer scale (equally big and small) of the curiosities you come across in the process. One particular curiosity is that of the “rat king” which, if both historical and modern accounts are to be believed, is the result of rats becoming entangled while nesting.

The premise, while somewhat absurd at first glance, is backed up by multiple accounts. When rodents nest together, there is a rare but real chance that their tails become entangled in some sort of hellish Edwardian knot from which they cannot escape.

Historically, such events (and the evidence thereof) were dismissed as hoaxes perpetuated by pranksters and sideshow artists looking to make a quick buck, but there are contemporary examples of rats, squirrels, and other members of the rodentia order finding themselves helplessly entangled. In 1951, for example, a zoo in South Carolina had to deal with a “squirrel king” of tangled up squirrels and in 2013, Canadian veterinarians undertook the task of untangling more squirrels.

So how exactly does such a bizarre state occur? While there were plenty of superstitious and supernatural theories in centuries past, the most accepted modern answer to the bizarre state of rodent entanglement is that under certain conditions (such as in freezing weather), bodily (or other) fluids may bind the tails of nesting animals together and, upon discovering (and panicking) that they are bonded together, the frantic movements they employ in an attempt to break free further worsens the entanglement. Regardless of the mechanism of action, we can all be thankful that our final hours on this Earth aren’t spent with our tails inexorably interwoven with our kin.

Image courtesy of the Naturkundliches Museum Mauritianum/Wikimedia.