Coors Global Cyber Campaign

ONCE upon a time
there was a beautiful
The Indians called it
S. Table Mountain...
Some white men
(drunk on beer)
took it from them...
They tried to sell it
to a shoemaker...
But the People
wanted it back -
and had a lot of
Coors didn't care
about the People...
But they liked
ten million dollars.
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"THOSE TALES OF GREAT rodent nations marching into battle are pure myth, ratologists say, but no one really knows the rats' full capabilities. Surely there are many stories of rat cooperation and even compassion. A good example is the famous Rattenkonig or "rat king." Young rats close to one another in the nest sometimes get their tails entangled and become a living Gordian knot glued together by dirt encrusted wounds and the like. When they try to pull apart the tails are pulled tight, and the knots strengthen, knitting the rats together. As many as 32 rats are trapped in these knots and have died as a result of being unable to forage for themselves. However, they are often unselfishly fed for life by other family members.

"There is no doubt that rat kings exist: sixty or so have been reported in Europe since 1564 and about 40 (most of them found alive) have been authenticated, the latest in 1963. Rat kings have frequently been preserved, painted, and photographed, and in 1774 a 16-rat king was examined by a Leipzig court in connection with a charge that a miller's apprentice had cheated his master by stealing the king from him and pocketing a tidy sum by exhibiting it.

"The name rat king may come from the old superstition that an aged wise rat sat on the entangled tails of rats and was treated as royalty by the pack. But it could just as well derive from an early belief that the animals entangled were one organism, a supreme rat with many bodies. Rat kings range in composition from 3 - 32 rats, with most consisting of 5 - 10 animals, and are apparently found only among the long and less pliable tailed black rat species, although a few verified rodent kings of squirrels and several unverified mice kings have been reported. Brown rat kings have been induced in the laboratory. Rat kings fabricated by tying the tails of live rats together look nothing like real kings, but rat kings have been created in the laboratory by gluing the tails of rats together; this causes the rats to become so entangled while trying to extricate themselves that a true knot is formed. Yet no zoologist has been able to prove exactly how rat kings are formed in nature. It is possible that the tails become entangled when the rats huddle together facing outward for warmth and security, urine and feces from those in the upper circle falling onto the entwined mass of tails. Other possibilities are that the tails might become entangled while the males are wildly fighting for females, or during mass grooming, or in the nest shortly after birth, or after the tails of a number of rats come into contact with some sticky substance. It may even be that the "verminous vermicelli" are formed in several ways. The rat king remains as much a mystery to nuclear-age scientists as it was to medieval peasants."

(c) Katharina Fritsch, 1993
(c) Steve Lewis, 1997