Ratonero Murciano de Huerta

Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
Photo of adult Ratonero Murciano de Huerta
Have an image we can use? Message us here!

Like steam trains or sail ships, all things have their heyday. This is true of the Ratonero Murciano de Huerta, or Murcian Ratter, a venerable hunting dog with a long history. Indeed, this lively dogs’ popularity peaked in the 18th and 19th century when they had an important practical role to play.

As the name suggests, the Murcian Ratter was expert at vermin control. With bold endeavour they controlled the rat and mouse population, which would otherwise have decimated local farmers’ crops. However with changing farming practices the niche filled by the Murcian Ratter niche became redundant. The result being that this once popular dog is now considered a rare breed. However, there is good news. This game fellow’s jolly personality makes them a great companion and there’s a resurgence in numbers as people take them on as pets.

About & History

The story of the Ratonero Murciano de Huerta starts before records began. The distant ancestors of the breed were most likely dogs brought into Mercia by ancient Egyptian, Carthaginian, and Roman traders. These imported canines then bred with local dogs to produce the Murcian Ratter as known in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Further modification took place in the 18th century onward, with cross-breeding with the Fox Terrier, English Toy Terrier, and Manchester Terrier. What these dogs all have in common is a strong prey drive and a fearlessness that makes them ideal for hunting rats and vermin.

Back in the 18th century, the Murcian Ratter was named for the role they played. Thus, they also went by the name of Farm Dogs, Huerta Dogs (after a region where they were particularly prevalent), and Dog of Irrigation Ditches (a popular place for rats to nest and breed).

Their success as a hunting dog made them a hugely popular working dog in their native areas. Indeed, in the 18th century, breeders of the Murcian Ratter made every effort to keep the breed pure, and avoid further outcrossing. These dogs also had an outstanding character making them companionable to people and reliable around children. Thus, farmers were apt to treat their dog as a member of the family, as well as a working animal, which, today, stands them in good stead.

Sadly, in later centuries as farming gave way to industry, the numbers of Murcian Ratters declined. It took until the mid 20th century for their plight to be recognised, and concerted efforts made to revive the breed and save it from dying out altogether. To some extent those efforts have been rewarded with the Murcian Ratter now popular in Murcia as a pet and companion.


The Murcian Ratter is a small athletic dog, but don’t be deceived by their size. They have a muscular physique and a tenacious character. In appearance, they share a deal in common with the Miniature Pinscher.

The latter similarity is especially striking because both breeds have black and tan markings. The Murcian Ratter, however, can also have a tricoloured coat or black with white markings, or solid cinnamon or cinnamon and white. Tradition dictates if the dog is not naturally born with a stumpy tail, then it should be docked.

Character & Temperament

Originally a working dog, it’s no surprise that the Murcian Ratter has a strong prey drive. When they see a small animal move, this triggers an instinctive need to give chase. This makes the breed a poor choice in a household that cats and rabbits also call home.

However, an instinct to hunt is not the same as being aggressive, and the breed has a reputation for friendliness. They love people and like attention and being made a fuss of. They are also tolerant of children, and when treated with respect make great family dogs (but of course, you should never leave children and dogs together unsupervised).

Other character quirks include a strong protective streak. This diminutive dog has a healthy pair of vocal chords and isn’t afraid to use them. Combine protectiveness with barking and it makes for a great watchdog. As well as making a good family dog, the Murcian Ratter will also protect the home and sound the alert if threatened.


The Murcian Ratter is said to have above average intelligence and be a quick learner. When trained with reward-based training methods, they rapidly master new commands. However, it’s essential to keep the dog interested and engaged. Not to do so means the dog becomes bored and loses concentration.

As a breed used to the great outdoors, they also have a wanderlust. The Murcian Ratter is prone to explore, even if this does mean escaping to do their own thing. Therefore, teaching a strong recall from an early age is highly desirable.

Good socialisation as a puppy will go a long way to having a responsive and well-trained adult Murcian Ratter. Again, as a they can develop bad habits, such as herding children or nipping at heels. But teaching the puppy the appropriate way to behave helps short-circuit these issues.


There are no official statistics for the prevalence of health problems in the Murcian Ratter. However, it is reasonable to extrapolate those issues most commonly an issue in other small terrier-type hunting dogs.

Luxating Patellas

The term luxating patella simply means ‘wobbly kneecap’. This is a common condition in many small breeds. It is the result of certain anatomical quirks, which allow the kneecap to pop out of position when the dog takes a step.

The condition exists on a spectrum from very mild (requiring occasional pain relief) to disabling (where corrective surgery is required). There are a range of surgical procedures that can improve mobility and give the dog back their quality of life.

Legge Perthe’s Disease

This is another orthopaedic condition, affecting the back legs. This time, the problem lies with the hip joint rather than the knee. Legge-Perthe’s affects young dogs that are still growing. It’s thought that the blood supply to the head of the femur is insufficient, meaning that the growing bone is not supplied with adequate calcium and nutrition to form good quality bone.

The result is a crumbling femoral head, which then grates in the hip joint and causes severe pain. Sadly, pain relief can only go part of the way to helping these dogs, as the hip is the wrong shape and impedes movement. The long term answer is surgery – either to remove the femoral head or total hip replacement surgery.

Parasitic Infections

As an active breed, the Murcian Ratter is exposed to a range of internal and external parasites. Some of these are of limited importance, but others can cause problems ranging from ill-thrift through to serious illness.

Of these, the tick-borne disease are most serious, and includes Lyme disease and Babesiosis. But the nuisance of simple flea infestations should never be overlooked.

The wise owner uses regular preventative treatments on their pet. Indeed, there have never been more options available for effective parasite control. You can choose from tablets, collars, spot-ons, and sprays.

If in doubt about which parasites pose a risk in your area, a local vet is a great resource. They will know which parasites are most prevalent and are well-placed to advise as to appropriate products to keep a pet parasite-free.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Murcian Ratter has a reputation for not needing much sleep! Thus, they are best matched to an active person who likes to be on the go for most of the day.

Although a small size, their working roots mean they are active. Inadequate exercise or lack of mental stimulation can lead to bad habits, such as destructiveness or excessive barking.


A short-coated breed the Murcian Ratter doesn’t require costly parlour visits. Regular brushing helps keep the hair in good condition and reduce the amount of shedding. Although not a heavy shedder, they do drop hair all year round, so collecting it on the brush rather than the soft furnishings is a good idea for the house proud.

Famous Murcian Ratters

One outstanding example of the breed is a female called Estrella. She is remarkable for her longevity, having reached the astounding age of 23 years. Indeed, the Murcian Ratter is said to be a long lived dog with an average life expectancy of 14 years and over.


Considered a rare breed, all efforts are focussed on stabilising the numbers of this quirky little dog to preserve them for future generations.

User comments

There are no user comments for this listing.