In the marvelous encyclopedic tome, The Atlas of Dog Breeds of the World,” authors Bonnie Wilcox, DVM, and Chris Walkowicz share the advice given to a Sports Illustrated writer from the owner of a Jack Russell Terrier. If ever anyone was planning to participate in rat catching done by terriers, “Always wear slacks or breeches tucked into your Wellingtons or into your socks so that the rats cannot run up your trouser legs or skirt. This happens far more often than one might imagine, and although it may be excruciatingly funny to the rest of the party, it is no joke for you.”

The Rev. Jack Russell never used his dogs for this purpose since he was a passionate hunter of less rodent-like creatures, but his canine creation turned out to be a passionate – and effective – ratter. Among the breeds that are current members of The Ryders Alley Trencher Fed Society – or R.A.T.S – both the Jack Russell and Parson Russell are enthusiastic participants, and fine example of working terriers doing what they do best.

The group was founded in the 1990s by Richard Reynold and named after Ryders Alley in Manhattan, a spot notorious for its rat infestation, and the term, “trencher fed,” referring to a pack of hounds are kept individually by hunt members and only assembled as a pack to hunt. In the case of R.A.T.S., the “pack” are terriers whose owners respond to calls from citizens, including the homeless whom are referred to as the group’s “intelligence network.”

We don’t know if the popular claim that there are as many rats as people living in New York City is true, but on a more recent study estimated a population closer to more than 2 million rats based on a statistical analysis and information from 311 calls. New York City rats are so infamous, they have their own Wikipedia page.

We’ve mentioned R.A.T.S before and will again because the work they do is important. We should mention here that we like rats and wish no suffering on any creature, but rat infestations are a serious issue, and disease, sanitation, and destruction are just a few of the problems they cause. Dispatching a rat with a feisty terrier is far more humane (and green) than a trap or poison. The rat is caught, and with a vigorous shake by the dog, its neck is broken quickly.

Richard Reynolds, himself, is a interesting chap. An AKC approved dog show judge, he’s also been a Master of Foxhounds, and owner of a several successful dogs certified by the American Working Terrier Association for their earthwork. His day job as a senior partner at an investigative financial consulting firm (think private detective for white-collar crime) hints at fellow with a little bit of terrier in himself. And on some nights, he and his merry band, among them the owners of Feists, Patterdale Terriers, Jagdterrier, Bedlingtons, Border Terrier, Norfolks, Dachshunds, Cairn Terriers,Manchester Terriers, Westies, Smooth Fox Terriers, and of course, the Jack Russell and Parson Russell Terriers, hunt rats.

You can follow R.A.T.S. on their Facebook page, and if we’re very lucky, Richard may even say hello here as he’s done before.

Image: “The Ratters,” Nora Howarth’s pastel of a brace of Smooth Jack Russell Terriers “rat hunting” is available for bidding on Ebay here


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