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Issue 1/January 2014

Quarterly Jo

ur n a l o

a nc y Ra t As f The Irish F

sociation


Constance A British Blue Dumbo Doe

The Irish Fancy Rat Association

Chariperson - Eoghan Duggan Hon. Secretary - Laura Woods Hon. Treasurer - Karl Woods Public Relations - Grace Daly Webmaster - Kayleigh Keegan Editor - Darren J. Fitzpatrick


Contents 4. A Letter From Grace 5. Interview with Laura Woods 8. From Villain to Champion: A brief history of the fancy rat c o ve r : Bo n g o This issue's k, a cinnamon F ur y O d d s o c t). pearl buck(le

11. Interview with Ann Storey 12. The Christmas Show Report

Dear Members, I am delighted to welcome you to this, the first edition (even if a little tardy) of 'an Francach', the quaterly journal of the Irish Fancy Rat Association. As you probably know, the former Irish Rat Club has been undergoing a face lift. The committee have been busy behind the scenes creating merchandise, journals, websites, logos as well as thinking good and hard about how to make the rat fancy a presence in Ireland. Our maiden issue has a letter from Grace on why she (and we!) think an Irish fancy is important as well as interviews from our Hon. Secretary, Laura Woods of Bongo Fury rattery and Ann Storey, an ardent fancier and Life President of the NFRS. We also have a brief piece on the history of the fancy rat, the first in what will be a regular series of columns entitled 'A Rat Miscellany' as well as Q&A's and book reviews. Spotted throughout the journal are beautiful pictures of featured rats. What better way to celebrate this animal we are all enthralled with. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I have enjoyed attempting to design it. I wish to thank all our contributors.

Until April,

Darren

16. A Rat Miscellany 17. Q & A 18. Book Reviews

Readers! We need you! If you fancy contributing, we are always after content. Perhaps there is an aspect of rat care you are particularly interested in, or a story you have about your rats. Maybe, you like to write short stories or about anything at all that interests you or even have a few nice pictures of your rats lying around. Please feel free to submit for the next or any issue. irishfancyratassociation@gmail.com


anFrancach | The IFRA

The Founding of the IFRA

I

A Letter from Grace Daly

have been watching the progress of the Irish rat fancy since I became an active member of the Irish Rat Club forum and it's always encouraging to see enthusiastic new members. Laura and Karl Woods set up the forum in 2005 with the help of our then Webmaster Lew Wernham. I know many members have found this along with the Facebook page an invaluable source of information on health and behaviour issues and also a place to share funny stories and photos of our furry friends and a place to be understood and empathised with when we lose one of our little companions. And I think we all need that ‘safe place’ when we don’t want to hear all the negative and ultimately uninformed opinions of pet rats.

see the fancy establish itself further as a uniquely Irish rat community. The development of the rat fancy in Ireland has to benefit rat owners on many levels. It has the potential to improve education around rats as animals, pet care, the different varieties and how rats and those who keep them are perceived. It is also the opportunity to show these beautiful animals with all their varieties and we can only hope it will also encourage more people to breed to a healthy standard. When I decided to get rats, nearly four years ago, I never imagined I would be adding to my life in any other way than simply adding rats! But I gained so much more than I anticipated. I have met some of my very best friends through meeting other rat owners. That’s one of the reasons that the existence of the rat fancy is so important in my opinion.

As you are aware, the Irish Rat Club has relaunched as the Irish Fancy Rat Association recently and is proving itself a very exciting place to be! It's more than just a superficial change of name and a beautiful new logo (which I think is the loveliest representation of all things ratty and Irish) it’s the continuing progress involving the opportunity for members to have even more input and an opportunity for the club to give more to members.

A community of people who have the best interests of rats at heart, both of as a pet and as a fancy animal. I know my care of my rats has been improved by sharing and learning from others in a way that all the googling (pre Irish Rat Club!) just didn’t cover. An acknowledgement must be made to those who started it all and continue to drive its progress, and all the members keeping the forum and the Facebook page alive. I, for one, look to the future of the IFRA with great anticipation!

As part of this progression, the IFRA held its very first rat show and social in December 2013, hopefully the first of many! And now this magazine, the Irish fancy is maturing before our eyes. With that I encourage members to be as active as possible, in whatever role they want. We would all love to

Thanks for reading , Grace 4


Laura Woods is the Hon. Secretary of the Irish Fancy Rat Association and has worked for a long time to initiate and develop a rat fancy in Ireland. She runs Bongo Fury rattery with her husband Karl in West Cork.

GD: So,

tell us where it all began for you, how did you get 'into' rats and the 'fancy' side of rat ownership?

LW: My first encounter with rats was when I was a child. The older daughter of a family friend had a pair of pink-eyed white ex lab rats. I loved watching them when we visited. Then, through school my best friend's sister had rats and I was besotted with hers. I still remember them now, Neelix and Quark. It wasn't too long after that I found my first rat in a petshop. Samoth Hieronymous Bosch was a Black Berkshire doe, who lived to a reasonable age and came with me when I first moved to Ireland. I tried to get her a friend a few months after I got her, but had no clue what I was doing and could never get them to live together. Wilhelmina Kotzwinkle, a silver fawn doe, was my second rat. I moved to Ireland in 2001 and Samoth died a few months later. I didn't get more rats until I met Karl. We got our first pair in 2004, Tubbs and Edward, both Black Hooded, and the rest is history! We didn't start off on the right foot with regards to the fancy though. We made some poor choices with buying from petshops, wanted to breed with no knowledge, and as a result no good rats, as no-one would home to us. We quite quickly saw the error of our ways, and spent the next two years showing people that we had changed, genuinely. Our pet numbers dropped drastically, we went to shows, and did all we could to show our attitudes were no longer the same. Our first breeding rats came from John and Kathy at Tenaran Stud, and we still consider them friends, and have worked together on and off ever since. We also owe a huge debt of thanks to Estelle at Alpha Centauri, Nicola at Cariad, Jenna at Hakuna Matata, Joanna at

Epiphany and Ann at Rivendell for all their help and rats through the years. There are others too, but too many to name - those are the people who really started us off!

GD: How

has your experience of the British fancy impacted on your ideas and hopes for the IRFA?

LW: Massively! I have made so many friends in the UK fancy and that is the main theme of the Irish Fancy to me, friendship. Even if we never get to a point where we are having good, quality, regular variety shows, I want us to be at a point where we have good, quality, regular pet shows with an emphasis on the social aspect. When we started this up, we had such high hopes, but not much knowledge. As time moves on we still have high hopes, but our goals have changed somewhat. For me, one major goal would be getting our past webmaster, Lew Wernham, and his fiancĂŠe, judge Jem Quarry, to come over and judge a show in the near future! We also have a number of lovely judges from the UK who have said they'd love to come and judge, so watch this space! I do feel that having UK judges here will be very beneficial, as the UK fancy is one of the most progressive in the World, and I think we can all learn a great deal from it. My plans initially were to have pet shows with an eye to varieties, so although variety will not play a large part in deciding the winning rats, it will be mentioned in some depth, so that we can all learn more about the conformation, colour and type of the rats we keep.

GD: What

are your hopes for the IFRA as it progresses?

5


LW: I would like to see it grow. That is my first major wish. I would like to see another ethical breeder here. However, it is vital that anyone who does intend to breed be a member of the NFRS to learn as much as they can. They should be serious about showing and that will mean going to the UK perhaps once or twice a year for the shows there. In an ideal world, we'd have 20 or so breeders, lots of pet homes and a show every month. Sadly, I think that will be a struggle, but a girl can dream! I would like to see a time where we can set up a club affiliated rescue. Oh, and more people involved generally, more people scouting for potential show venues, learning how to judge, steward... I'd love to see more interest in the committee too for the next AGM! GD: From

a breeders perspective,what do you think the benefits of an established rat fancy are for rat owners in Ireland?

LW: I think rat owners in Ireland are finding this a very exciting time. We're moving forward constantly and having a proper association for rat owners gives them a body to turn to if things go wrong where accurate advice and support is given and not least, the chance to make new friends and get the most out of this wonderful, rewarding hobby. GD: Describe

Fury rattery.

a typical day at Bongo

LW: I don't know if there is such a thing as a 'typical' day! If we have kittens there's a bit more routine. In the morning I head out to the shed to check on everyone and have a few cuddles. Most faces are not too pleased to see me. After all, I don't come bearing food and it's likely that everyone's just gone to bed after a hard night of partying ;)

everyone alone until the evening. If anyone is in need of vet care, I sort this out at this time, and arrange to take them to see lovely Suzanne in Abbeyville. Come evening I am back in the shed. There are usually a great many faces this time and a great deal of commotion as everyone clamours to be the first who eats! Everyone gets their dry mix and fresh food such as curly kale, broccoli, carrots, spring greens etc. We are lucky to have good friends who keep large vegetable gardens, and every year we get the last of the plants, so they often get Swiss chard and other more exotic veg. In the evening we are careful to make sure every rat has a cuddle and a thorough check over. We check for seasons if any does are looking to be mated up, and if we've babies at the time, this is when they get at least 5 minutes of handling (depending on age). When they are older, I bring them into the house. This way they get cuddles and play throughout the day and get used to noises, people and movement. I do some free range every day. I don't feel that rats need free time every day, I think it's lovely if you can, and when we have less rats I do manage to get them out most of the time, but I feel interaction and handling is more important. I compensate for this by massively underfilling my cages, so they have a lot of space to run around during the day anyway. Last thing at night I make sure everyone is back in their own cages, and has ample food and water. I check water bottles are working as sometimes they stop. We keep a thermometer in the shed and I check this and make sure the heater is on or off as necessary. Then I lock up!

I check on any babies we have. I usually make up a bowl of their protein food, that can be egg mix, scrambled egg, chicken or fish. I check on all water bottles then leave

***

6


In memoriam: Bongo Fury Lazarus, a Russian dove Agouti Buck, enjoying some scritches!


anFrancach | A Brief History

From Villain to Champion A Brief History of the Fancy Rat Darren J. Fitzpatrick

T

he rat is a divisive animal. In some it provokes derision and fear, to others it is a welcome companion and an animal whose beauty is worthy of exhibition. The fancy rat is the domesticated cousin of Rattus norvegicus, that intrepid explorer whose curiosity ferried him from China to Europe c.1700. Since that time, R. norvegicus or the Norway rat increased massively in numbers, thriving on its capacity to live in close quarters to humans and profiting from their detritus.

intelligent pink-eyed Representative of a Persecuted (but Irrepressible) Race, An affectionate little Friend, and most accomplished thief". Sometime between the 1700’s and the beginning of the 1900’s, the rat had for some, achieved the status of beloved and memorable pet. But this wasn’t a seemless transition and it began in what could be deemed the most unlikeliest of places, involving the most unlikeliest of characters. From Palace to Tavern

As early as 1778, Peter Pallas in his work,

The rat’s journey from villain to companion to champion is littered with eccentrics and committed pioneers, not least of whom was Jack Black, the Royal Rat Catcher and Mole Destroyer to Queen Victoria. Jack Black, was a man who had mastered spectacle, both in dress and demeanour. There exist

Novae species quadrupedum e Glirium Ordine, described it as "the most foul, the

most ferocious, the most pernicious" of all species. In contrast, Beatrix Potter, wrote a dedication to her companion Sammy in the story ‘The Tale of Samuel Whiskers’ which read, "In Remembrance of SAMMY, The 8


A Brief History | anFrancach

accounts of his self-made uniform, comprising a top hat, scarlet coat and leather sash embellished with metal rats.

amongst admirers of poultry breeds, rabbits, cavies, cats, dogs, horses and even sheep and cattle. ‘Fancy’ is an old word denoting appreciation and promotion of livestock as a hobby. W. L. Langley, in an article from 1915 published in Fur & Feather described a fancier as “one who by word, action and and influence, does all in his or her power to rid this country of the mongrel”. “The genuine fancier”, he says, “is one who takes great delight in establishing pedigrees, strains and pure breeds”.

Black essentially earned his living as a pest controller but supplemented his income by supplying rats to the taverns of London, where the rats were used in the sport of rat-baiting. Rats were placed in a pit and onlookers waged on which dog could kill the most rats in the least amount of time. Unlike other animals, the rat, rather unsurprisingly, was not protected by the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835.

The fancy rat may have originated with Jack Black and his kin, but the rat fancy owes its foundation to Mary Douglas, often given the Black had observed that sobriquet, ‘The Mother of the every so often, rats occur Rat Fancy’. By the 1890’s in strange and unusal mice were gaining popularity colours, different from the as exhibition animals. This agouti coloration of the was cemented by the wild rat. Black kept and foundation of the National bred these rats, noting in Mouse Club (NMC) in 1895. 1861 that he had them in Through much diplomacy, Jack Black, the Royal Rat "fawn and white, black Mary Dougals convinced the Catcher to Queen Victoria. and white, brown and NMC to incorporate rat white, red and white, classes into their shows. In blue-black and white, black-white and red". October of 1901, the Best in Show was He said of the rats that "they got very tame awarded to Douglas for her black and white and you could do anything with them", so pied rat, or in modern parlance, a black tame in fact that he "sold them to young hooded. ladies for keeping in squirrel cages". Therein is the beginning of the fancy rat. Despite such a lofty beginning, the progress of the rat fancy was to wax and wane for the next 70 years. In 1912, the NMC The Fancy rebranded itself as the National Mouse and Rat Club, only to drop rat from its name in The concept of animal fancying has been 1929. Despite the efforts of enthusiasts around for a long time. It is evident today such as Ron Phillips and Eric Jukes, it 9


anFrancach | A Brief History

keeping of these animals. As much as it has given us a vast array of beautiful varieties, it has also given us healthy rats with excellent temperaments. It is now respected alongside the larger small animal fancies devoted to rabbits, cavies and poultry.

wasn’t until April 1976 that the National Fancy Rat Society (NFRS) was founded in the UK by Geoff Izzard and Joan Pearce. The NFRS immediately embraced their mission and in their first week held show classes at the prestigious Bradford Show, where the Rex variety of rat developed by Roy Robinson, a geneticist and fancier, was first exhibited to the public. From the UK, the rat fancy soon spread to the USA, Finland, Sweden and Holland. To date, the NFRS recognises many varieties of rat, denoted by such exotic names as Russian Blue, Golden Himalayan, Ivory and Wheaten Burmese, to name a few, each with their own standard of excellence and hosts multiple shows annually around the UK.

Estimates for the numbers of people owning fancy rats are missing. In the UK alone, there are upwards of 90 registered ratteries and studs and alongside the NFRS, there are five regional rat clubs. By all accounts, the fancy rat, admired for its beauty, respected for its intelligence and loved for its character, continues to grow in popularity. ***

Aside from exhibition, the fancy has been pivotal in progressing the public image of the fancy rat as well espousing a set of ethics for the responsible breeding and correct

For more information: The National Fancy Rat Society www.nfrs.org

Tenaran Amnesia Vivace, a Russian Silver Doe and Champion Fancy Rat.

10


Ann Storey is the Life President of the NFRS and has been an avid rat fancier since the society's early days. She runs Rivendell Stud in the UK, where she breeds multiple varieites of rats including many rare varieites.

DJF: You

this?

have been involved in the fancy for many years. How do you think the fancy has served rats?

AS: I do wonder if some breeders are saying this to be PC. In my experience, breeding rats to be good pets and good show rats goes hand in hand. Rats have to be confident and tame to show well, so I see no contradiction between the two aims. No breeder, who may have a lot of rats, wants rats who are hard to handle. We don't have the time. In fact, breeders are less likely to have patience with a stroppy rat than someone who just keeps them as pets.

AS: Well, I suspect its influence has not been as great as it sometimes appears to be from the inside. Pet shop rats now largely come from rodent farms whereas earlier they came from breeders when they were, on the whole, quite reasonable. Now, very few reputable breeders will deal with pet shops. So, for the bulk of the population who still get their rats from petshops, the rats are of poorer quality. I think buyers who acquire them from breeders are getting better rats. Veterinary care is also much improved. I do think this has some bearing on the fancy, because we have insisted that our animals are not just pushed aside but have recieved proper attention. This is true for many exotics though. I think, but I don't know for sure, that we have made rats more popular, but rats have been kept as pets for a long time anyway. From the point of view of the fancy, the rats are way better than they were in the beginning, largely because feeding has imporved and breeder bred rats are generally a lot healthier, even if lifespan hasn't appreciably changed.

DJF:

In your experience, what has been the most exciting thing to happen in the rat fancy since the foundation of the NFRS?

AS: All the new varieties. We only had silver fawn, champagne, black, chocolate, pinkedeyed white and agouti in hooded, self, berkshire and Irish and a few rex when I started. DJF:

What would your advice be to a novice fancier intent on creating their own line?

AS: Pick one variety that you like. But be realistic, some varieties are very difficult for a novice. Get the best foundation rats that you can and take advice from the breeder. Don't expect to win straight away. And, don't put it all on the internet because sure as eggs are eggs someone will throw xxxx at you.

DJF: The

history of the fancy has always seemed to suffer from ebbs and flows. How ‘healthy‛ do you think the rat fancy is currently?

AS: I don't think the fancy has looked back since it was formed in 1976. I think that providing we can still enthuse people into the breeding of rats and not just keeping them as pets then it will carry on.

DJF: And

finally, a difficult question, what is your favourite variety?

AS: Lol! Probably agouti.

DJF: I

have noticed that many breeders now place emphasis on breeding for pets above breeding to standard. What are your thoughts on

*** 11


anFrancach | The Christmas Show

The Christmas Show Report Laura Woods

F

irstly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for turning up and making this such a fun filled and awesome day! I really enjoyed it, and I hope everyone else did too. I also need to offer heartfelt thanks to Karl Woods for scribing for me, and also to Darren Fitzpatrick for the wonderful rosettes he so kindly sponsored. We were bowled over by their awesome quality!

amount of fun, and I think it was such a success we’ll definitely do it again next year. We raised a nice sum of money to help with funding a website and also hopefully holding a show in the Spring, hopefully closer to Dublin. We also raised a nice sum of money for Kayleigh’s Exotic Pet Sanctuary. The rats entered, though few in number (as to be expected) were of fabulous quality. Every rat was in stunning condition, and all were very friendly, it was a very tough job to pick a winner, but Sally Fennessy’s lovely boy Roald was a clear winner, and I think everyone who watched our judging could agree that he was a very worthy winner on the day.

The whole day was great fun, we had lots of wonderful food donated for everyone to enjoy, and I think perhaps there was far too much! Karl spent the night before making his famous curry, which disappeared almost as quickly as Jack’s wonderful coconut hot chocolate! The social aspect of the show was definitely not overlooked. We had a fantastic quiz, written by Heather Van Den Berg, who we are very grateful to. We all had a huge

Thanks again to everyone who came, and I hope you enjoyed it enough to come back next year, and bring friends! 12


The Christmas Show | anFrancach

Show Critiques

D004 owned by Grace Daly and Eoghan Duggan Pretty little doe, good condition – nice shiny coat. Doesn’t want to sit still, wants to explore! Very sweet but wants to be off. Pretty face! Treadmill ratty – appears to like exercise. Special Award: Treadmill Rat! :D

Bucks B001 owned

by Ben Weldon and Jack. Nice Condition, a few chew marks in coat and quite scabby (suggest been in squabbles with cagemate). Very sweet, lovely facial expression with a gorgeous white chin! Very licky. Boggling for me! Smells nice… check Judges pockets! Would have won if not for slight scabs – a really charming boy! Reserve Best Buck

B002 owned by Sally Fennessy. Festively Plump! Beautiful condition, very shiny. Sharp nails! Lovely and clean for a boy. Beautiful chin stripe! Very inquisitive but doesn’t want to move very much! Good ratty ambassador. Likes to cuddle, but has a bit of a doe mentality, likes to explore. Best buck on condition. Best Buck

Does

D005 owned by Grace Daly and Eoghan Duggan Russian Dove Agouti. A bit overweight, lovely short soft coat. Shoulder rat. Sharp nails. Very soft coat though! Fly by licking! Lots of licking! :D Very sweet doe, very cuddly. Smells nice. Check Judges pockets! Reserve Best Doe

D006 owned by Grace Daly and Eoghan Duggan Very soft shiny doe, very licky. Has lovely big eyes.Very inquisitive and very busy – wants to be off after a couple of for the seconds! Doesn’t like nasty man e a wa r d e d r e w s e t t e ay. thing! Very sweet doe. Love her! Ro s r s o n th e d b e s t c o n te

nde

D001 owned by Grace Daly and Eoghan Duggan Russian Blue Agouti, lovely soft doe. Very good condition, nice short coat and clean tail. Small scab on neck/shoulder. Very happy to sit and cuddle. Very alert and inquisitive. Very cuddly indeed! Really sweet little doe. Obviously loves people. Quite talkative.

D007 owned by Grace Daly and Eoghan Duggan Festively plump. Lovely and soft, very nice condition. Perfect coat, smells incredible! Inquisitive and gentle but not hugely outgoing. Had a look around then went to bed. Very kissy.

D002 owned by Grace Daly and Eoghan Duggan Young doe, slightly clingy. Shoulder rat, gave lots of kisses. Very lively and inquisitive. Sharp claws – Koala rat!!! Wants to play! Special Award: Koala rat!

D008 owned by Stefanie Schneider and Mirko Seibert Black capped. Pretty little doe, very good condition, good coat, perfect weight. Little kissy spot! Lovely clean round tail. Very friendly and inquisitive, wants to sniff everything! Sharp nails. Very confident, happy and outgoing. Lots of kisses.

D003 owned by Grace Daly and Eoghan Duggan Sweet, quiet little doe. Very friendly, very kissy, nice condition but dirty ears. Didn’t want to stay out, went back to the carrier by herself, very quickly!

D009 owned by Stefanie Schneifer and Mirko Seibert Silver Fawn Blazed Variegated. Mad - very hyper proper doe! Very sweet and happy. Beautiful condition, lovely shiny, soft coat. Sharp nails. Very pretty face quite young. Likes the sleeve! Gorgeous, but insane!

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anFrancach | The Christmas Show

Judging in progress at the inaugural show of The Irish Fancy Rat Association.

Special Award: Super Condition!

Duggan (43 seconds) 3rd – Cinnabun – owned by Grace Daly and Eoghan Duggan (48 seconds) 4th – Sassafras – owned by Grace Daly and Eoghan Duggan (64 seconds)

D010 owned by Caroline Chaussard Very quiet gentle doe, not using claws. Licky. Beautiful condition, lovely clean tail and ears. Ever so pretty. Very content to cuddle. Lovely weight and size. Best Doe

Curiosity

Challenges

1st – Roald – owned by Sally Fennessy (10 items) 2nd - Harriet – owned by Stefanie Schnieder and Mirko Seibert (9 items) 2nd – Jenny – owned by Stefanie Schneider and Mirko Seibert (9 items) 2nd – Piscin – owned by Grace Daly and Eoghan Duggan (9 items) 3rd – Crimp – owned by Grace Daly and Eoghan Duggan (9 items)

4th In Show - B001 owned by Ben Weldon and Jack 3rd In Show - D005 owned by Grace Daly and Eoghan Duggan Reserve Best In Show - D010 owned by Caroline Chaussard Best In Show - B002 owned by Sally Fennessy

Agility

***

1st - Annie – owned by Grace Daly and Eoghan Duggan (41 seconds) 2nd - Gypsy – owned by Grace Daly and Eoghan

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Bongo Fury Forever Amber A Russian Dove Agouti Doe


anFrancach | A Rat Miscellany

The domestication of animals is an old practice, likely dating back to the first agricultural societies. A domesticated animal is distinct from a tame one, however, tameness appears to be a feature of domestication. The study of domestication is not a new field. Indeed, Darwin utilised the artificially selected traits of domesticated species to garner evidence for his theory of natural selection.

the brain, thyroid and adrenal glands. After 25 generations, the rats were displaying a rapid growth phase in adolesence, were almost 20% heavier than the first generation rats in adulthood and were significantly tamer. Alongside this raft of physiological changes, King reported the spontaneous appearence of mutations affecting coat colour and texture. It is intuitve that selection for a calm temperament might result in a reduction of the adrenal glands but what of coat colour.

The domesticated rat may be recognisiable from his luscious Russian coat or his dumbo ears, but these are merely the obvious embellishments selected for and perfected by dedicated fanciers. Underneath the surface, the domesticated rat is biologically different from his cousins. One of the early experiments that sought to replicate the process of domestication of rats was conducted in the USA. Dr. H. H. Donaldson and Dr. King captured wild Norway rats from the streets of Philadelphia. After a mere ten generations of breeding in captivity, they recorded an increase in the weight of the body and pituatary gland of the subjects ande slight decreases in the weights of

In 1959, a Russian scientist, Dimitri Belyaev sought to understand how wolves became dogs. He operated under the premise that selection for tameness was the primary driver of dog domestication. In order to test his theories, he began selectiing colonies of silver foxes for tameness and agression. Akin to the rats in King's experiments, the foxes coat colour began to spontaneously change and their estrous cycles became biannual, in contrast to the wolves annual cycle. Reduction in the size of the adrenal glands was also observed, leading scientitsts to hypothesise that selection for tameness, a feature of domestication, is linked to coat colour mutations,

Domestication Darren J. Fitzpatrick

16

particularly white spotting and increased fertility, all of which are possibly linked to the decrease in adrenal gland size and the dampening of an animals fight or flight reaction. A more recent study sought to understand the genetics underlying tameness. Albert and colleagues identified two regions of the rat genome that associate with tameness, activity and anxiety related behaviour. However, the mechansim of how these regions function is unknown. Interestingly, a region associated with the weight of adrenal glands also associated with a rat's willingness to explore in an open space. Contrary to the ideas of Belyaev, the researchers found no-overlap between genomic regions affecting tameness and whitespotting. Although the major physiological, morphological and behaviourial differences between domesticated animals and their wild counterparts are well outlined, the genetic architecture underlying these changes remains to be understood. Given the complexity of such traits, it is likely that their genetic regulation is equally complex, involving multiple genes and multiple interactions between them.


anFrancach | Q & A

Q

I have noticed that one of my rats bleeds from his eyes and nose. I have not actually seen him bleed but in the mornings, he sometimes has dried blood around his face. He appears to be healthy and is eating well and very active. Is this normal?

A

Q

Luckily, your rat is not bleeding. This red bloodlike substance is porphyrin (below). It is secreted from the Haderian glands of the rat which are situated behind the eye. The secretions from the eye can drain and be emitted from the nose. All veterbrates with a third eyelid posses Haderian glands. The exact function of Haderian porphyrin is unkown. Some believe that it may protect the eye from excess light as porphyrin secretions increases in response to exposure to light. Also, porphyrin secretions increase as a rat ages. A little porphyrin secretion is normal in rats. However, excess production can be indicative of stress, illness or a poor diet. If heavy secretions are accompanied by other symptoms such as sneezing, wheezing, lethargy, or a fluffed appearance, it is recommended that the rat see a vet.

I have two female rats. Sometimes, one of them arches her back and vibrates her ears when I am petting her. Why does she do this?

A

Your doe is in season. When in season, some does arch their back and vibrate in response to petting. This behaviour indicates that she is receptive and ready to mate. The arching of the back is more formally termed lordosis (above). Ear vibrating is one of those strange behaviours that is not understood. It is possible that it signifies to a mate that a rat is in season. Rats have an oestrus cycle that lasts 4 to 6 days with most does entering heat every five days. Not all does respond to heat by vibrating and entering lordosis. Whilst in oestrus, the usually determined doe can become ever more determined, more vocal, and more wriggly. You may also notice her other companions mounting her. All of this is perfectly normal. Got a question you would like answered? Email it to the editor at irishfancyratassociation@gmail.com

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anFrancach | Book Reviews Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants Robert Sullivan

I Was A Rat Phillip Pullman Reviewed by Laura Woods

Reviewed by Darren J. Fitzpatrick

I was very excited about this book. I love children's books, and don't get the chance to read them often enough. I knew with this book being by Philip Pullman, and a winner of both The Smarties Prize and The Carnegie Medal, that it wouldn't disappoint.

RATs, displayed prominently across the front cover of this book is deceptive. If the author wished to entice readers who either love or loathe rats, he will leave them disappointed. Contrary to the title, this book is not really about rats, they feature, but merely in a cameo role. This book is about the alleys and parks of New York City, the eccentrics and down-and-outs who inhabit them and their history. In fact, the book is barely a book at all, in so far as it has no real thesis for a work of non-fiction. It reads like a collection of essays that soon grows tiresome. We all know that rats eat, poo, pee and reproduce but few of us will know anything of the 1 978 rent strikes in Brooklyn. This book is for those interested in the social history of New York, particluarly as it relates to dirt, grime and human detritus.

The book starts, like many good fairy tales, with a sweet, elderly, childless couple, who are going about their evening business, when there is a knock on the door. Stood outside, in the cold, is a little boy in a page-boy's uniform. The only thing he seems able to say is "I was a rat!". The couple presume he's not well and take him in. So starts a rollercoaster of events. This book is a satirical view of the modern media. Throughout the book, we see the front pages of "The Daily Scourge", with headlines and stories that drive the book forward. This is an interesting touch and really works to show just how demonising an effect the media can have. There are parallels with how rats are treated in the media - and of course, Philip Pullman undoubtedly uses the rat as a metaphor for all those who are demonised by a money making media for a baying public.

Sullivan spent a year watching rats in NYC. He imparts nothing of his observations on rats that one didn't already know or couldn't garner from Wikipedia. But I did learn something. Rat baiting was not unique to England. It was also practised in NYC, mostly by Irish immigrants and was subsequently shut down by Henry Bergh, himself an eccentric and founder of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

This is as excellent a book for adults as it is for children. It is playfully written, lighthearted but with a serious message to get across and it really gets a thumbs up from me!

Would I recommend it? Not even if it was the only book in a post-apocalyptic world... 18



An Francach Issue 1 Jan 2014