Rat Terrier Facts | Kidadl


Rat Terrier Facts

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If you are looking for a dog that excels in dog sports, then the Rat Terrier should easily be your pick. Made an official breed by the American Kennel Club as recently as 2013 with the official Rat Terrier Club coming into effect in 2010, the Rat Terrier's numerous qualities have made it a popular pet choice. Historically, this American breed is a result of farmers wanting fat dogs to hunt rats and hence the name Rat Terriers. This breed of dog has lineage from over seven breeds that include the extinct Old English White Terrier, Smooth Fox Terrier, Italian Greyhound, Whippet, Beagle, Manchester Terrier, and the Bull Terrier. It was famously said that during the Presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, the Rat Terrier was responsible for terminating the rodent population of the White House. So, without much further ado, let us discuss more interesting facts about this enigmatic dog. For more information regarding other animals, take a look at Patterdale terrier and Snorkie facts.

Rat Terrier Facts

What do they prey on?

Plants and Meat

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

10-25 lb (4.5-11.3 kg)

How long are they?


How tall are they?

10-18 in (25.4-45.7 cm)

What do they look like?

White and black, white and black with tan or rust, lemon, orange, red, blue, and orange

Skin Type


What were their main threats?


What is their conservation status?

Not Evaluated

Where you'll find them?

In Farms And Homes As Pet


Europe, North America









Rat Terrier Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Rat Terrier?

The Rat Terrier is a breed of dog that was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as a separate breed in 2013.

What class of animal does a Rat Terrier belong to?

Rat Terriers belong to the class of Mammalia. Like all dogs, the scientific name of the Rat Terrier is Canis lupus familiaris.

How many Rat Terriers are there in the world?

There was a time in the 1930s and the 1940s when the Rat Terrier was considered to be a very common dog. However, with the invention of rodent-killing pesticides in the 1950s, their population died down a lot. Even though they made a comeback in the 1990s and early 2000s, the Rat Terrier dog breed is considered to be a rare one. As with any dog breed, we cannot estimate the total number of Rat Terriers that exist.

Where does a Rat Terrier live?

Rat Terriers were first bred in America to be a breed of farm dogs. Historically found on farms, at present Rat Terriers are generally found in the homes of their owners and with breeders who breed them. This dog breed originated from in America and thus obviously, they are most common in the United States. However, Rat Terriers are also found in England and other places in Europe.

What is a Rat Terrier's habitat?

The habitat of a Rat Terrier generally tends to be farms or houses. Initially used as a hunting dogs, the Rat Terriers of the present have a much more calm temperament. They can sometimes be happy to be lap dogs too. Rat Terriers are quite suited for to apartment life provided this high-energy breed has regular exercise. The energy level of this smart and intelligent dog is off the charts. The Rat Terrier dog belongs to one of those breeds that can develop severe separation anxiety when away from its owners. This can spill over in the form of destructive behavior that includes chewing and destroying things. This trait is more pronounced in Rat Terrier puppies. Also, you must keep away other smaller pets from this dog due to its genetically high prey drive.

Who do Rat Terriers live with?

The Rat Terrier is almost always found living on farms or apartments with their humans. These dogs, that share a lineage with the Manchester Terrier and the extinct Old English White Terrier, are known to have a pack-oriented mentality and thus get along with the other dogs in the house. They are also very loyal to the owner and the family and will love to live inside the house all the time. Rat Terriers who are left out in the yard or in a kennel outside the house are found to be very unhappy. However, these dogs are not very compatible with smaller pets like hamsters and mice due to their rat hunting genes. Even for the most well-trained Rat Terrier, all their training might go out of the window if they see a smaller pet scampering through the house.

How long does a Rat Terrier live?

The Rat Terrier is one of those breeds that have very good health in general. Although they are terrier breeds, they are known to usually live between 12-18 years with most of the dogs frequently hitting the 15 years mark. With proper training and exercise and diet, these dogs average above 16 years in lifespan.

How do they reproduce?

The Rat Terrier breed has a mating process similar to all the other dog breeds. The female comes into heat anywhere between the ages of six months and one and a half years. After the first heat cycle, the female dog will go into heat every six months. Once the mating process is done, the gestation period for the female starts. This period lasts from 58-65 days. It has been noticed that if the litter size is big, females may give birth early i.e. at around 55-58 days. Smaller litter births usually occur around the 65th day. The litter size has an average of five to seven puppies while there have been many cases where three to four pups have also been recorded.

What is their conservation status?

Dogs aren't really listed in the International Union For Conservation Of Nature Red List (IUCN Red List) unless they are extinct. As a result, the Rat Terrier is Not Evaluated. However, given the fact that they had a decline in population post the 1950s, this terrier breed is still considered to be rare and not that easily available.

Rat Terrier Fun Facts

What do Rat Terriers look like?

Rat Terriers are very distinct in their appearance. The first feature that stands out is their erect ears. This mainstay feature helps give the Rat Terrier a very alert look. However, ears are not always erect. They may be folded at times. The next feature is the tail which is generally docked at 3-4 in (7.6-10.2 cm). The structure of the skull is similar to a blunt wedge that contains small oval eyes. Being a breed of terrier, Rat Terriers are known to have a sturdy and compact body with a strong bone structure and ribcage.

On the issue of their fur, the American Rat Terriers are also very distinct. They have a soft and smooth dense coat that comes in a variety of colors. The most common coat color is the pied pattern of color where one or more colors are found in combination with the constant color of white. These small to medium terrier dogs are also available in colors such as lemon, orange, red, blue, and orange.

Among all terrier breeds rat terrier is the fastest runner.

How cute are they?

With their adorable erect ears and their oval eyes, Rat Terriers can be high on the cuteness chart. This high-energy dog is always up for fun and can run circles around you when happy or excited. What can also add to their cuteness quotient is that due to their general fitness, they excel at dog sports with the proper training. Training sessions can lead to a lot of fun shenanigans. These dogs are also known for their stubbornness and that can lead to quite a few hilarious situations.

How do they communicate?

Rat Terriers are perhaps the only few breeds of dogs that are known to communicate via 'talking'. They make sounds that are unlike barking in order to get the attention of their owners or in order to communicate certain things. However, do not think that they are subdued in regards to barking. When left alone for some time or when challenged, this dog will bark its heart out. But, it is more likely that instead of barking, Rat Terriers will convey their emotions and feelings via the use of paws and their unique 'talking' sounds.

How big is a Rat Terrier?

According to the breed standards of the American Kennel Club, there are two groups of the Rat Terriers. They are the Standard and the Miniature. The Miniature Rat Terrier has a breed standard height of 10-13 in (25.4-33 cm), while the Standard Rat Terrier is between 13-18 in (33-45.7 cm). There is an unofficial Rat Terrier mix called the Toy Rat Terrier which has a height of around 8 in (20.3 cm). In comparison, the Standard Rat Terrier has a height similar to that of the American Staffordshire Terrier. Bull Terriers on the other hand are slightly larger than the Standard Rat Terrier. Bull Terrier heights are recorded to be around 22 in (55.9 cm).

How fast can a Rat Terrier run?

Amongst all the breeds of the terrier, Rat Terriers are known to be the fastest runner. They owe this trait due to their lineage as they were bred historically to be fast and elite American hunting dogs. The average speeds of the Rat Terriers are generally 25 mph (40.2 kph) but they have been recorded to reach top speeds around the mark of 27 mph (43.5 kph).

How much does a Rat Terrier weigh?

Rat Terriers, part descendants of the Italian Greyhounds, tend to have a weight range that is anywhere between 10-25 lb (4.5-11.3 kg). There is not much of a contrast between the weight of a female Rat Terrier and the weight of a male Rat Terrier.

What are their male and female names of the species?

Male and female Rat Terriers are known by the most common names dog and bitch. They do not have any specific names for their breed.

What would you call a baby Rat Terrier?

A baby Rat Terrier would simply be called a Rat Terrier puppy.

What do they eat?

Rat Terriers are known to get obese very fast so they must be given food that has a lot of proteins and fewer carbohydrates and fats. Avoid giving them junk food. Homemade food and dog food should be part of their staple diet.

Are they slobbery?

Rat Terriers are not known to be slobbery. Their potential to drool is very low.

Would they make a good pet?

Bred to be the perfect farm animal, Rat Terriers are considered to be great family dogs right now. They have evolved into having a calm temperament and are very easy to train. This is one of the reasons they are very good dog sports like agility, rally, and flyball. These dogs are very loyal to their owners. Caring and grooming for them are also very easy as these dogs have soft dense coat. Loose hair can be easily dealt with by the use of a soft brush two to three times a week. A Rat Terrier needs proper exercise and attention in the family. They can be very easily trained by owners or professionals. They are good with the other dog pets in the family and are always ready for a challenge. However, you should be careful when leaving them with toddlers as they have hunt dog instincts in them.

Did you know...

Rat Terriers are great at burrowing and digging.

Not surprisingly, Jake the Rat Terrier from Iowa is known to be the oldest verified living dog in recent years. He died in 2015 just a few days after he had celebrated his 21st birthday.

The calm temperament and the playful energy of these dogs are now coming in handy as they are being increasingly used as service dogs in hospital wards to treat depression and other mental ailments. Rat Terriers also can be helper dogs for the disabled. The high intelligence and easy training process of the Rat Terriers have seen them being trained to be police dogs as well.

There is a record that states that one Rat Terrier had killed 2501 rats in seven hours in an enclosed barn.

The Teddy Roosevelt Terrier is the short-legged cousin of the Rat Terrier named after the American President. The Toy Fox Terrier is also considered a breed that is close to the Rat Terrier breed. The American Hairless Terrier breed is also derived from the Rat Terrier breed.

Characteristics and health issues

The Rat Terrier is generally a dog with great health but there are some health conditions that might pose a problem for them. Common issues like hip dysplasia and allergies can be found in these energetic dogs. They are also prone to health problems like patellar luxation, pancreatic and cardiac issues, and Legg–Calvé–Perthes syndrome.

Getting your own Rat Terrier

Getting a Rat Terrier might be a difficult ordeal as only a very few breeders breed them. A puppy of this breed usually costs between $300-600, with some color coats costing even more. However, we always recommend that you buy your Rat Terrier puppy from a reputed and ethical breeder. They can also be adopted from Rat Terrier rescue homes and shelters.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including Bedlington terrier, or Cheagle.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Rat Terrier coloring page.

Written By
Moumita Dutta

Moumita is a multilingual content writer and editor. She has a PostGraduate Diploma in sports management, which enhanced her sports journalism skills, as well as a degree in journalism and mass communication. She's good at writing about sports and sporting heroes. Moumita has worked with many soccer teams and produced match reports, and sports is her primary passion.

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