Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

rat any of a large number of species of long-tailed rodents, mostly considerably larger than the related mice (although there are some which are only mouse sized). Rats come originally from the Old World but are now found worldwide.

The two principal rats, so far as people in temperate climates are concerned, are Rattus rattus, the black rat, and R. norvegicus, the common, grey, or Norway rat. In the western world they are regarded as pests rather than as potential food. There are, however, records of their being eaten, and some notoriety attaches to the rat dishes which were consumed in Paris when the city was besieged by Prussian forces in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1.