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Black rat

Similar to its cousin, the Brown Rat, the Black Rat is a lot less common in the UK (quite rare in fact), only usually occurring in a number of ports and storage facilities been in port Towns such as London and Liverpool. Once common it has been widely displaced by the Brown Rat, which is bigger and more aggressive.

Black rat at London Zoo.

Image via Wikipedia

Female Black Rats can have up to five litters per year (although they can regulate this to as few as one per year if food sources are scarce), usually between March and November giving birth to 5 to 8 blind and naked young. After a few weeks they will leave home and become mature at around 13 weeks old. In the wild they usually live for about 2 – 3 years.


  • Also known as the Ship Rat, House Rat, Alexandrine Rat and English Rat
  • Black to light brown with a paler underside
  • 15 – 20cm with a long thin tail that is another 20cm long Are rare in the UK
  • Mostly nocturnal
  • A Black Rats tail is always at least as long as its body
  • Larger eyes than a Brown Rat, also larger, hairless ears
  • Tree dwelling, will live and rest in trees

In the garden

It is rare that you will find a Black rat in your wildlife garden; it is much more likely that any Rat activity will be from Brown Rats. Black Rats will nest high up in trees or high walls and buildings and are omnivores; eating almost anything they come across although they prefer grain to form the bulk of their diet.

Did you know?

  • In the 1920’s Black Rats were kept as pets and several variations were bred and shown including a rare green tinted variety!