There are few creatures on this planet that have evoked and incited as much revulsion, dread and disdain in us as rats. These little devils have managed to worm their way into almost every place we have managed to inhabit, and have been for many skin crawling little abominations that instill fear and horror. Luckily they're small, right? And they aren't aggressive, just creepy little disease vectors? Right? Well, if increasing modern accounts are to be believed, then rats seem to be not only getting significantly bigger, but are turning their sights on bigger fare than their usual garbage scraps. From all over the world there have poured in reports of rats that are not only far larger than they are supposed to be, but also meaner, and in many cases deadlier. These are accounts that read like something straight out of a horror movie, and show that these are perhaps not just the small, cowardly denizens of the shadows we have long thought them to be.

One area that has been plagued by giant rats in recent years is the UK, and these have proven to be quite massive indeed. One report from April, 2016 was made by pest controller Lord Dean Burr, who claims to have come across a roving pack of 6 rats measuring an estimated 2 feet long on average during a routine inspection in the posh housing estate of Tooting Lord, London. They were by far the biggest rats Burr had ever seen in his 15 years in the extermination business, and it was speculated that they had possibly gotten so large by ruthlessly cannibalizing smaller rats. All efforts to trap them have failed, as they are apparently simply too large to be affected by such pathetic measures. Burr said of the enormous rats he found haunting the estate:

They were big, a foot to two feet long – that’s the size of a cat. Rats will eat mice and they will eat each other as they live and when they die. So it’s possible that these rats got so big by attacking and eating smaller rats. These are the biggest I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t want to corner one or be face-to-face. They will fight and they will bite and they will defend if they have to. It is a serious issue. They are getting bigger and bigger.

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A giant rat caught in Lincolnshire, North East England

Another report of a similarly, stomach-churningly huge rat in the UK comes from Poole, Dorset, where in January of 2017 exterminator Terry Walker claimed to have captured a rat measuring 19 inches long, also as big as a cat, while inspecting an upscale resort community called Sandbanks. Walker also claimed that he had seen other uncomfortably large rats lurking about measuring around 16 inches in length, but that this one was the largest he had seen in his entire 20 years of experience as an exterminator, saying “You would struggle to find a pest controller who has found a bigger one. I’m on the professional forums and most of us would agree that’s a big one for the whole of the UK. It’s the biggest I’ve ever caught.” Walker claims that the rats have been getting steadily bigger in recent years, possibly because they have mutated to become resistant to rat poisons and partly because of the ample food sources freely available to them.

As if 19-inch and 2-foot long rats weren’t already quite spookily large enough already, there is also the March 2016 report from London of a rat “bigger than a small child,” whose dead body was allegedly found lying in some bushes near railways tracks in the area of Hackney Downs by gas engineer Tony Smith. The truly gigantic rat was claimed to be a whopping 4 feet in length, and although Smith did not preserve the body and has no physical evidence of his find, he did take a photograph of it with his friend, James Green. Smith has said of the creepy and unsettling discovery:

This is the largest rat I've ever seen in my entire life. I've got a cat and a Jack Russell and it was bigger than both of those put together. I'd say it was about four foot. We were going to stick it in the bin, but before we did we thought we better take a picture of people won't believe it's real.

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The giant rat found by Tony Smith

Such giant rats have been reported from other areas of the UK as well, and according to some of these reports they have proven to be not only uncommonly large, but also very nastily aggressive. One such location that has been seemingly utterly terrorized by vicious giant rats is the picturesque British city of Chester, in Cheshire, England, which is also Britain’s oldest Roman city and is renowned for its surrounding sandstone walls, which were built in 70AD to deter attacks from the Welsh. In recent years uncommonly large rats purportedly measuring up to 15 inches or more have been marauding about menacing people in the suburb of Boughton, and in one report from December 1026, a family’s pet terrier was viciously mauled by one of the outsized rodents. Other residents have reported the rats even jumping out of trash bins or shadows to lash out at people. The city council has been mulling over releasing feral cats into the quaint, cobblestone streets here to combat the problem, but some residents say that even cats are deathly afraid of the beasts.

Another community that has reportedly been terrorized by giant rats is the BedZed eco-community in Hackbridge Surrey; a “green” housing community dedicated to carbon-neutral development and zero carbon emissions. Residents claim that they have had an infestation of enormous rats measuring 10 inches and up, which are thought to be thriving in the town’s “soakways,” which are a green system in place to stop flooding. The huge rats have shown themselves to be incredibly bold and aggressive, to the point that some people are afraid to go out at night, with one resident, an Elodie Ledent, saying:

I'm scared to take my bin out now, they jump out at you as you open the bins to throw the rubbish away. I have even taken my rubbish out to the bin in the street because the rats are not afraid to come close to you.

One frightening account of an attack by a giant rat comes from Plymouth, Devon, where in September of 2015 there were reports that rats “the size of small dogs” were actively going after trash collectors out on their rounds. The rats have been described as 2 feet long and extremely fearless and bad-tempered, with one trash collector, 34-year-old Ben Landricombe saying that he had to take cover and fight back when one of the beasts attacked him upon opening a trash bin. He would say of his terrifying encounter:

When I was attacked it was a terrifying experience. The rat was aggressive and huge and I tried to shoo it off. But the rat did not back down at all. It had its teeth out and stood its ground like the alpha male whose territory had been invaded. I am used to rats as I see so many in my job - I deal with rubbish after all - and I have always been ok with them. But I know they are not afraid anymore - and that does worry me. This latest one is over a foot long I reckon. It is huge but I have seen this size and possibly even bigger in the last couple months. They are definitely getting bigger. Also they are not as afraid of you as they used to be - I got chased by one.

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Ben Landricombe holding a huge rat

Landricombe was reportedly only able to scare the brutish, massive rat off by hurling a brick at it. Possibly even more disturbing is a report in July of 2016, in which a couple living in a rented unit in Aldershot, Hants, in the English county of Hampshire, claim that their baby was attacked and mauled by a giant rat. The infant was rushed to the hospital but did not suffer any life-threatening injuries and was clear of any rat-borne diseases. The area, as in many other places throughout the country, has in recent years seen an outbreak of extremely large rats described as up to 2-feet long, and these too have been speculated as being the result of mutations allowing resistance to common rat poisons, which is a theory that has been backed up by genetic testing done by Huddersfield Universityon on rats from across the nation. One Simon Forrester, chief executive of The British Pest Control Association, has said of the rise in such reports of giant rats across England:

Reports of poison-resistant rats have been increasing in recent years and it seems likely that there’ll be a further surge in numbers. The trouble is that people who try to treat problems themselves are likely to be making the problem worse. The rodents have become resistant and, in some cases, immune to off-the-shelf poisons to the point where they’re actually feeding off the toxic pellets, which means their size and strength is increasing. Normal rats are being killed off by poison, so these resistant species are taking their place. Stronger rodenticides can be more effective, but most are subject to strict legislation and must only be used by professional pest controllers.

Despite the outbreak of reports of such scarily huge rats in the UK, there has been skepticism that these creatures are really quite as big as has been claimed, and it has been said that these cases could be the result of fear and exaggeration. In the case of the 4-foot rat photo, this has been widely accused of being a hoax. One of the main problems is that the Norway rats found in Britain typically only get to around 6 to 8 inches long, with a very uncommonly large specimen being maybe 10 inches. Is it possible for them to really get up to 2 feet long? One British rat expert and Professor of Ecology at University of Greenwich has been very skeptical, and said of the spectacular reports of giant rats here:

All wild rats in England are Norway rats. I accept that they may find very well fed and mature animals that are at the upper limit of size, but they are certainly not going to reach two stone. There are rodents in the Tropics such as cane rats that get that big, but there is no way a Norway rat will get that big.

Norway Rat
Norway rat

The UK is not the only place allegedly under apparent invasion by enormous super rats, and some of the more unsettling alleged accounts of giant rat attacks originate in South Africa, where roving rats have been reported by startled citizens as growing to up to 3-feet long and possessing wicked teeth up to 1 inch long. In one case reported in The Daily Mail and some other publications, in Decembber of 2016, a 3-month-old baby girl was supposedly brutally attacked and killed by giant rats in the Katlehong township in Johannesburg, South Africa, while her mother was out with friends. According to witnesses, the child had been horribly maimed and partially eaten, with her tongue, eyes and fingers all completely gnawed off, as well as exhibiting horrific bite marks all over her body. The girl’s sister was unharmed in the attack, and the mother was allegedly arrested for child neglect.

Also from South Africa is the tragic 2011 case of 3-year-old Lunathi Dwadwa, who lived with her family in a shack in the Khayelitsha slum outside of Cape Town. According to news reports, Lunathi was sleeping on the floor next to her parents when she was “killed and eaten” by humongous rats, which devoured much of her body and gouged out her eyes. There was also a report of an infant killed by rats in the town of Suweto, near Johannesburg, and a 77-year-old woman named Nomathemba Joyi who was also purportedly savaged and killed by large rats in a shantytown near Cape Town. In this case, the rats apparently chewed off the entire right side of the woman’s face. In most of these cases the culprit is believed to be perhaps African Giant Pouched Rats, a very large species native to parts of Africa, although why they have become so extremely predatory is unexplained.

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A giant Gambian pouched rat

Another place that seems to have been beset with bloodthirsty giant rats in recent years is the densely populated slums of Peshawar, Pakistan, where cat-sized rats have been reportedly crawling from the sewers to prowl about raiding food sources and even attacking humans. According to some news sources there have been between 5 to 8 children killed by the ravenous rats here, such as in the case of an 8-month-old infant mauled to death by rats in the Hassan Garhi area in February, 2016. According to the child’s father, Qari Khalid, the rat savaged the boy’s face and nose as he slept. In another case a 3-month-old baby allegedly died after his ear was completely bitten off by a giant rat.

In some cases, the child has survived, but this has made the experience no less harrowing. 33-year-old Noor Qadir woke up one evening to find his 8-month-old screaming as a rat attacked him in his bed. Although Qadir managed to kill the rat and the child survived, he allegedly suffered numerous severe bite marks to his face. The man claimed that the following evening he put a slipper under the door and a rat ate half of it. One resident said of the rats here:

They can be so big, like cats, and with two big sharp teeth in the front. People are afraid. They say these are not your normal rats. They will eat your food. They eat your clothes, and they eat your papers.

The presence of these unusually aggressive giant rats has spawned all sorts of theories among locals ranging from the rational to the bizarre. One is that they are some sort of exotic, introduced species that have been flushed from their subterranean lairs by flooding in recent years. Others say they are an undiscovered giant species or the result of genetic engineering done by the U.S. military or even terrorists. Still other ideas point to some sort of new or mutated species. In the meantime, a bounty has been put into effect on rats and eradication teams have spread out through the area in an effort to control their numbers. In Tehran, Iran there has also been a wave of “mutant rats” reported to be up to 10 pounds in weight, which have reportedly attacked dogs and cats in the area. The problem is apparently so bad that snipers armed with high-powered rifles and infrared scopes were apparently dispatched to deal with the monstrous rats.

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Giant rat allegedly caught in Tehran

This has only been a sampling of cases, and there are actually many other such disturbing reports from all over the world. What are we to make of such dramatic cases? When looking at these stories it is probably important to consider the amount of fake news that is floating around out there, for which these sorts of harrowing accounts are easy pickings. After all, giant, ferocious man-eating rats running amok are a topic that has a certain macabre allure to it that makes it easy clickbait material. With the Internet such stories get passed around and exaggerated until they are being taken at face value and the line between reality and fiction becomes rather blurred.

This has already happened on quite a few occasions already with the theme of giant rats. For instance there are a large number of fake photos of giant rats making the rounds on the Internet, such as the infamous “New York Rat” picture that circulated heavily via Facebook in January of 2016 and went viral. While the rat in the photo is probably technically real, it has been misrepresented, made to look larger with forced perspective, and was probably not captured in New York at all, but rather was likely a giant Gambian pouched rat, which can get up to 3 feet long and weigh up to 3 pounds but are not found in the New York sewer system. Another picture allegedly taken by a New York Sewer worker that supposedly shows a 45 pound monster rat is also likely fake. The picture of the 4-foot long rat taken by the gas engineer in England has also been accused of being a hoax.

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The Giant New York Rat photo

Whole stories of dramatic attacks on humans have been faked as well. The most well-known of these is probably a story that has circulated in recent years claiming that 4 homeless men were viciously killed by giant rats as they slept in the streets of New York City, which has been widely debunked as a fake news story. Are some of these other accounts possibly also exaggerated or even flat-out faked as well? It could also be that some of these witnesses have blown-up their claims or are even perpetuating hoaxes. If not, it is hard to account for the truly enormous sizes reported, or the extreme vicious behavior displayed by these animals. Although rats are opportunistic feeders and can be quite aggressive when threatened or cornered, they will rarely proactively attack human beings unprovoked in any significant way, and the species of rat most common in these locations is the Norway rat, which as I have mentioned gets nowhere near some of the sizes reported in these accounts.

It is all rather bizarre to be sure. What is going on here? Are we facing some coming invasion of giant, blood crazed rats? Do they represent a new or mutated species? Or are these just spooky stories that have managed to burrow their way into our subconscious fears? How much truth, if any, is to be found in these stories? They are certainly unsettling accounts either way, and are perhaps enough to make one keep an eye out when walking along at night alone in areas where there are rats.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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