The Definitive Guide to Types of Rat in the UK and Abroad

Rats are one the most common rodents in the UK, with the rodents outnumbering us by about six to one. Most rats live on farms or in large open fields scattered across the UK, but rats have no trouble finding their ways into our home in search of shelter, warmth and food.

The UK is home to a number of different rat types of rat and we will be exploring rats from both the UK and across the globe. There are several types of rat species scattered across the continent and our team has provided a fully comprehensive guide on every type of rat currently known.

A Guide to All Types of Rat 

We have separated the different types of rat by continent to make it easier to identify which type of rat you may have encountered.

Types of the Rat in the UK

Brown Rat

  • Also known as – Norway rat, house rat, garden rat, sewer rat, domestic rat, Hanover rat, common rat, roof rat, rattus norvegicus
  • In the UK? – Yes
  • Lifespan – Two years
  • Size – 21 – 24 days
brown rat in loft

Widely known as the most common rat in the UK, the brown rat is home to all parts of the UK but is most commonly found in fields and farms. Brown rats have a gestation period of 21-24 days and live for approximately two years in the wild. Domestic rats, which are effectively brown rats that have become domesticated, will live longer as pets. They are also known as ‘fancy rats’.

Black rat

  • Also known as – Roof rats, port rats
  • In the UK? – Yes
  • Lifespan – About a year in the wild
  • Size – 30 to 45 cm and up to 240 grams
black rat

Black rats are common in the UK but only in certain areas. Black rats prefer to inhabit ports and seaside areas. Adept swimmers, black rats are able to swim up canals and infiltrate properties through drainways and sewage pipes. They are notorious spreaders of bacteria and disease, notably the bubonic plague.

Giant rat

  • Also known as – Large brown rats
  • In the UK? – Yes
  • Lifespan – About two years
  • Size – sizes recorded up to 1.3m

Giant rats are simply mutated brown or black rats that have overgrown. Giant rats are not a specific rat type but can become dangerous simply due to their size. If you find a giant rat, it is essential you call a pest control company to ensure it is safely removed from the premises. Standard traps will not work against giant rats.

Naked Mole Rat

  • Also known as – Naked rats, bald rats, hairless rats
  • In the UK? – Yes
  • Lifespan – Up to 30 years
  • Size – 3 – 10 inches

Naked mole rats are easy to spot and are characterised by their naked, hairless bodies that resemble a shaved rat. They are almost pink in colour and live far underground in colonies. Rarely do they ever surface except to gather food for the queen naked mole rat.

Water rat

  • Also known as – Water vole
  • In the UK? – Yes
  • Lifespan – 5 months in the wild, two years in captivity
  • Size – 20cm long

Water rats are chunky in physique, are usually dark brown in colour and have very small tails. They are smaller than the UK brown rat but maintain a similar diet of seeds, vegetation and insects. As their name suggests, they live near lakes, ravines and ponds along urban waterways.

White rat

  • Also known as – Lab rat, laboratory rat, white-haired rat
  • In the UK? – Yes
  • Lifespan – 2 to 3 years
  • Size – 20cm long
white rat

White rats are commonly used in research and they are typically bred for psychology and biomedical science. They are commonly used in water experiments, namely the Morris water navigation test which is used to determine memory. There are several white rats used for scientific experiments, a definitive list can be found on Wikipedia.

Australian Rats

Long-haired rat

  • Also known as – Long-haired rat
  • In the UK? – No
  • Lifespan – About a year in the wild
  • Size – 10 to 20cm and approximately 230g (fully grown)

Native to Australia, the long-haired rat is one of the only rats that does not carry disease and does not smell. It is not similar to rats in the UK as it is not a commensal rodent (meaning it does not like living between humans), instead, it keeps to itself, burrowing underground and living in large open fields and landscapes.

North America Rats

Kangaroo rat

  • Also known as – Merriam’s kangaroo rat
  • In the UK? – No
  • Lifespan – 2 – 5 years
  • Size – 8 – 14cm with a tail up to 16cm long

Kangaroo rats are native to North America and can survive without ever drinking water. perfectly suited to hotter climates, kangaroo rats are able to source all the water they need from their diet of seeds. They have exceptional hearing which makes them adept at avoiding prey such as snakes and larger rodents.

Extinct rats

Bulldog rat

This rat type was native to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. Bulldog rats inhabited hilly areas and made their nests underground like most other nests. However, their nests were buried deeper into the ground as they had a severe problem with sunlight and in some cases, direct contact would blind them. They were large rats with about 2cm of fat on their back.

Their extinction is thought to have been brought on by sailors who contracted the bubonic plague. Although unintentional, the plagued sailors were the reason why bulldog rats died out in 1908.

For more information on rats

If you require more information on rats in the UK, such as the best traps to use, where to locate rats and the best bait types, we have a variety of articles dedicated to these themes in our blog. 

This article is constantly updated, so keep a look out for more rat profiles in the future.

If you are suffering from a rat or mouse infestation in a commercial property, we can provide fast, effective and humane pest control solutions at affordable rates across the Midlands.

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Seen any of these types of rat? or a different one? let us know in the comments below..

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