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Letter 618

Darwin, C. R. to De la Beche, H. T.

7 Feb 1842

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    Asks De la Beche about variation among domesticated animals in Jamaica.


(1). What colour are the horses, which have been bred for some generations (without a cross with any foreign blood) in Jamaica, referring, especially to such horses, as have been little taken care of & have run loose.— Have you ever heard of horses of certain colours, having been introduced, whose descendants are now of a different colour.—

(2) The same question with respect to cattle. Are the cattle in half or quite wild herds of the same colour, and marked about the face in the same manner, one with another: that is do they resemble each other closely (like the individuals of those animals which at no time have been domesticated by man) in those points, namely length & curvature of horns size of dewlap, length & fineness of hair, size form & proportions of body, head, & limbs—points, in which different breeds of cattle usually differ from each other.— Please to give a brief description of the half wild cattle.—

(3.) Can you give me any information on the above points (with brief description) regarding dogs, cats, poultry, pigs, goats, run wild in the woods.— If there are any dogs, cats or pigs wild, & if very young ones be caught & reared in a house, do they become quite as tame; and with the same disposition, as the ordinary tame breeds.— If they differ in disposition, & if crossed with ordinary tame breeds, do their offspring still retain any traces of the peculiarities of their half wild parent?—

(4) In your own experience, have you observed any evident deterioration in the character of the wool of imported sheep, after having been bred for a few generations in Jamaica.—

C. Darwin
Feb. 7th 1842.

12 Up. Gower St.

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 618.f1
    De la Beche, at this time director of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, was, by reason of having once owned an estate in Jamaica, frequently consulted for information about that island (see McCartney 1975, p. 14).
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    f2 618.f2
    At the end of the draft CD has noted ‘sent by Mr Delabeche to Jamaica. | Feb. 7th 1842’. No replies have been found.
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