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The Black Rat (Rattus rattus), also known as the Asian black rat, Ship Rat, Roof Rat or House Rat, is a common long-tailed rodent of the genus Rattus (rats) in the subfamily Murinae (murine rodents). The species originated in tropical Asia and spread through the Near East in Roman times before reaching Europe by the 6th century and spreading with Europeans across the world. Today it is again largely confined to warmer areas, having been supplanted by the Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) in cooler regions.

Despite its name, it exhibits several colour forms. Compared to the Brown Rat, it is a poorer swimmer, but more agile and a better climber, tending even to flee upwards. It is usually black to light brown in colour with a lighter underside. A typical rat will be 15 to 20 cm long (6-8 inches) with a further 20 cm of tail. It is nocturnal and omnivorous, with a preference for grains. In a suitable environment it will breed throughout the year, with a female producing three to six litters of up to ten young. Females may regulate their production of offspring during times when food is scarce, throwing as few as only one litter a year. R. rattus lives for about 2-3 years. Social groups of up to sixty can be formed.

R. rattus has been known to fall victim of a number of diseases, of which bubonic plague (via the rat flea), typhus, toxoplasmosis and trichinosis are the most well known.

It is sometimes, but rarely, kept as a pet. Most pet rats (or fancy rats) are descendents of the brown rat.

Information Source / More Info:  Wikipedia.org