Are Rat Kings real?

First, the definition of a rat king (from Wikipedia): “…phenomena said to arise when a number of rats become intertwined at their tails, which become stuck together with blood, dirt, ice, excrement or simply knotted.”

This just seems highly incredible, and most sources cautiously categorized it as folklore despite the presence of mummified specimens.

You would think if this was a real thing, there would be more contemporary examples or accounts (outside of that given by Dennis on 30 Rock), so my skepticism held fast. Then I happened upon this documentation of a similar occurrence involving juvenile squirrels.

So what do the Dopers out there know about this phenomena? Any first hand accounts? Is this really a thing?

My ex-girlfriend’s mother’s dog found a Squirrel King once. Does that count?

I have to call shenanigans on this. Rat tails are not going to get entwined with each other, these are obviously man made fabrications. I also fail to see how a squirrels short tail hairs could get “knotted” together.

This is people being cruel to animals or telling stories.

Did anyone notice in the link that the squirrel’s tails were entangled in Christmas tree lights? Not exactly the same thing as a Rat King.

I could see this happening to juvenile rats. Perhaps huddling together in a chewed out log to avoid the cold and eventually getting their tails enmired in their feces which hardens and leaves them continuing to gnaw wood until their eventual death and dessication. I could also see some nutty or bored farmer tying their tails together to create the oddity.

Whence “king”?

The rats could, and would, just gnaw through the hardened feces. They can chew through anything. They’d likely chew through their tails, too.

A rat’s tail doesn’t have a lot of give to it, especially at the midsection, and it isn’t bendy enough to make any sort of knots.

I call shenanigans.

What kind of squrrels had you in mind? Some species have quite bushy tails - and i could well imagine it at least being possible for them to get matted together, either by something very sticky (pine resin?) or by plant burrs.

I can’t imagine many plausible scenarios in which this would happen accidentally though, and if it did happen, I expect one of the animals would either gnaw through the tail of the other and/or fight it to the death.

I always thought “rat king” referred to a giant sort of boss rat that was twice the size or more of its kin. Never heard of the OP’s description before this.

Another vote that this is pure hogwash.

Maybe mummified remains exist, but the fossilized body of the Cardiff Giant also exists. Doesn’t make him real.

The important question: can the Rat King beat up the Gerbil King?

I’d believe it more in squirrels due to their fluffy tails. Rats may have a reputation to live in filth, but their fastidiousness at cleaning themselves is equal to cats. YouTube “rats washing” or “rats cleaning” for cuteness. Those dried on turds would be long gone. And as said, their tails are thick and bend just a little. They are not fully prehensile at all.

Wikipedia has some explanation. Usage of the term was used for a social loafer. Then some theories, like a bastardization of French, or because it was thought to be one large animal with many body appendages. Umm… also King Rat is a book by James Clavell. And the picture of the pickled rats makes me think of a “vinegar mother,” another similar term.

I have had pet rats and i second the notion that their tails are much too stiff along a great percentage of their length to “randomly” tie together. Now I suppose a particularly lowbrow individual may be able to somehow intertwine the flexible tips together as some sort of perverted joke, but I doubt it

I have to agree with those who mention that rats and squirrels would gnaw their or others tails off to get free. The probability of this happening to live animals seems to be much lower than the probability of a hoax.

A rat king is a plot point in Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. The characters speculate on various ways that they could come to exist, but it turns out that the rat king in the book, like presumably all such, was deliberately created by a sick and twisted human.

The Rat King was my favorite Ninja Turtles character.

I’m the Rat King. Duh. :rolleyes:

More seriously, rats aren’t stupid. They don’t have meetings where one proposes “hey, let’s interlace our tails and become a super-rat conglomeration!” would get "rat"ified.

Why “king”? I’d expect a rat king to have super powers or control over rats, but this sounds like a permanent 3-legged race. Not even gross or scary.

Write your own Richard Gere joke.

I believe the “king” bit came from the belief (not sure whether true or not) that, when the tail-tangling occurs and renders the rats essentially helpless, the other rats in the colony will bring the rats food to keep them alive. Kind of like bringing tribute to a king.

Oh, I was hoping they got around by cartwheeling.

They can’t do that themselves, but a hoop snake can wrap around them and the rats form the spokes to a grotesque wheel.