Looks like bush meat has come to London

I was amused to read an article in the Telegraph this morning about a “giant rat” that was found in a park in London.  The original article (since amended) seemed to think it was some kind of a mutant variation of a common rat:  but it’s not, of course.

I’m sure those of my readers who are familiar with Africa (hel-loooo, Lawdog!) will recognize it.  It’s a cane rat, known as a ‘grasscutter’ in West Africa.  They make good eating:  so much so that there are active agricultural extension programs in several African nations to encourage farmers to treat them as a ‘food crop’, so to speak.  Here’s a BBC article about one such farm in Ghana.

I’m pretty sure some African immigrant(s) to England have arranged to smuggle in a few cane rats, and are breeding them to sell to fellow immigrants as ‘bush meat‘.  I suspect the dead rat that was found had escaped from such a breeding colony, and either picked up some English disease to which it had no resistance, or died of starvation because it couldn’t find enough of its natural food.

Bush meat is becoming an issue in the USA too.  There are a couple of African shops in Nashville, TN that I’ve patronized in the past.  In both of them, I was surreptitiously offered ‘bush meat’, with the assurance that it really was African bush meat – none of this over-refined American stuff!  US Customs confiscates ‘bush meat’ whenever it’s found, as it carries a serious risk of disease when it’s not fresh and not properly refrigerated.  I’m sure what was available in Nashville had been smuggled in from Africa.  Some might even have been raised locally for sale.  After all, cane rats can be farmed anywhere.

If you see a giant rat (20-25 pounds weight, up to 4 feet long including the tail) running around, it’s probably a cane rat.  By all means report it;  but if you can kill it, I recommend the flavor from personal experience.



  1. Yuck. Until I saw the head I thought it was a possum. Possum's is NASTY…

    Has anyone seen the show about Kentucky wildlife rescue experts…saving baby skunks, baby possums, baby vultures…you know, the animals we have WAY too many of in the Ohio valley. They're hearts are in the right place, but use that compassion on something that NEEDS help to survive…like the human race. (Yeah, I'm an ole grump that way!)

  2. This has *interesting* prospects for unintended consequences in the way of invasive species and zoonosis. Which isn't to say I wouldn't try it for the flavor. Just that the storyteller in me is thinking about certain animal population introductions and the repercussions they had, back in time a ways. Our global traveling society amplifies the possibilities.

    Speaking of traveling with live, illicit animals, did you see the article about the kid in the carry-on luggage?

  3. Almost looks like our local nutria, a species indigenous to South America, brought here by the McIlhenny (Of 'Tabasco' fame) family. A few got loose in the 1930's during a hurricane and now they're all over.

    I've trapped them as a kid, selling the pelts. Alligators love 'em.

    And they're also good eating if you can shut down that 'I'm eating a giant rat' thoughtstream.


  4. My son chimed in (I shared this on der Buchface, hope you don't mind), and said he thought "bushmeat" was poached ape.

  5. Sorry folks…
    Look at the photo again.
    The gentleman is holding that "monster" up with one hand.
    (Note his left hand in the lower-right of the photo.
    This is another case of perspective (fore-shortening) being used to make something relatively small appear to be HUGE.
    Its a fair-sized rat, but no monster.
    I'd guess no more than about 8" from nose to base of tail.

  6. Not all giant rats in the USA are likely to be bush rats, especially around the Chicago wharfs and sewers. Hubby saw one in the 80's; at first he thought it was a terrier, but the long naked tail was a dead giveaway. A friend of his who had to do service work in basements of downtown buildings would carry a baseball bat for defense from the rodents.

  7. I can't speak for other parts of the US, but there seem to be a breeding population of Gambian pouched rats established in the upper Florida keys. It can be a bit startling to stumble across one of those on a dark night.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *