John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
An uber-rodent recently found in a Swedish kitchen is not the first humongous rat to horrify the world.
Meet Ratzilla. "[My wife] went crazy and jumped up on the table, exactly like in the cartoons." @ 6:51 pic.twitter.com/48FOz1m3nM— As It Happens (@cbcasithappens) March 27, 2014
Waves of disgust are spreading through the online world, and for that you can thank a family in Stockholm who killed a rat so big and ugly people have named it Ratzilla. (The news site Aftonbladet has even provided a zoom tool for the gigantic dead rat, should you want to really get in there close.)
But this swole Swede rodent is far from the first grossly oversized rat to horrify the planet. Recent history is crawling with similar Ratzillas – below, find a few of the more eminent examples:
THE BED-STUY BEHEMOTHS
In 2011, a housing-authority worker was poking at a hole in the ground at Brooklyn's Marcy Houses when not one, but three humongous rats lumbered out. Two headed for the hills but he managed to spear the third with a pitchfork. It turned out to be a Gambian pouched rat, a nocturnal rodent native to Africa that can get as big and heavy as a raccoon. The theory was that it was somebody's exotic pet that escaped or was let free.
Pouched rats are reportedly docile and even useful; they can be trained to sniff out tuberculosis and landmines, for instance. But their immensity can be intimidating. The Bed-Stuy creature measured three feet long from head to hairless tail. "Even the cats are afraid of the rats. They get together and gang up on the cats," one local told the Daily News. Quipped another: "We don't dodge bullets. We dodge rats. They're so big, they should charge them rent."
THE MUTANT RATS OF TEHRAN
In a story that sounds as credible as anything from the Iranian media, Tehran is supposedly battling waves of mutated, poison-resistant super-rats. Last year, the city's environmental agency announced that the massive animals, weighing up to 11 pounds apiece, had taken over the streets, reported the International Business Times:
"They seem to have had a genetic mutation, probably as a result of radiations and the chemical used on them," Ismail Kahram, Teheran city council environment adviser and university professor Ismail Kahram told Qudsonline.ir.
"They are now bigger and look different. These are changes that normally take millions of years of evolution. They have jumped from 60 grams to five kilos, and cats are now smaller than them."
To handle this invasion, Tehran did the sensible thing: called in sniper teams to shoot them at night. They killed more than 2,000 giant rats, burning them afterward or burying their bodies in lime, with little apparent impact on the rodent population. As one official lamented, "it has become a 24/7 war."
THE FIEND OF FOOT LOCKER
Twitter was alerted to the demise of Master Splinter in 2012 by Twitter user TheGoodfella, who then added the profanity necessary to emphasize this incredible, giant-rat-carcass-on-a-shovel photograph. However, the veracity of this story remains in question. It turned out the guy who uploaded the image had found it on a friend's Facebook page. When contacted by the HuffPo, a Footlocker employee refused to comment on the photo; the company's corporate spokeswoman said she hadn't heard about it. Another journalist has speculated it was "just a camera trick."
Trick of the lens or not, that is one business-sized rat. Condolences, TMNT.
The Sunshine State has waged war on pouched rats for years to prevent the invasive species from causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of agricultural damage. (They're hungry buggers.) Wildlife-control managers use not just bait but motion-activated cameras and a "rat hotline," which residents can call to report extra-large rodents in their neighborhood. Like the beast you see here (props to this man for being the only person in all these photos with the stones to handle a rat bare-handed):
A farmer was walking along in the northern U.K. in 2012 when he heard shouts of "RAT!" He grabbed a piece of wood and ran toward a friend who had stumbled upon a hairy creature measuring 4 feet long. “It wasn’t very fast because it was that big. I think It was about to drop young ones," he told the Northern Echo.
So he cudgeled it to death. Then he tried to pick the body up with his length of wood, but it was so heavy it broke it. That would've been the end of the affair had not somebody posted the below photo on Twitter, leading some people to angrily wonder if he had killed a coypu, aka the South American "swamp beaver." After receiving death threats, the farmer went on the record to say he was sure it was a rat: "I know the difference between a rat and a coypu, because I've lived in the country most of my life and it's vermin, and vermin should be destroyed."
But we'll will never know for sure, as he burned the body after "word got round."