Rat-Fighting in New York


"Sometimes, Kit [owner of rat-fighting saloon in New York in mid 1800's] featured ferrets or weasels killing rats, but rat killing without dogs was considered a slower sport, more suited for women and children. On rare occasions, men fought rats. A New York correspondent covering a Philadelphia rat fight described one such scene:

'Then came a horrible spectacle. Quick as lightning the man plunged his hand into the mass of rats, seized one by the back and carried it to his mouth – with a squeak and a crunch, the lifeless carcass was tossed aside with a broken neck.'

When men fought rats, the man was expected to bite the rat's head off. This often resulted in the man's face being bloodied from rat bites. Even Kit was disgusted by this – he was said to have thrown a man out of his place for trying it. And yet, when Kit died, Kit's daughter married a rat killer, Richard Toner, alias Dick the Rat."

from: Rats: A Year with New York's Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan, (Granta Books 2005) p.7


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