Some of the rats in Brindisi, those descended from North African rats, carried on this howling on dry land and used to howl whenever they were hungry, causing fear and loathing within the local human population. When hunting the rats failed, the local bishop of Brindisi asked St Francis to come to his city and talk to the rats.

St Francis obliged. He asked the rats to please stop howling. The rats said they were sorry, but they were only howling because they were hungry. The rats suggested to St Francis that the humans in Brindisi should throw food scraps into the fields to the west of the town at 6 a.m. in the morning. The rats would eat the food and they wouldn’t be hungry and then they wouldn’t howl. This is what the townsfolk did at the request of St Francis and sure enough the howling problem went away although the rats themselves remained and grew sleek on the food provided.

This is an extract from the book Animals Evolution Avoided