Welcome to the Year of the Rat!

The Rat will start to play on 25 January 2020 and will be quiet again when the Ox charges on 12 February 2021. As the first animal in the Chinese zodiac, the rat may not be well regarded in the West, but in Chinese culture it symbolises good luck and fortune.

Find out what the Year of the Rat will mean for you. 

What Happened in Rat Years


  • GFC
  • Sichuan earthquake left up to 70,000 dead and 5 million homeless
  • 2008 Beijing Olympics on 8/8
  • CERN’s Large Hadron Collider was inaugurated
  • Dame Quentin Bryce assumed the office of Governor-General of Australia, the first and only woman.


  • Diana and Charles divorced
  • Mad Cow Disease hit Britain
  • Dolly the Sheep cloned
  • Taiwan held first presidential election
  • United Nations adopted the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
  • Gunman Martin Bryant killed 35 in Port Arthur, Tasmania
  • DVD launched in Japan


  • Indira Gandhi assassinated
  • DNA profiling developed
  • Union Carbide Pesticide plant in Bhopal India gas leak killed up to 15,000 people
  • First Apple Macintosh computer released
  • UK and China agreed on Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997 – Sino-British Joint Declaration
  • Longest industrial dispute of the century – year long coal miners’ strike in England
  • Michael Jackson’s Thriller album
  • AIDS Virus identified
  • Advance Australia Fair adopted as national anthem
  • Space Shuttle Discovery maiden flight


  • Munich Olympics Terrorist Attack
  • Digital watches introduced
  • Watergate scandal began
  • US and Soviet Union signed Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty
  • Last ground troops withdrawn from Vietnam
  • Australia Conciliation and Arbitration Commission granted equal pay for men and women
  • Richard Nixon visited China
  • Diplomatic Relations between China and Australia established in December 1972
  • HBO launched as the first subscription cable service
  • Atari and the first generation of video games launched
  • Pierre Trudeau became Canada’s PM (as is his son in this Year of the Rat)


  • US entered Vietnam War
  • IRA started fight against the British
  • John F Kennedy won presidential election
  • Aluminium cans used for the first time
  • Xerox introduced the first photocopier
  • OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) formed
  • The World’s First Female Prime Minister elected Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike (Ceylon)
  • Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) won first professional fight after having won the Gold Medal in Rome in the Olympic Games (also Rat Year)
  • Fifteen African countries gained independence and South Africa left the Commonwealth


  • Velcro invented
  • Transistor radio invented
  • Apartheid started
  • Israel declared an independent state
  • First polaroid camera on sale
  • WHO established
  • North Korean established by Kim Il-sung
  • Czechoslovakia became Communist after coup
  • The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Holden cars started manufacture in Australia


  • Spanish Civil War started
  • King Edward VIII abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson
  • BBC first TV broadcasts
  • China-Japan war – Chiang Kai-shek declared war on Japan
  • Tasmanian Tiger became extinct
  • Sunscreen invented


  • First Round the World Flight completed in 175 days
  • IBM Corporation founded
  • Frozen Food invented by Clarence Birdseye


Scientists in China claim to have conducted a successful head transplant on a rat.

Italian surgeon Sergio Canavero and Harbin University professor Xiaoping Ren attached the head of a smaller rat onto a larger one while maintaining the brain activity of the donor. The experiment was repeated on a number of other rats. Most only survived for around 36 hours after the procedure.

Images of the rats appear to show the donor’s front paws and head stitched to the upper neck of the recipient rat.

Despite the poor survival rate of the rats, Dr Canavero maintained the experiment was a crucial step forward towards head transplants on humans, and in fact there is talk that this may happen in 2020.


Legend has it that in the reign of Qianlong, in 1774 to be precise, Mr Cheng, a county magistrate (mayor), lived in Huai’an in present-day Jiangsu Province. He was a kind-hearted man (unlike many in his profession) who forbade anyone in his office from killing creatures – even rats. He even had one room in his house given over to little creatures where he would leave grain every night. Hundreds of rats came to eat leaving Mr Cheng and other residents in peace.

One night when Mr Cheng was asleep downstairs he felt something painful biting his feet. What a shock to see his entire quilt covered in rats chewing on him. He exploded in anger and shouted at them to leave, even taking a stick to them. The rats fled upstairs and Mr Cheng went back to bed. Not for long, the rats came back and continued to plague him. With a stick in one hand and candle in the other, he chased them up the stairs. No sooner had he reached the second floor than a tide of water washed away his bedroom in a flash flood. With a sixth sense, none of them were drowned rats. This story about rats returning a kindness has been passed down through the ages.


Cambodia has the highest ratio of landmine amputees per capita in the world, and has started using ‘hero rats’ to sniff out unexploded landmines.

The intelligent animals, which possess some of the most sensitive noses in the animal kingdom, have proven to be a faster and safer means of locating the hidden weapons. At a weight of one kilo rats are too light to detonate the mines and they are more efficient than metal detectors. They sniff out TNT.

Theap Bunthourn, operations coordinator for the project said, “If you take 200 square metres of land, the rats can clear it in 20 to 25 minutes whereas if we used the manual method it would take two or three days.”

Cambodia is one of the most heavily land mined countries in the world after decades of civil war. Six million mines are believed to still be in the ground, with over 67,000 people being killed or injured since 1979.

The animals are put to work six days a week in three hour shifts, darting between two handlers standing five metres apart while attached to a harness.

In their downtime, the rats are kept in individual cages and receive regular exercise. (independent.co.uk/)


Shakespeare, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy, TS Eliot, Claude Monet, Thomas Hardy, Charlotte Bronte, Joseph Needham, Tim Cook (Apple), Mark Zuckerberg, Scarlett Johansson, Eminem, Katy Perry, Cameron Diaz, Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Hugh Grant, Bono, Antonia Banderas, Andrew Lloyd-Webber, James Taylor, Roy Orbison, Robert Redford, Yves Saint Laurent, Kris Kristofferson, Doris Day, Marlon Brando, Colin Firth, Kenneth Branagh, Julianne Moore, Ian Rankin, James Comey, Idris Elba, Cat Stephens, Katy Perry, Lorde


US Presidents in abundance: George Washington, Richard Nixon, George HW Bush, Jimmy Carter; Pope Francis, John McCain, Silvio Berlusconi, Kim il-sung, Robert Mugabe, Catherine 1 of Russia, F.W. de Klerk, Al Gore, Pedro Sanchez (acting Spanish PM)

Prince Charles, Charles 1 (who also was beheaded in a Year of the Rat), Prince Harry, Prince Andrew

Gary Sobers, Zinedine Zidane, Diego Maradona, Michael Chang, Gilles Simon, Andreas Seppi, Lewis Hamilton, Cristiano Ronaldo

Wishing you luck and happiness in the Year of the Rat!


Got a question? We’d love to hear from you


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GPO Box 2231, Melbourne 3001

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