The detailed sketch and description of the features of this rat gives no indication of the difficult conditions under which it was made.
It was sketched at the camp the men called "Rat Point". Becker had to wait here while the other members of the supply party searched for water. During the day the men were plagued by swarms of flies and extreme temperatures. Sleep was impossible as large number of rats swarmed through the camp chewing through their equipment and supplies, and biting the men while asleep.
The Australian native long haired or plague rat Rattus villosissimus can multipy to plague proportions after heavy rains - rains which had allowed Burke's advance party to make good time, but now had dried up, slowing the progress of the supply party three months later.
Although rapidly becoming weaker and suffering from the poor food, rat bites and the extreme heat; Becker continued to paint and draw animals he saw and his surroundings.
Further InformationFeb 23 1861.
Camp on border of the mud plains.
Color: dark ash-grey, the upper third of the hairs is pale brown & sandy colored, tufts of hairs, however remaining black, giving the coat a dark-patched appearance; underside: dirty white. Nose, ear, feet & tail pale-flesh color these parts are covered with small white hairs, extending over the claws. The ringed tail covered with short black hair, 4 fingers on fore-foot, humb rudimentary, with a nail. Eyes black. 5 rows of bristle, the 3 first ones black, the lower ones white, are on upper-lip.
[Long haired or plague rat]
Feb. 23, 1861.
drawing : watercolour, pen and ink ; 11.6 x 17.3 cm.
Image No: b36065
State Library of Victoria