It’s fair to say that rats are not exactly the most popular members of the animal kingdom - people either find them disgusting or outright terrifying.
But they can be a whole lot worse than you can ever possibly imagine.
Throughout history there have been instances of so-called ‘rat kings’ - but these are not the type to walk around with a crown on, give you a knighthood or host state banquets for world leaders.
Neither are they the largest rat around that lesser rats take orders from when zipping through the sewers underneath your house.
No, rat kings are actually multiple rats all entwined into one giant, multi-limbed mutant that will basically prey on your nightmares from now on.
They are not myths or urban legends - they are real and they are bad news.
Entwined: The rats tails get stuck together and forces the rodents to live as one (Wikipedia)
Here’s the disgusting part - rat kings are made up of an indeterminate number or rats who somehow get intertwined at their tails.
This could be from dirt, blood, animal hair or faeces, but the end result is that the rats become stuck together at their tails - permanently.
These rat kings do not die out, either - they will form one giant swirling mass of rat that lives as one, moving together, eating together and growing together.
Sightings of these rodent anomalies date back to as far as 1564, and even then were regarded as a bad omen.
There are good reasons for this - rats carry diseases and in the 16th century, this meant potentially deadly ones like the plague.
Technically a rat king is formed as soon as two of them get stuck to each other - usually helped by living in confined spaces where dirt can build up pretty quickly.
Specimen: This rat king is on display in France’s Natural History Museum in Nantes (Wikipedia)
However, there are rat king specimens that feature a lot more than two - in fact, one of the largest known consists of a staggering 32 rodents (top).
Alarmingly, this giant rat king, which is on display at the scientific museum Mauritianum Altenburg in Germany, was discovered in a FIREPLACE in 1828 - proving that they are not something confined to the hidden away spaces underground.
Other specimens can also be found elsewhere in Germany - where they are for some reason particularly prevalent - France and Estonia.
Fortunately, there have not been many other discoveries - in fact there have been no more than 50 ever recorded - the last of which was in the Võrumaa region of Estonia in 2005.
This strange quirk is not just confined to the world of rats, either - in fact, there has been a known discovery of a SQUIRREL king.
However, despite the evidence of these animal monstrosities - some people are not so convinced that they are anything other than a well-constructed hoax.
Historic: This Friedrich Wilhelm Schmuck drawing of a rat king was created in 1683 (Wikipedia)
A Reddit thread devoted to the subject saw some dismissing the likelihood of rat kings existing completely out of hand.
User IAlbatross offered another explanation, writing: “I work with rats and I can guarantee with extreme certainty that this doesn’t actually happen.
“Rat tails aren’t spaghetti noodles; they have bones and nerves in them. If rat kings could actually form, then logically, humans could also get their arms all twisted together and form human kings.
“If rats were somehow able to knot tails (and, again, they can’t, because rat tails are limbs with bones, not pieces of string), they would end up killing each other or chewing the tail off to escape.
“The only ‘evidence’ of rat kings are mummified specimens, which are undoubtedly faked for the horror value.”
Still, you might want to invest in a giant rat trap - just in case…
Top pic: Wikipedia