Malone the Rat Fighter

Tough way to earn a living.

This 1908 news story may have inspired Roald Dahl's short story "The Ratcatcher" (first published in 1953 in Someone Like You). Even if Dahl hadn't seen this exact news piece, he must have heard stories (urban legends) about rat catchers doing this.

The Royal Gazette - Oct 6, 1908

A man named Malone, who was fined at Northampton, for breaking hotel windows, was said to earn his living by going from place to place exhibiting freshly-caught rats. These he tethered to a table with string, giving them a certain latitude, and then, with his hands tied tightly behind him, he fought and killed a rat with his teeth. Nine times out of ten he was said to succeed, but frequently the rat bit him severely.
     Posted By: Alex - Sun Apr 03, 2016
     Category: Animals | Jobs and Occupations | Pests, Plagues and Infestations | 1900s

On the TV mini-series Hornblower episode 1
there is a scene of sailors betting on the game.
Posted by BMN on 04/03/16 at 09:28 AM
I didn't remember that! Anyhow, it starts at the 40sec mark or just a minute before (for the whole story).
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 04/03/16 at 10:25 AM
Hay! Fresh meat was hard to come by when at sea back then.


He wanted to be a dog soldier not a squid.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 04/03/16 at 10:29 AM
The risk for infectious disease, including rabies, is very high. Not to mention the disfigurement from being bitten, even if infrequently. But then, perhaps he wasn't a pretty boy to start with.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 04/03/16 at 11:04 AM
The article says this happened in Northampton. It's a Bermuda paper, but I can't find a Northampton in Bermuda, only Southampton; and the surrounding articles mention several places that are definitely in England. I presume, then, that this happened in the original Northants, England. This would imply a zero percent chance of getting rabies, and no Hanta either, AFAIAA. Weil, maybe, but even that is relatively uncommon in Europe.
Still, not something I'd recommend.
Posted by Richard Bos on 04/04/16 at 08:59 AM
Is rabies eradicated entirely in England Richard?
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 04/04/16 at 11:12 AM
And you thought your job sucked!!!
Posted by Kyle Morgan on 04/04/16 at 11:58 AM
Rabies never even reached Great Britain. That's why they have such stringent laws about importing mammals. Even now, if your dog isn't completely vaccinated, it'll spend 9 months in quarantine. (I think they do have the variety that infects bats, but that doesn't seem to be passed to other animals much.)
In any case, here in Western Europe, rat bites don't make us think of rabies, but of the plague, even though we haven't had that for a couple of centuries, either.
Posted by Richard Bos on 04/05/16 at 10:17 AM
Well, lose a few million to a disease and people tend to remember even over millennia. I never knew England was hydrophobia free. Luck you, at least on that one.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 04/05/16 at 10:34 AM
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