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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Almanac - The Chinese New Year of the Rat

Air Date: Week of


CURWOOD: While we here in the west celebrate our new year, on February 19th, the Chinese will welcome the year of the rat. In the Chinese cosmology those born in the coming year are industrious, intelligent and perfectionist. It's no surprise that the rat should loom so large in an oriental system of beliefs. Of the 78 known types of rats, all originated in Asia or the Pacific islands. Now in terms of population, number of different species and territory, rats are the most successful mammal in the world. They have spread everywhere that humanity has gone. In the US alone there are believed to be more than 145 million rats. In Britain, rats now outnumber people. In scientific terms, humanity's dislike of the rat is well deserved. They do carry diseases, but in their favor, rats have a well-developed sense of spatial relationships and an excellent sense of time. That makes them very useful for laboratory studies or to tell you the quickest route to the nearest garbage dump.



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