Of Rodents and Men: An Abridged History of The Parisian Rat

paris-rats (Image: Vassil, public domain)

Just like any other soul in the world, rats make no exception – they love Paris, too!

Probably much more than they should really.

With the Seine, the subway and the numerous restaurants, Paris has become a Rat Paradise of sorts. With four times as many rats as humans in Paris, the frightening statistics show that the furry cosmopolitans are perhaps 8 million in total, according to the grim prognoses of experts.

rat (Image: Edal Anton Lefterov, cc-sa-3.0)

Rats! Parisians have always had a love-hate relationship with them.

They’ve been loving them, they’ve been killing them, they’ve even been eating them!

When under siege during the Franco-Prussian War, brown rats and roof rats were openly and massively consumed in Paris. You can take it from the bible of French cuisine, Larousse Gastronomique, which features, among others, an inimitable Grilled Rats à la Bordelaise recipe.

blek-le-rat (Image: Eric Steuer, cc-3.0)

On a more contemporary note, “the father of stencil graffiti” and one of the first graffiti artists in Paris (called Blek le Rat himself) began his artwork in the 1980s with his iconic stencils of rats, declaring the vermin “the only free animal in the city”.

So much for that statement, however, once you find yourself facing the front window of Julien Arouze and Co., a rare pest control shop whose guerrilla marketing storefront makes a splash by relying on an unusual approach to getting the customer’s attention. Stuffed dead rats.

Julien-Arouze-and-Co.-Paris (Image: Todd Mecklem (website: Toddmecklem.com), cc-nc-nd-3.0)

An impressive number of those, in the company of other assorted critters, have been hanging in the shop’s otherwise traditional and old-fashioned store window, since 1925. In the business of exterminating pests since 1872, this outlandish shop provides plenty of gadgets and products for getting rid of those furry rodents to this very day.

The ominous slogan above this pet cemetery of sorts reads “destruction of harmful animals” – a message that has proven fruitful enough, or so it seems, as today Julien Arouze and Co. have several of Paris’ best known food shops and restaurants relying on their mousetrapping expertise.

Keep reading – check out our Paris tag for more quirky articles from the City of Light.



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