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In a group of animals (usually a litter of animals born in multiple births), a runt is a member which is smaller or weaker than the others. Due to its small size, a runt in a litter faces obvious disadvantages, including difficulties with competing with its siblings for survival and possible rejection from its mother. Also in a domestic dog litter, most puppies would have to make room for the runt to get milk from the mother. Therefore, in the wild, a runt is less likely to survive infancy.
Even among domestic animals, runts often face rejection. They may be placed under the direct care of an experienced animal breeder, although the animal's size and weakness coupled with the lack of natural parental care make this difficult. Some tamed animals are the result of reared runts.
In popular culture
- Wilbur the pig from Charlotte's Web is a runt.
- Shade the bat from Silverwing is a runt.
- Fiver from Watership Down is a runt.
- Ruth, the hero Pernese dragonnet from Anne McCaffrey's novel the White Dragon, is a runt whose egg is smaller and has a harder shell than all others in the clutch. He would have died save for the intervention of young Jaxom.
- Jock was the runt of a litter of Staffordshire Bull Terriers who was saved from drowning by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, who later wrote about his life with the dog in Jock of the Bushveld.
- Cadpig, a female Dalmatian puppy in Dodie Smith's children's novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians, is the runt of her litter. Thought at first to be stillborn, she is revived by Mr. Dearly. (In the animated Disney film, she is a male named Lucky. And in the live-action Disney film, Cadpig is still a female aptly named "Two-Tone". The animated television series, however, does include Cadpig, though she is a separate character from Lucky).
- Babe, the eponymous piglet hero of Dick King-Smith's book (and the popular film based on the novel), is a runt. In fact, he was chosen for the competition at which Farmer Hoggett won him essentially because he was a runt - his runt status therefore saving his life and shaping his destiny.
- Scourge from the Warriors book series was a runt.
- The title character from the novel Runt, as the name implies, is the smallest of his wolf litter.
- The direwolf Ghost in the A Song of Ice and Fire book series was the runt of his litter of six pups, as well as an albino.
- Seabiscuit, a famous race horse, was a runt who triumphed over larger horses. Seabiscuit's story is chronicled in an eponymous book, and a movie based on that book.
- Little Ann from Where The Red Fern Grows was the runt of her litter as well
- "Runt", Cancer, UK: NCL.