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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   12 December [1866]1

Down Bromley | Kent

Dec 12

My dear Sir

Many thanks about Mr Zurhorst; I will not write.2

With respect to the duck I have considered the case well & am convinced that all the breeds including the Black Labrador & Penguin are the descendants of the common Wild Duck.3 With respect to the goose there is more difficulty from the existence of 3 or 4 closely allied European wild species, & there is no indirect evidence as in the case of the duck. The evidence as far as it goes supports the belief of many good naturalists that the domestic bird is descended from the wild Grey Lag Goose, anser ferus.4

I have not attended to the guinea fowl & did not know that there was any doubt about its origin; I saw plenty of the wild bird in the Cape de Verd islands.5

I hope this is the kind of information which you require

My dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 10 December [1866].
In Variation 1: 279, CD concluded that several distinct breeds of duck, including the Labrador and the penguin (now more generally referred to as the Indian runner) were all descended from Anas boschas (see letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 10 December [1866]; see also Tegetmeier 1867, p. 310).
According to CD, Anser ferus (now A. anser) was probably the wild species from which the domestic goose was descended (see Variation 1: 287–8; see also Tegetmeier 1867, p. 312).
In Journal of researches, pp. 3–4, CD recorded having seen a large flock of guinea fowl near the village of Fuentes on the island of St Jago (Santiago) in the Cape de Verd (Cape Verde) Islands.


Gives his opinion on the ancestry of domestic ducks, geese, and guinea-fowl.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of The New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox collection) (Tegetmeier 100)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5301,” accessed on 20 August 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14