RECORD: Darwin, C. R. [1838] [Orang utans at] Zoological Gardens. CUL-DAR191.1-2

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe 2011. RN1

NOTE: This document is written on two folded sheets of cream-coloured paper with no watermarks. The writing is in greyish ink except where otherwise noted. Original page numbers in brackets. "Man" is in red pencil or crayon. This indicated that these notes were filed in Darwin's portfolio of notes on human evolution.

This was first published in John van Wyhe & C. Kjaergaard. 2015. Going the whole orang: Darwin, Wallace and the natural history of orangutans. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences.

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Reproduced with the permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library and William Huxley Darwin.

[front cover]

Duplicate [letter heavily deleted]
2 September (1838)
Sunday Sept. 2nd

Darwin MS.
Zoological Gardens

Marked Man & quoted



Sunday September 2d Zoological Gardens

Mr Youatt1 (great veterinary surgeon) says he has not the slightest doubt that many monkeys, especially the Rhesus, & the great dog faced baboon know women perfectly – show unequivocally. —
Waterhouse2 & every keeper state the fact to be certain

How wonderful. early men have seen women naked, must then smell & afterwards association by sight – this is most curious, is proof of origin of [markened] — the ourang outangs however when first placed together seem to have look trusted to sight & not smell for knowing sexual difference.

The ourang outang have less expression than the Macacos from not moving the skin of forehead. - & as they have scarcely any eyebrows, the relation may be from want of hair. —

they were like a child when annoyed, — & do not show by expression of contenance pleasure –

are curious particularly fond of watching boys bathe

1 William Youatt (1776-1847), author of books on domestic animals including sheep, cattle and horses.

2 George Robert Waterhouse, mammalogist and entomologist. Keeper of Mineralogy and Geology at the British Museum (Natural History) and friend of Darwin's.

1 verso

Jenny1 was decidedly jealous, showing her displeasure by showing teeth & making peevish noise [fist tight] & re turning her back — just the same as when food was shown her & not given her. —

A Dog when jealous, perhaps should be called curious come up & try to push away the one you are petting. sometime back a day. but it is a half good humoured way. I do not think I ever saw a dog really cross. though I have seen one jump up & move off.

1 The first orang utan (Pongo pygmaeus) received by the Zoological Society of London was a female called Jenny, exhibited from 25 November 1837 to 7 May 1838. Darwin saw this animal in the Giraffe House where she was kept on his visit on 28 March 1838. Like all orang utans imported to Europe during most of the 19th century, Jenny was a juvenile, and did not live particularly long in captivity. Two other orang utans in London Zoo were exhibited from May to October 1838, and from 13 December 1839 to 10 October 1843. Both animals apparently were also called Jenny, even though the 1838 animal might have been a young male.

"showing teeth" is underlined in blue pencil.


in canal – most curious to see how Jenny understood when with door open, to give up anything, & to do what she was told, open doors, stand in proper position to be combed.

I saw = make swing of straw in whisp =

In play she arrange straw in row, stuffing it through cage, like silly listless child — Played with two sticks, carrying them climbing up with them & trying to reach them — has is very fond of playing with anything soft, covered itself herself up with two pocket handkerchiefs just like girl with shawl spread them out — considered them as her property would not give them up to me. but the keeper brought them & gave them. followed me & bit me for having taken it away & tried to pick my pocket. —

She is fond of breaking sticks & in overturning things to do this (& she is quite strong) she places tries the lever placing stick in hole & going to end as I saw. — She will take the whip

I saw = make swing of straw in whisp = ] added pencil.


& strike the giraffes, & take a stick & beat the men. — When a dog comes in she will take hold of anything, the keepers say, decidedly from knowing she will be able to hurt more with these than with paw. — this is just as curious as Dr Smith’s story of throwing stones. — Likes being noticed & if not so will hurt & bite the little male, mainly because keepers think, she does it to vex the keeper as being naughty.

Likes playing with a cat, but dislikes most animals. — The Chimpanzee formerly used to be much frightened at soldiers. She was so vexed & peevish & shook the cage & knocked her head against door because she could not get out. —
jealous of attention to other. — put her hand out slowly & then seize suddenly what she wanted — made ugly faces (especially at the glass)


Does not like being tickled under the arms. Tried to strike me & showed teeth, when I tried to plague her, with showing her food & not giving it her.

Both were astonished beyond measure at looking glass, looked at it every way, sideways, & with most steady surprise.1 — after some time stuck out lips, like kissing, to glass, & then the two did when they were first put together. — at last put hand behind glass at various distances, looked over it, rubbed front of glass, made faces at it — examined whole glass — put face quite close & pressed it — at last half refused to look at it — startled & seemed almost frightened, & evidently became cross because it could not understand puzzle. — Put body in all kinds of positions when approaching glass to examine it. —

1 This experiment is recounted in Expression, p. 142.


The two ourangs sleep together & snore much —

are attached to two of the keepers & to no one else.

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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

File last updated 27 April, 2015