RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1855. Abstract of letter from Edward Blyth dated 21 April 1855. CUL-DAR203.1. Edited by John van Wyhe (Darwin Online,

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 8.2023. RN1

NOTE: See record in the Darwin Online manuscript catalogue, enter its Identifier here. Reproduced with permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library and William Huxley Darwin. The volume CUL-DAR203 contains abstracts of letters from Edward Blyth. Darwin used Blyth's information in Natural selection, Origin, and Variation.

"Blyth, Edward, 1810-73. Zoologist. Neglected his druggist business at Tooting in favour of natural history and got into financial difficulties. LL2:315. CD discussed evolution with before Origin. Biographical note on: ML1:62. Wrote under pseudonyms "Zoophilus" and "Z". Helped greatly with Variation. 1835, 1837 His early views on causes reminiscent of natural selection maintaining fixity of species Mag. Nat. Hist. 8, 1835, pp. 40-53 and 1837 n.s. 1: pp. 1-9. L." (Paul van Helvert & John van Wyhe, Darwin: A Companion, 2021.)



[Right margin:] Perfect abstract of Letter

April 21 1855)

Since pig domesticated when America discovered in Lugana believe; guinea pigs show tendency to enlargement of ear-conch in India.─

Rabbits do not multiply much in India

Horse-manes obviously distinct from that of Europe

Turkey domesticated at Hayti & Mexico, when on arrival of Spaniards.

Peafowl identical, except perhaps in legs being coarser

{ask for legs to be sent─ ask him to compare wing. (Mr Christie)

Asks me whether I

Says arctic wolf prefers not Esquimaux & thence into Newfoundland Dog.─ Thinks this breed particularly worthy of study─ believes developed since discovered of New World─ see refers me to Col. Ham. Smith vol. in Jardin Canis latrans said to pass into Hare Indian Dog & that this & Esquimaux Dog cross freely. ─ & wolf crossed with dog in Parry's voyage.

In Hungary sheep-dog so like wolves that are



otters do they breed those that are used trained

Canary birds breed

Prolifickness of Rabbits

─ of Races

What a many you here will acknowledge everything

I presume you think Indian & English essentially the same

Cats essentially same breed in India?

(You quoted by Gartner)


[illeg] Cd you not ship up some Delhi na ─ Selection of Birds Skeleton

Fan tail Calcutta

Range of C. livia─

C. intermedia sometimes speckled not barred does this stagger you about affinity

tame geese of India most of A. Cygnoides in their composition

Your opinion on origin of Birds I am particularly glad to have & quote

(Musk-Duck more varying.)

Kallij Pheasant interbreeding in wild state



shot in mistake & a black breed fostered to prevent mistake. Do not bark Vide Pagets Travels in Hungary & Transylvania

Sheet 2. Has known Pariah dog & Jackal interbred

Remarks all large Dogs from cold countries. Agrees with Desmoulins theory about origin of Dogs

(NB. Can animals cross easier under domestication?)

Thinks ferret clearly a tame pole-cat

Indian tame cat smaller than English with slender but not tapering tail. Precedent colour plain grey with no markings except on limbs or tail, but sometimes all over body as in Britain

The proper tabby ie pale markings in a black ground never occurs ─ nor does plain grey ever occur among British cats. Black & white & tortoise-shell var. occur in each countries, the latter in the female only with exceedingly rare exceptions; these tortoise-shell are represented on male side by bull cats, which are exclus seems to be exclusively male. The proper colour of Angora cat is streaked grey like Indian cat


Sheet 3. English cats thinks derived from partly wild cat, which when domestic cat was rare, probably happened oftener.─ Instance hair occurred of Indian domestic cat having interbred with F chaus chaco & F. rubiginosa. 3

(I can more readily believe that several Dogs aboriginally distinct species, than that there has been much interbreeding, on account of absorption yet savages crossing & selecting might do something, might make more variable.─ though many breeders wd not believe in this. C.D.)

Indian silk-worm breed at all times. Silkworms from Europe & China keep to their times of breeding.

Sheet 4

On Hybrids between Canary Bird & other finches Mag. Nat. Hist. V. p. 424. Fortune says in work on Tea District kept in N. China. In India do not thrive, though continually imported.

Says he has intermediate var. believe from Norway between Corvus corona & cornix.─ So is not Corvus spermologos Auct. a melanoid var. of Jackdaw? Some birds from Ceylon & Mergui darker than those same species in India.─


Says in former Letter Hump bigger in Bulls & bigger fat-tail in Rams



Sheet 4. If I understand gallus sonerati Sonerati & common Hen produced 100 chickens, but only 2 reared, these 2 were produced sterile when bred with common cock, G. sonnerati, & Hybrid cock; & eggs of common Hen broader by Hybrid were also sterile. Yet it seems at first cross was effected with ease. B. contrasts this case with Pheasants.

Says hump in Bos. Indicus only one of several differential characters believe it & B. taurus; hump seems very early in fœtal life. Voice & Habits different, never seeks shelter from sun: never stands in water. ─ Thinks perhaps aboriginally middle African, ─ [illeg]

Both it & humped ox represented in Ægyptian remnants.

Thinks, that humpless caffre cattle with wide spreading Horns particularly deserving Study. Gives sketches of 3 types of Horns, but the Humped have an abnormal & very different curvature. Bos primogenius belongs to Bos. taurus group.

Sheet 5. In B. taurus & Indicus horns of Bull thicker & shorter in B. primogenius Bull thicker, but long.─ Thinks the Highland cattle derived from T. longifrons; but how about the noble Tuscan cattle & other large Breeds: fear Nilssons species a dead failure. See Asiatic Researches for account of several domestication of Bos. frontalis or Gayal, not Gavæus. It is the account which I have read of wild animals being driven in & turned with taurus.─


Sheet 5. cont. Think Galla cattle of Bruce, the immensely thick horned cattle & Bornonese is Brit. museum are vars. of Humped cattle. This (? what) has gone wild in Oudh?

Buffalo of Hungary & Italy very different from that of India & Ægypt.

Sub tendency to run wild, wild in n. australis near P. Essington

Allusion Allusion in Bible in Leviticus to fate of the tail in sheep, sharing the existence of the breed.

Doubt the existence of wild Horse & Ass.─ Donkey in India very small; their legs often much striped; & then on 4 breed transverse bands on body, sometimes, though rarely appear.

Does not believe tame ringed turtle derived from the Indian risorius ─ speaks of 5 allied wild species.

Of pigeons, thinks the Fancy fancy breeds Breeds all have arisen in East, when too they are variously combined in manner that I have never seen in Europe.─

Sheet 6

An investigation shd reside in Delhi or Baghdad or Isfahan

In appendix to Salts Travels a probably false statement about true Pigeon domesticated.─ In Indian wild Pigeon of India C. intermedia of Strickland is only local race of C. livia, differing only in not having ring white

(The inner range of C. livia Madeira & Tenerife to India, Scotland Orkney often to many distinct species.) The flocks of C. intermedia


Sheet 6

show more or less varieties in colour, some being white or pied, but the majority pied are true ─ a white rump is rare yet sometimes it is more or less albescent: sometimes too the wings are speckled instead of barred.

Thinks it impossible doubt that the wild pigeon origins of Fancy Breeds ─ the wild mallard of the tame Duck, & the Bengal Jungle fowl of the primitive Fowl. So with British Domestic goose & Grey Lag. Yet Grey Lag here common in wild state, which all the tame geese here have much of A. Cygnoides in their composition.─ In Europe both tame geese & Ducks exhibit tuft on Head, but this var. not mate with a Indian. The wild mallard does not occur in India; but in Himmalaya & Indus.

The musk-Duck instance of a Breed not passing into varieties.

The different species of Kallij (?) Pheasants (Gallophasis?) interbreed freely in wild state & produce specimens of every grade of intermediateness: yet as species they appear well distinguished as species one for another.─

This document has been accessed 164 times

Return to homepage

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

File last updated 11 October, 2023