Black rat, House Rat, Roof Rat, Ship Rat

(Rattus rattus)


Black rat, House Rat, Roof Rat, Ship Rat IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

The black rat is one of the larger Muridae species with a head-body length of 14-23 cm, a tail of 17-28 cm and a body-weight pf 75-230 g. It is smaller and more slender, and has a more pointed muzzle, than the brown rat. The ears are relatively long. The naked tail is usually longer than head and body, and has 200-260 rings. The female has 10 teats.


The glossy fur is not very dense. Its colour is variable, either greyish-black, greyish-brown with a grey belly, or greyish-brown with a white belly.


Black rats are predominantly nocturnal. They are good climbers and have their nests either on trees or underground in caves. They are social animals, living in groups consisting of a dominant male and several adult females with their offspring, and territorial, defending their group territory against other groups.


After a gestation period of 21 days, the female gives birth to usually 5-7 young. Under favourable conditions reproduction is not seasonal, and a female may have 3-5 litters per year. In the wild longevity is hardly more than one year.


Black rats are omnivorous, although plant material accounts for the greater part of their diet. In addition to fruit, grains, shoots etc. they also feed on invertebrates and occasionally small vertebrates or carrion.

Did you know?
That the Black Rat has directly caused or contributed to the extinction of many species of wildlife including birds, small mammals, reptiles, invertebrates, and plants, especially on islands?


Name (Scientific) Rattus rattus
Name (English) Black rat, House Rat, Roof Rat, Ship Rat
Name (French) Rat noir, Rat des greniers, Rat des champs
Name (German) Hausratte, Dachratte
Name (Spanish) Rata negra, Rata de barco, Rata del tejado
Local names Czech: Krysa
Dutch: Zwarte rat
Estonian: Kodurott
Hungarian: Házi patkány
Italian: Ratto nero
Polish: Szczur sniady
Portuguese: Rato-preto
Romansh: Ratun nair
Swedish: Svartråtta
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Vladimír Motyčka



Range Widely distributed around the globe.
Habitat Widespread in forest and woodlands as well as being able to live in and around buildings
Wild population Unknown, but widely distributed (Red List 2011).
Zoo population 486 reported to ISIS (2008) but this species is often kept as a pet animal and used in medical researches.

In the Zoo

Black rat, House Rat, Roof Rat, Ship Rat


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 81 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Vladimír Motyčka

Why do zoos keep this animal

If kept in a nocturnal house, black rats make an interesting exhibit. Keeping them is of educational value as it allows to tell stories about the extermination of island species due to introduced rats, and about the role the black rat has played, and still plays, in disease transmission.