1) The Prague Ratter: a small but lively companion
Czechs are known as one of the dog-friendliest nations in Europe, with around two million dogs living in a country of ten million. Apart from the globally popular dog breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, you can also spot breeds that originated in the Czech Republic. In the first part of our new mini-series presenting Czech dog breeds, we focus on the smallest of them – the Prague Ratter.
The Prague Ratter or Pražský krysařík is not only the smallest Czech dog breed, but also the smallest breed in the world in terms of its height. It measures between 20 to 23 centimetres and weighs around two and a half kilos. The ratter usually comes in black or tan colour and has short, glossy, hair.
Prague ratters are known for their intelligent and curious nature, but they are also believed to be one of the country’s oldest dog breeds. The first written records mentioning ratter dogs date all the way back to the Middle Ages.
By the time of the rule of Polish King Boleslaw II, the ratter was already an established breed. The king grew fond of these little dogs and brought two of them to his palace from Bohemia.
Charles IV, Holy Roman emperor and King of Bohemia is said to have presented three ratters to the French King Charles V as a precious gift during his visit to France in 1377.
Historical chronicles and literary works also mention ratters in connection with other European rulers, including Rudolf II.
As their name suggests, ratters were commonly used in rural and urban households to keep the number of rodents down, at a time when cats were not yet widely domesticated, explains dog breeder Vladimíra Tichá:
“It was originally a city dog, and, judging by its name, you can guess that it was bred not purely as a companion, but to keep urban households free of rodents. In other words, it simply hunted rats.”
Legends claim that in royal houses ratters were also used to protect the owners from poisoners: they were allowed to walk on tables during meals and taste food and drinks.
The popularity of the Ratter started to decline in the 19th century with the arrival of the Miniature Pinscher. The tiny but fierce dog persevered and eventually its popularity was revived, though they are not as widespread as some other breeds, says Mrs Tichá:
“Renewed interest in the Prague Ratter came in the year 1969. It was Mr Jan Findejs who played a major role in its revival, along with that of other Czech dog breeds.
“From the mutt with a round head, bulging eyes and a shrunken bottom, it developed into a temperamental dog with a long face, beautiful ears and a straight back.”
Until the end of the 20th century, the Prague Ratter was bred exclusively within the borders of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In 2019, it was acknowledged as a breed by the International Canine Federation. Today, there are some 6,000 Prague Ratters registered in the world, including the United States and Japan.
Although many people regard the Prague ratter as typical lap dog, Mrs Tichá says that it can be very lively and active. Thanks to their intelligent and curious nature, they are also easy to train and are able to learn many impressive tricks and tasks:
“It really depends on how you treat the dog. If you handle it like a real dog, you will have a lively and happy companion, with only some limitations given by its height. It probably won’t go skiing with you, unless you carry it in your backpack, but otherwise, it is a dog like any other!”
Breeders also mention one big advantage of the Prague Ratter: unlike many other small dogs, which tend to be “yappy”, ratters are said to be rather quiet, which makes them ideal apartment companions.