The Brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), also referred to as the common rat, street rat, sewer rat, Hanover rat, Norway rat, Norwegian rat, or wharf rat is one of the best known and most common rats.
One of the largest muroids, it is a brown or grey rodent with a body up to 25 cm (10 in) long, and a similar tail length; the male weighs on average 350 g (12 oz) and the female 250 g (9 oz). Thought to have originated in northern China, this rodent has now spread to all continents except Antarctica, and is the dominant rat in Europe and much of North America—making it by at least this particular definition the most successful mammal on the planet alongside humans. With rare exceptions, the brown rat lives wherever humans live, particularly in urban areas.
The fur is coarse and usually brown or dark grey, while the underparts are lighter grey or brown. The brown rat is a rather large true murid and can weigh twice as much as a black rat and many times more than a house mouse. The length is commonly in the range of 20 to 25 cm (8 to 10 in), with the tail a further 18 to 25 cm (7 to 10 in), thus being roughly the same length as the body. Adult body weight averages 350 g (12 oz) in males and about 250 g (9 oz) in females. Exceptionally large individuals can reportedly reach 900 to 1,000 g (32 to 35 oz) but are not expected outside of domestic specimens. Stories of rats attaining sizes as big as cats are exaggerations, or misidentifications of other rodents, such as the coypu and muskrat. In fact it is common for breeding wild brown rats to weigh (sometimes considerably) less than 300 g (11 oz).
Brown rats have acute hearing, are sensitive to ultrasound, and possess a very highly developed olfactory sense. Their average heart rate is 300 to 400 beats per minute, with a respiratory rate of around 100 per minute. The vision of a pigmented rat is poor, around 20/600, while a non-pigmented (albino) with no melanin in its eyes has both around 20/1200 vision and a terrible scattering of light within its vision. Brown rats are dichromates which perceive colors rather like a human with red-green colorblindness, and their colour saturation may be quite faint. Their blue perception, however, also has UV receptors, allowing them to see ultraviolet lights that some species cannot.