RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1861. On dun horses, and on the effect of crossing differently coloured breeds. The Field, the Farm, the Garden, the Country Gentleman's Newspaper 17 (25 May): 451.
REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe 8.2007. RN1
ON DUN HORSES, AND ON THE EFFECT OF CROSSING DIFFERENTLY COLOURED BREEDS.—I am very much obliged to Mr Bennett for his information about Norwegian dun ponies;1 but I received some years ago, through the Consul-General, Mr Crowe,2 the same account, which probably came from Mr Bennett. The point on which I am anxious for information is, whether a cross between two coloured horses (neither of which are dun) ever produce duns. I believe that we could thus obtain some insight into the aboriginal colour of the horse. I have as yet only a single case of the parentage of a dun—namely, a bay horse and black mare. A German writer (Hofacker) on the breeding of horses gives the case of two chesnuts producing a "goldfalb", which, I believe, is a dun; and of a chesnut and brown producing a mouse-dun (mausrapp).3 I hope "Eques" will fulfil his kind offer of giving more information on the subject.4 I have collected a considerable body of evidence on the remarkable tendency of the offspring of a cross between differently-coloured breeds reverting to the colour of the aboriginal parent. With pigeons, I made numerous crosses for this express purpose, and frequently got a near approach to the marks and colour of the wild rock-pigeon. Again, I crossed a Spanish cock and white silk-hen; and one of the cockerels, although at first coal-black, in the autumn assumed the splendid red plumage of the wild jungle-cock (Gallus bankiva). Two young Cocks from the black Spanish and white game-hen assumed red neck and saddle hackles, so as partly to resemble a pile game cock. Mr Brent crossed two varieties of duck, and some of the ducklings assumed the plumage of the wild duck.5 I could give other facts. For instance, it is asserted in works on poultry that hens raised from a cross between two breeds of fowls neither of which sit, are good sitters; and here we see a cross has brought back the proper aboriginal instinct of incubation. In my own experience, however, the crossed offspring from the Spanish cock and a Poland hen did not incubate. If anyone has any analogous facts to those above given, and would communicate them, I should be much obliged. The whole subject of the results of crossing distinct breeds is an interesting one under many points of view.— CHARLES DARWIN (Down, Bromley, Kent).
2 John Rice Crowe (1792–1877), British consul-general in Norway, 1843-1875.
5 Bernard Peirce Brent (1822-1867), shipbuilder and pigeon breeder. Darwin acknowleged Brent's assistance numerous times in Origin, Descent and Variation.
Return to homepage
Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
File last updated 2 July, 2012