Two different species of rats were involved in the evolution of what has now become known as the Fancy Rat. Both types, the Black Rat (rattus rattus) and the Brown Rat (rattus norvegicus) are thought to have originated in Asia, spreading out through Europe and onto other countries via the shipping trade. Rats, indirectly, have been responsible for millions of deaths among humans, the largest being among the time of the bubonic plague in Europe and the Black Death. However blaming the rats themselves, like most people seem to do, is not fair. It was actually the fleas the rats carried which caused the diseases by spreading them to other animals and on to humans. And back in those days hygiene also played a large part.


In the early 19th century, rats were captured and bred in large numbers for ratting contests (where terriers competed against each other to kill the most rats in a specified time). Later on in the same century rats were bred for laboratory tests for use in research into nutrition, genetics, intelligence and disease. Through the course of these early tests scientists noted that they would make fantastic pets due to this intelligence and tameability. And during the years of research, rats have begun to mutate bringing in the new colourations and strains. And now, years on, the pet rats we have today cannot in any way compare to their wild ancestors as they have changed so much.

The Fancy rat first started to appear in the late 19th century, with the keeping and breeding of these tame rats becoming popular in the early 1900s. There was a sharp decline again in the 1920s but nowadays the fascination with keeping rats as pets seems to be on the rise again. So much so, in fact, that Rat shows are held and Rat Clubs, Rodent Clubs and Pet Clubs have sprung up in many countries.