Day Of The Rat

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After having so much fun drawing a ferret for National Ferret Day, I couldn’t pass up the chance to sketch a rat for the US National Day of the Rat on Monday 5th and join the Doodlewash April challenge for a second time. Coincidentally unless I’ve got this wrong, in America today is also National Walk Around It Day – (yes, really) something that could be construed in a number of ways, but I imagine it’s something many people would be inclined to do if they came upon a dead rat, and encountering a live one many people would scream and wave their arms in the air, or throw things, and call the pest control people.

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I don’t feel this way about rats, though I’d be wary as I know they do sometimes live in sewers and can deliver a nasty bite (if provoked) but actually they’re very clean animals, and I’ve even wondered occasionally about the idea of having one as a pet.

The rat I drew today is a Brown Rat, and like the ferret it’s a stuffed specimen in Cliffe Castle museum. (I think it may have faded; it’s honey-coloured and I’ve seen rats outside in the park that are a lot browner than that.) There’s a Black Rat in the same display case for comparison – and I didn’t realise how small these are, and also how much less lovable they look – so much so that I think this would even be a contender for my series on drawing things that are frightening. (Though of course the taxidermist could have deliberately made it look this way; I have to keep reminding myself that taxidermy is an art, open to expression and not always very successful. There’s a duck-billed platypus in the mixed foreign species cabinet that looks sadly like a cow-pat with a beak and flippers.) Black Rats are the ones that were responsible for spreading bubonic plague and came to this country on ships, which must have made an ideal habitat as they’re climbers (easy to scamper up all that rigging and across gang-planks) rather than burrowers, which is what their brown cousins prefer to do. Though apparently Brown Rats are also not native to Britain and first came here in the 18th century.

Sketching this made me wonder if what people mostly dislike is the tail. Hairless and snake-like. If it had a tail like a squirrel, or even like a ferret, might it have greater appeal? Or is it just memories of bubonic plague that makes people shudder? Either way I’m still not worried by any part of the Brown Rat, and I’d still be tempted to have one as a pet. For now I make do with an even softer, more cuddly version, the one that lives on my window sill and which I pick up and stroke from time to time…
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16 thoughts on “Day Of The Rat

    1. Actually, if I’m honest, neither would I – or not in a dark alley anyway. I’ve run into country rats – well, not actually run into them but you know what I mean – and found them shy but delightful; but city rats down dark back streets? Not so sure. 🙂

    1. Charlie you’re so kind and your enthusiasm is infectious – it’s encouraging me no end. Doing these makes me realise just how extraordinary it is that you manage to do a glorious drawing AND a great bit of writing and post it EVERY DAY – it’s amazing. Anyway even though I won’t be able to keep this up daily I’ll certainly join the challenge again from time to time during April – and try something new and different! Thanks again. 🙂

      1. Thanks my friend! Yeah…daily is a bit tough and I challenged myself to a year of it (which means through June), we’ll see how I do after that. But so thrilled you’re joining me in April!! It’s such a joy to see what you come up with!! ❤️😃

    1. Thanks so much! I’m wondering the same thing myself. I never know what’s coming next and I like the unpredictability. Charlie’s Doodlewash challenge has made things even more interesting! I’m glad to have discovered you as well and look forward to lots more.

  1. The images are just lovely….so full of character and life….despite the dead models!! I love the way you paint…
    Also fascinated to read about the history…I didn’t know rats weren’t native to our isles😊

  2. Looks so lovely!
    I love rats too, adn a wanted one as a pet but my parents didn’t reac in a possitive way. But I still drawing them, and finding the cuteness in them

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