Battle of the Rats in El Puig

One young man gets ready to hurl a rat Credit: AnimaNaturalis screenshot

To those who haven’t grown up in Spain there do appear to be a number of rather strange local customs, none more so than the Battle of the Rats.

Throwing rats to celebrate Saint

Basically, the original idea was that the people of the town of El Puig de Santa Maria in Valencia used to celebrate the feast day of San Pedro Nolasco which has moved from January 31, to January 28.

They used to construct cucañas – a kind of piñata in a clay pot, which were filled with nuts, beans and fruit, but these became tempting treats for local rats and as the cucañas were being bashed, often the odd rat would drop onto the heads of the local people.

Some bright spark decided that it would be a good idea to round up the rat population on an annual basis, and having killed them, stuff them into the cucañas to add some extra fun to the proceedings.

The next step was for those in crowds who got hold of a dead rat to throw them as hard and far as they could and this continues to the present day, except that rather than kill the rats randomly, they are obtained humanely killed.

Nowadays, a gang of young men are recruited to smash the cucañas and let the sweets and rats cascade onto the streets.

Gangs of youngsters are formed to break the cucañas
Credit: El Puig Council

There is a lot of good comes out of the celebration, with food being prepared (no ratatouille) over open fires to feed those who may be hungry and there is a blessing from the local priest and dancing but there is also rat hurling!

Blessing the food
Credit: El Puig Council

Would rubber rats be a good substitute?

The animal charity AnimaNaturalis considers that this activity “is a degrading celebration that not only directly harms the specially bred rats but also contributes to trivializing their lives under the watchful eye of the youngest, who learn that using the bodies of dead animals for fun is okay.”

The group proposes therefore that instead of dead rats, revellers should use rubber rats as part of an ongoing programme by different communities to maintain traditions whilst not involving cruelty towards animals.

Follow this link to see the Battle of the Rats as posted by AnimaNaturalis.

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Written by

John Smith

Married to Ophelia in Gibraltar in 1978, John has spent much of his life travelling on security print and minting business and visited every continent except Antarctica. Having retired several years ago, the couple moved to their house in Estepona and John became a regular news writer for the EWN Media Group taking particular interest in Finance, Gibraltar and Costa del Sol Social Scene. Currently he is acting as Editorial Consultant for the paper helping to shape its future development. Share your story with us by emailing, by calling +34 951 38 61 61 or by messaging our Facebook page


    • Brian

      01 February 2024 • 16:39

      No wonder people accept bullfighting as an OK “sport” if they’re brought up with behaviour like that!

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