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Rat: How the World's Most Notorious Rodent Clawed its Way to the top Paperback – Apr 15 2006

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Key Porter Books; 1 edition (April 15 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1552638081
  • ISBN-13: 978-1552638088
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 20.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 240 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,935,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Booklist

The very word rat can make your flesh crawl as your mouth curls in revulsion. And with a rat population worldwide that outnumbers humans, there is almost no place to go (except Antarctica) to escape rats. As journalist Langton points out in his introductory chapter, rats can do something most other species of animals cannot--they can compete with humans and win. In this engrossing, quick read, Langton leads the reader through the world of the black and brown rats that have formed commensal relationships with humans. Rats are the main vector for the bubonic plague when their infected fleas leave dying rats and then bite humans. Rats eat our food, helping themselves not only to scraps and garbage but also to our stored grain. On the other hand, rats are extremely valuable subjects for medical research because their internal systems are so similar to ours. In chatty prose, Langton discusses every phase of rat-human interactions. Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Does the fun ever cease?” ---The Toronto Star

“A very creepy and entertaining book.” ---John Oakley, AM640 Toronto Radio

“This intriguing exposé into the habits and amazing history of the rat is entertaining and informative.” ---Scribes

“Appallingly informative.” ---Brian Bethune, Maclean’s


--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Everything I never wanted to know about rats; before I was grossed or, now I'm terrified
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9e3d7b7c) out of 5 stars 13 reviews
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e320de0) out of 5 stars Full of misinformation April 6 2009
By rat-doctor - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The book's jacket states it "...dispels the myths and exposes the little-known facts" about rats, and it quotes one reviewer's opinion that the book is "Appallingly informative." As a biologist, what I found appalling was the amount of misinformation it contained. Perhaps it's a result of the author being a writer and not a scientist, or because a lot of the "facts" he conveys seem to have come from a few self-styled rat experts he met along the way: "Ben", the New York City exterminator; "Ryan", the Southern Ontario corn farmer; and "Ang", chief of a city sewer maintenance crew, who told the author that "he knows `everything you'd ever want to know about rats--and more'", to which the author adds, "I don't doubt him" (p. 150).

Inexplicably, in the first chapter's lengthy discussion of the biology of rats and their impacts on humans, there is no hint that there exist multiple species of rats worldwide; in fact, it's implied that the singular "rat" originated in the swampy jungles of southeast Asia [actually, the now-worldwide Norway rat, Rattus norvegicus, first appeared in what is now northern China and Mongolia] and simply adapted (p. 16) or mutated (p. 18) so as to be able to survive in diverse environments.

Factual errors about rats include the following: all female rats over 6 months of age are "almost certainly pregnant" (p. 17); rats "can swivel their ears and, by measuring and comparing differences in intensity, triangulate and accurately estimate the site of a sound's origin" (p. 20); "Wild rats can swim well enough to catch fish" (p. 22); distribution of the black rat (R. rattus; "roof rat" or "ship rat") is limited to "just a few colonies in the palm trees above Los Angeles and a few other warm-weather cities" (p. 54); transmission of rat-bite fever to humans is normally through contact with rat urine (p. 72) [actually, it is primarily through bites]; and, small rats can squeeze through a hole the size of a pencil (p. 190).

The most blatant error occurs in the author's retelling of how an endangered flightless duck, the Campbell Island teal, was saved from extinction in New Zealand, where Norway rats had nearly decimated the species. Langton writes that a "park ranger" captured two ducks in 1976: "These... appeared to be all that was left of the species. Both were female, but... one (later named Daisy...) was pregnant [and] ...eventually gave birth to a number of litters--twenty-four ducklings in all" (p. 136-7). In reality, biologists first re-discovered the remnant teal population (thought at the time to number 30-50 birds) in the mid-1970s, but none were captured to initiate captive breeding efforts until 1984. Success was not achieved until 1994, when a pair (then dubbed "Donald" and "Daisy") successfully nested. "Daisy" successfully raised 24 offspring, but ducks don't "give birth" to "litters", and there's no such thing as a "pregnant duck".

Other faulty statements or implications are: "a female rat can, under good conditions, have well over 100,000 babies in her lifetime" (book jacket) [actually, 60 pups per year for a maximum of 3 years is a generous estimate]; during the mid 14th century as plague swept through Europe, "streets were clogged with cholera-infected corpses..." (p. 27); regarding discovering the cause of plague, "modern scientific method managed to isolate the virus, the flea, and the rat" (p. 28) [oddly, on p. 61 the author correctly names plague's causative agent at "a rod-shaped bacterium known... as Yersinia pestis"]; while rats are growing in numbers and distribution in the face of human activity, "virtually every other non-domesticated animal is rapidly vanishing" (p. 29); "A mouse is a smaller and far less complex animal than a rat... it doesn't impact the lives of humans on nearly the same level" (p. 30); "the brown rat lives generally underground" (p. 42); a century ago, black rats [R. rattus] ranged all over the United States and into Canada (p. 54); in the U.S., brown rats [R. norvegicus] are considered... the second most dangerous carrier of hantavirus (p. 74); "Although dogs and cats can contract plague, there has never been a record of a human receiving plague from contact with either animal" (p. 85) [actually, in the western U.S. from 1977 to 1998, there were 23 cases of cat-associated human plague, of which 5 were fatal]; coyote-dog mixes are commonplace in areas where both animals exist (p. 102) [actually, they are rare].

While the book is certainly entertaining, a good portion of it should be considered fiction.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e326384) out of 5 stars Tiresome anti-rat focus July 8 2008
By Goshen - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If Langton hates rats so much, why did he write a book about them? I was hoping for an entertaining but in-depth study of a specific group of wild rats from someone who has a scientific interest in the species. That must be a different book. This one provides startling rat facts, a dullish history of rats, a few anecdotes, and lots of mockery for people who have any sort of positive attitude about these animals. I guess that's fun if you share the author's point of view, but this isn't a very satisfying book if you're just plain interested in learning about rats and how they live.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e326090) out of 5 stars Info by word of mouth? Feb. 25 2010
By rachyrachyrach - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I'm so floored about how much misinformation is in this book! I don't think he even inspected a rat because he says the wrong number of toes. Also rat's can't collapse their ribs, and are not horrible climbers. Buy a better book by "The Rat Lady" Rats: Complete Care Guide
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e326b1c) out of 5 stars ridiculous July 16 2008
By Ashley Cowles - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is incredibly anti-rat and not even 100% accurate. For example, Langton says that pet black rats are incredibly rare. What? Just go to PetCo and look at the pet rats. There are tons of black ones. I myself have owned two black pet rats. This is only one example of his gross inaccuracies. Also, I found his description of pet rat owners to be ridiculous and offensive. I never use the word "extremely" to describe my pet rats. Nor do I possess tattoos. Likewise, I am not particularly anti-establishment. I'm just a student working on my Ph.D. who thought the rats at the pet store were cute. As another reviewer said, I don't understand why someone who doesn't like rats would write an entire book about them. The negativity got old very quickly. It seems that rat lovers might be particularly likely to buy this book, so why did the Langton decide to be so insulting? I definitely would not recommend this book.
HASH(0x9e326bf4) out of 5 stars Lacking any factual refrences.... July 11 2012
By Misty - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this book to find out information on rats and the family Muridea. This book had a good writing style, but is full of hot words and propaganda type attachments after facts (opinion fact opinion). The author does not waste a minute to insult rat people and quickly puts them into certain classes; completely missing little children who own rodents and also the completely and seemingly normal people who own them two. He is quick to do the typical journalist thing and find the dumbest fool to write something about a rat; quickly using them as an example of all rat lovers, another example is the whole "bum" owning a rat and panhandling. I bet he would have never guessed that an old house wife, the typical Fox watching christian conservative, would own a rat. She says" people just don't know rats". Other than those shameful journalist tactics, the book is surprisingly lacking in any references and there is frequent quoting from sources that really have nothing but opinion on the rat. The book is far from scientific too; so don't even bother to look here for any biological information on the rat. The book really is slapped together and if there was research I think Mr Langton was just getting a vacation out of it. The book goes into detail into things that have little to do with the rat, like the bubonic plague and baiting, but even these things aren't gone into in any scientific detail, except when it is chastising the rat, and there is much to be imagined for the pieces between.