• picture
  • picture
  • picture
  • picture
Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Almanac/Rat Catcher’s Day

Air Date: Week of

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

This week, we have facts about Rat Catcher's Day. The date stems from Robert Browning's poem "The Pied Piper of Hamelin."


TOOMEY: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I’m Diane Toomey.


TOOMEY: "Rats, they fought the dogs and killed the cats, and bit the babies in the cradles, and ate the cheeses out of the vats, and licked the soup from the cook’s own ladles." That was the plight of a medieval German town, described in Robert Browning’s poem, "The Pied Piper of Hamelin."

To save the people from this terrible plague, a colorful stranger lured away all the rats by playing his flute. And the date Browning ascribes to this event, it’s July 22nd, now known as Rat Catcher’s Day.

People and rats have always been locked in a battle for supremacy. The rodents are despised for destroying crops and carrying disease, most notably, the Bubonic Plague. Rats can swim up to half a mile and tread water for three days. They can squeeze through holes as small as a quarter of an inch. And their reproductive rate is truly amazing. A single pair of rats can potentially produce thousands of heirs in a year.

Domestic rats do have their staunch supporters, with owners describing them as intelligent, even affectionate. But cities continue to consider the rats pests. Rat catchers starve them, poison them, and shoot them. But, so far, no method has had the 100% success rate of the Pied Piper and his captivating tune. For this week, that’s the Living on Earth Almanac.




Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth