The Prague Ratter has a long documented history which goes back very nearly 1,000 years.
This little dog allegedly became popular due to the small size, it is fast moving and has a highly developed sense of smell which enabled it to hunt and kill rats and mice (hence its historic name “Ratter”).
The Prague Ratter enjoyed a life in the royal courts and early documentation shows them being given as a gifts to European rulers. Later, however, this little dog became almost extinct until its rediscovery occurred just thirty years ago.
Throughout history the interest in particular breeds inevitably will rise and fall according to fashion. The Prague Ratter was no exception to this but 1969 when it had almost been forgotten an article was published in a magazine in Prague called PES. The article was titled; “Restore the glory for the Prague Ratter – where had this breed that was once so popular in Prague, now gone?”. The article was enough to spark a new interest in this dying breed. In practice the decision to revive the breed was not easy and the possibilities of a new breeding program were carefully considered for a long time.
The breeders studied the papers of the recently deceased Czech canines – Otto Charlie, Teodora Rotter, DVM.Fr.Dvoracek and others that had found their way into publications in the twenties, thirties and onwards. They also studied historical data which confirmed the existence of the Ratter in Bohemia.
The Polish chronicle, ‘Galla Anonyma’ states that the Polish king Boleslav II-Bold (1058-1080) “took in his kennel 2 Ratters who came from Bohemia”. The author writes of them: “In the veins of our dogs not only Polish blood circulating, but purely Slavic blood, blood donation”. Because the king of Poland valued this gift, it can be assumed that it was a royal gift to Prince Vladislav II.
French historian Jules Michelet wrote in his book, “Histoire de France”, about a living gift given to him by the Czech king and Emperor Charles IV on his visit to France in the autumn of 1377. In September of 1380 the bequeathed and dying Charles V passed on to his twelve year old son two ratters.
Documentation on Emperor Rudolf II states: Rudolf II (1576 – 1611) always found comfort in the middle of a pack of hunting dogs and ratters. Of his original four dogs offspring had grown to eighteen ratters. This was an excellent example of his breeding work.
The tragic defeat in the battle of White Mountain in 1620 resulted in the decline of Czech political, cultural and social life for three centuries. During this dark period we saw a departure of the Prague Ratter. When Prague castle lost its importance, the little ratlíček descended from royal heights and now belonged to the common people. He lived and vegetated into the next centuries with hardly a mention.
Attempts by prominent canine experts such as Theodor Rotter and Otakar Karlik to restore a breeding program and collect documentation failed because they could not find animals with the six generations of history.
In neighbouring Germany Adolf Hitler was rising to power and in 1938 invaded the Czechoslovak state. Later, in the fifties, Thoedor Rotter lost all his property and thus all his paperwork on the Ratter.
It wasn’t until the eighties new attempts to restore the Prague Ratter began.
Todays representatives of this breed are the result of the breeding reconstruction programme by Czech breeders under the leadership of Mr. Findejs
The Nature of the breed
Prague Ratters are small but restless dogs, both gentle and affectionate. They are suitable for just about every family, though keep in mind, such small bones are fragile and they can be prone to bone disease if exposed to a cold and unforgiving climate. They are firmly loyal to their Master and will, if introduced early, form a good relationship with older children. Because of their fragile bones, we can not recommend this breed to a family with small boisterous children.
Although these little dogs are very friendly and affectionate, they can be shy of strangers, especially men. Prague Ratters tend to be curious and mischievous, which makes them very entertaining company. They are highly intelligent and so very receptive to good training. They tend not to be yappy dogs but have a large bark when they feel the need to guard their territory.
Although this is a very versatile little dog, the claims of breeders who say it is suitable for infirm people who are unable to walk them is quite wrong. Whilst Prague Ratters don’t mind lounging on a comfortable sofa and love the creature comforts or even a lap, there is nothing they enjoy more than a long walk or joining in a dog training agility class.The Ratter is nimble, agile and very fast and so daily exercise is necessary.
Prague Ratters generally live 13 to 15 years.
When fully grown, at the withers a Prague Ratter will measure around 20-23 cm and weigh around 2.6kg. There will be variations to this. My PR who was DNA tested, measures a whopping 30cm and weighs 3.2 kg. They have a compact body with straight back, short loins and belly slightly tucked up. The tail is set high tapering to a point, although they are often clipped. The front legs are straight and parallel and the back legs are well muscled as seen in other sprinting dogs. Paws are cat like. Movement is flexible, quick and easy. The head is pear shaped with a pronounced stop and the skull is well rounded. Dark medium sized eyes that are slightly convex and set wide. Ears should be solid, have a triangular shape and although the original dogs had fairly floppy ones, breeders are now selecting for ears that stand up. The coat is short, tight and dense with a good polish. More recently we are seeing longhaired Ratters. Colors are black and red and tan above the eyes, around the nose and throat, (most common). Others are lilac and fawn, blue.
Due to the Ratters small constitution and fine coat, it struggles in cold and hot climates. Extra coats will be required in winter and protection from the summer heat is a vital.
This story was originally written for the web site pragueratter.net