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Brown Rat vs. Black Rat - a comparison of species

Brown Rat (Rattus Norvegicus)


  Black Rat (Rattus Rattus)

Thought to have originated in northern China and spread to all continents except Antarctica, now the dominant rat in Europe and much of North America

Originated in India and Southeast Asia, spreading to the Near East and Egypt, throughout the Roman Empire, reaching the UK as early as the 1st century.


Up to 40cm in length, tail shorter than head and body

32-46cm in length (including tail), tail longer than head and body

350-500g in weight

110-340g in weight

Slanted nose, small ears, thicker body compared to the Black Rat

Pointed nose, large ears and slender body (compared to the Brown Rat)


7-8 young per litter; 3-6 litters a year

5-10 young per litter; 3-6 litters per year

Gestation period: 3 weeks

Gestation period: 3 weeks

10-12 weeks from birth to sexual maturity

12-16 weeks from birth to sexual maturity


Usually ground living and burrowing, very good swimmer, but a poor climber

Often climbs, agile, rarely burrows and rarely found outdoors in the UK

Only species to be found in UK sewers

Rare in the UK, appearance mainly confined to sea ports

Mainly cereals (although been known to eat anything!)

Fruit, nuts, seeds

Will eat around 30g of food a day and drink 60ml

Will eat approx 15g of food a day, drink 15ml

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