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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Thomas Barbot Beale   17 December [1868 or later]1

Decr. 17—

Dr Sir

On reading the e〈    〉 〈in〉 the “Pall Mall” of the 16th 〈    〉 to me that the following fac〈t might〉 interest you— That tame elephants as a rule do not breed in India is undoubtedly the case—for when the Male becomes “musth” (like the “rutting” of the stag) he is generally so vicious that he is tied up & starved till he becomes quiet—for weeks or perhaps longer— —

I kept 2 Elephants for shooting a full grown male & a Female— They were always fed in my presence on my return from office & afterwards allowed to graze in the compound or 〈half line〉 for an hour. 〈half line〉 spring of 1855   The 〈one-third line〉 ‘musth” as usual but 〈one-third line〉 vicious no notice was 〈taken〉 & he was allowed his 〈freedom〉 〈as〉 usual—& one evening 〈one-quarter line〉 chased the Female round the Compound & covered her as a Horse would a Mare— Thinking this an unusual occurrence I sent for 2 of my Friends to come over—& in presence of them & myself he again twice repeated the operation— In due course the female produced a cub but as she had to swim the Ganges & got “panked” or stuck in a quickstand 〈two-thirds line〉 violently to get 〈two-thirds line〉 caused the cub to 〈half line〉 one of my Friends Mrone-third line〉 of the Civil Service is still 〈one-third line〉 my other Friend Mr A P Car〈    〉 died many years since 〈  〉

I am Dear Sir | Yrs faithfully | Thomas Barbot Beale | formerly of Bengal Civil Service

This occurrence took place at [Goruckpoor]—in the Bengal Residency


The date is established by the subject matter of the letter. In Variation 2: 150, CD noted that elephants had not been known to breed in captivity.


Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


On why it is said Indian elephants do not breed in captivity; mating habits of male so violent as to require restraint.

Letter details

Letter no.
T. B Beall
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 160: 102
Physical description
3pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13777,” accessed on 15 October 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16