What is Ratting?

What is Ratting?

Author WDF Staff


Dogs had many jobs and functions throughout history. They protected us, helped us hunt, guarded sheep, and even kept our farms and kitchens vermin-free. Dogs specifically bred to become rat hunters are called ratters, and ratting is a term people use for hunting rats. If you are a part of the dog world, and you heard the word and wondered, “What is ratting?” - here is what you should know about it.

What is ratting?

Although hunting rats and mice is often associated with cats, the truth is that dogs are far superior in hunting them than cats are. Cats are natural predators we domesticated, but after domestication, dogs were specifically bred to help us get rid of these disease-caring rodents. That is where ratting dogs became popular.


Rats are responsible for one of the biggest plagues in human history - the black plague of the 14th century. Although there were many theories that heavens and God are responsible for it, we now know that fleas on rats were actually responsible for it. More precisely, the bacteria Yersinia pestis is the exact culprit. The theory was formed in the 19th century, and since then, the popularity of ratting dogs has soared. In this case, ratting is a term that describes the act of hunting rats with the aid of dogs. However, that is not the only thing the term ratting refers to.

Ratting sport

Dogs have a bloody history, and many breeds were used for all sorts of blood sports. Dogs were pinned against bulls, bears, and other dogs. In ancient Rome, dogs were even fighting lions, tigers, and gladiators. The United Kingdom is home to many of these blood sports, and one of the most popular ones was ratting.

Ratting was a blood sport where smaller Terrier breeds were placed in a fighting pit with hundreds of rats. This was a spectator sport, and dogs had a simple goal of killing as many rats as possible within a specific timeframe. Luckily, this barbaric sport was later banned, and the sport lost its popularity across the UK.

Ratting dogs

The need for vermin control dogs is still pretty big. Even modern farms can have rat or mice infestations, and there aren’t many more effective ways of getting rid of them than letting dogs out in the field.

lakeland-terrier in garden

Terrier breeds excel at ratting. They have a natural hunting instinct that was only enhanced through centuries of selective breeding. Dog owners of the old bred dogs with the best hunting capabilities, so you shouldn’t be too surprised if you have a Terrier that loves chasing anything that moves. These dogs even have thick tails because many of them used to run into holes and needed some help getting back out. Their owners sometimes had to pull them out by their tails, and if their tail wasn’t strong, the dog could get injured. Some of the ratting Terrier breeds are;

In conclusion

The term ratting can mean two things in context with dogs. It can refer to the act of hunting rats with the help of dogs, or it can refer to the medieval sport where dogs had to kill as many rats as possible in a fighting pit. Modern-day dogs are still entrusted with catching rats on farms, and that still remains one of the most effective ways farmers deal with large rat infestations.

World Dog Finder team

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