Thursday, September 11, 2014

Rat Kings

Something strange has been going on in my garden as of late. When you grow your own fruits and vegetables, a lot of times you end up with surprises that would never have made it too the store, Martian shaped potatoes, eggplants curling around into donuts, butt shaped apples. I left some onions last year, and for the most part I just got a single onion in the same place again. Then there was this:

The Onion King
(One of those bizarre potatoes can be seen here too.)
Why did I call it that? Well, it reminds, morbidly I admit, of a bizarre and somewhat horrible natural occurrence, once connected to the paranormal; that of, the Rat King. A Rat King occurs when several rats become entangled the tail (usually while huddling for warmth). The situation can occur with or without some assisting substances (blood, mud, feces, ice, sap). X-rays of preserved Rat Kings have shown that in at least some cases they lived long enough for their tails to callus and heal (as they are often broken).

Similar specimens of other rodents, such as squirrels, have been found. This Squirrel King story had a happier ending than most:

This, and other recent king finds, suggest that the theory that Rat Kings were merely a hoax thought up by bored Rat Catchers (yes, that was a professional title), is probably incorrect.

Folklore has it that when rats were joined in such a manner they acted as one creature, sometimes with a single 'king' rat sitting on top and directing the others. Linguists however, tend to point out that they were called 'kings' due to their extraordinary weight compared to a single rat.

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