Why Are Laboratory Rats Usually White?

  • MickAdmin
  • December 3, 2022

If you’ve ever seen a laboratory rat, chances are it was white. But why are lab rats usually white? There are a few reasons for this. First and foremost, albino rats lack pigment in their fur, which makes them ideal for scientific research. Albino rats are the most common type of rat used in laboratories.


Why are laboratory rats usually white?


Laboratory rats are usually white for several beneficial reasons.

  • They provide excellent contrast when conducting experiments, allowing researchers to more easily identify changes in skin color and distinct characteristics related to the research.


  • Additionally, white fur tends to be much more precise than darker fur varieties, making it easier to spot mites and other parasites that might otherwise become a severe health problem.


All these factors work together to make white laboratory rats the first choice for many experiments and studies.


The Origins of Laboratory Rats


British physician Robert Koch brought the first laboratory rat to Europe from India in the late 1800s. Koch used the rat to study cholera, and he found that the disease could be transmitted through contaminated water.

Koch’s work laid the foundation for modern epidemiology, leading to the widespread use of rats in laboratories worldwide.


Why Rats?


Rats have long been used in scientific research because they are easy to care for and breed.

They also share many physiological similarities with humans, which makes them ideal animals for studying diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. In addition, researchers can study the effects of a given treatment throughout an animal’s lifetime relatively quickly because they have short lifespans—a typical laboratory rat will live for two to three years.



While other animals are used in scientific research—mice are also common—rats remain one of the most popular choices because they are easy to care for, breed quickly, and share many physiological similarities with humans. So next time you see a white lab rat, you’ll know why it’s there!

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