The Black Rat or Ship Rat - Rattus rattus

The Black Rat, also known as the Ship Rat, arrived in ships cargo during Roman times and in the middle ages, bringing fleas that caused the plague, or Black Death, that killed three million people in England. They are carriers of many diseases, thought to be because they can hold many bacteria in their blood without harming themselves.

Now scarce in Britain, their notorious history still causes great concern. They are primarily found in ports or coastal towns in warehouses and disused buildings. They can pose a significant nuisance to farmers and agricultural workers with their ability to destroy crops. They are extremely agile climbers and rarely burrow underground (although it has been known), and their preferred nesting sites are high above the ground in trees, warehouses and, of course, our homes.


The Black Rat is, of course, black in colour, smaller/slimmer than the brown rat. They are around 12-14 cm, with their tail being longer than their body.

The female Black Rat can produce around five litters of five young in her lifetime, being sexually mature at only five weeks old.