From Edward Blyth 8 January 1
My dear Sir,
I have two letters of yours to answer, respectively dated Novr. 5th & 22nd—2 but I have already penned three sheets of “Notes for Mr. D.” & I have also an interesting notice for you of wild humped cattle in S. India,3 —and finally a few queries for Mr. Moore, (Dr. Horsfield’s assistant in the India house).4 Will you kindly send to him the scrap of paper containing these last, and ask him to let me have the replies as soon as ever he conveniently can. Tell him that I am greatly obliged to him for his commn. about the Finches, &c; and that I will write to him by an early opportunity. My paper on Orangs is out, but I cannot send it to you by this mail;5 and also 2 papers of mine in the ‘Calcutta Sporting Review’, respectively on Asiatic Lions & wild Asses. These I recommend to your attention, but can only send you the first; so apply for the number to Lepage & Co, the London publishers,—no 44, for Decr. 1855.6 I am preparing several elaborate articles for this work, & have just sent one in on the Tiger; & I am writing also the gallinaceous tribes of India, which will probably furnish 3 or 4 articles. So I think you will not be disappointed if you take this Review henceforth. I get tolerably well paid for these articles, & therefore send them to this ‘Sporting Review’; but I endeavour to make them suggestive, & they may be the means of eliciting no small amount of information from the more observant of Indian sportsmen.
Now for your letters. Many thanks for your kind endeavours to procure specimens of the British Crustacea. Horns. Those of Red Deer are what I most want, & if on the skull or frontlet, of course so much the better; but unless fine specimens with branching ‘crown’, they are scarcely worth sending. Good Fallow-Deer frontlets would also be acceptable; and I should like a good pair of horns of C. virginianus, should such be procurable.
You have evidently quite misunderstood me about Treron and Coracias. Different species of Treron seem to interbreed, & ditto Coracias; but not Treron with Coracias!7 That would, indeed, be “an astounding fact”. I will treat further on this subject when I have got through the rest of your letters. My friend Bashford has recently returned to Bengal, & to his silk factory.8 You are doubtless right about the attitudes assumed by insects, spiders, &c, when shamming; not so, however, with beasts & birds when pulled about, & “possuming”!9 I cannot recollect where I met with that anecdote about the cattle near a railway; but think it was in the London Athenæum, in the review of some continental tourist’s work. No! I seem to fancy that it was headed ‘Communication of ideas among animals,’ or some such title; & it appeared probably in the Illustrated News, 3 or 4 years ago, & was certainly quoted from the work of some tourist in Germany. I am extremely sorry now that I did not note down the authority.10 You mention a breed of cattle “of American origin almost certainly, but I cannot make out the name—‘Niata’, it looks like.— 11
There is a Chinese breed of silky fowls, with white feathers & black skin (& periostæum of course); and also a Malayan race of silky fowls with white skin & feathers. The latter has the ordinary comb & wattles; but the other is a most singular bird about the head, having (as near as I can remember) an even comb as if cut, & no lateral wattles (as usual), but a tumid throat, with much blue about the naked skin of the face. A friend of mine here received a pair, which were presented to him as Eagles! The hen soon died, but the cock became the sire of some chicken by a Chittagong hen, which showed scarcely any trace of the peculiarities of their dad! I can send you the skin of a youngish cock of this mixed race. Our other black-skinned hens have nought else remarkable about them than the melanism of the skin, comb, &c Those you speak of, in England, “with hair-like feathers”, are probably some intermixture, perhaps of the Chinese silky fowl with black-skinned ordinary fowls. Vide Griffiths edition of the ‘animal Kingdom’ VIII, 222, for notice of black-skinned fowls in S. America, by Azara!12 Also feral, in p. 177!—13 I doubt much any breed of Canaries having intermixture of Siskin blood. Look to shape of beak, & length of tail. All domestic Canaries, so far as I know, remain quite true to the particular African type, exemplified by certain species which Ruppell refers to Serinus. His S. melanocephalus for instance.14 I much wish that you could get hold of & study the true wild Canary, & note its song; coloured figures of a pair of them are worthy of publication in your forthcoming work. The song of a Siskin-hybrid would, for certain, be much modified: & how curious it is that the Goldfinch and other mules should have even the song intermediate! There are some ten or a dozen species of true Siskin in both Americas; one only of which (Stanleyi) resembles the Himalayan spinoides by its thicker bill; & the Pr. of Canino makes a particular division of these two.—15
Camels. Those which I referred to as having bred in the Z. Gardens, were (both parents) of the large dark-coloured & 1-humped breed, known as the Armenian or Caramanian Camel, and which is stated by every author to be a mixed breed between the 1-humped & the 2-humped. Vide my note, in J. As. B. XV, 162, (to which I referred you before,)16 also Hutton’s remarks there,17 & Chesney, ‘Jl of Euphrates Expedition’, I, 582 & 82.18 In Hutton’s Scripture Geology book, he figures the 2-humped Camel pale;19 it is usually dark-coloured, & the 1-humped is always pale in India. The reference you cannot make out—“Bur—?” must be Burckhardt, ‘Travels in Nubia’, p. 222; but see my note as above.—20
The Jumni Pari Goat = the Syrian, a very remarkable race with long legs and excessively elongated pendent ears.— Have not all domestic Cats a very slight Lyncine tuft on the ears? As for the marks on Donkey’s legs, I have sufficiently gone into this subject in my paper on Wild Asses, to which I therefore refer you.21 I do not think that the stripes imply Zebra intermixture, but are merely what we see in so very many instances in various classes, of markings (often strongly pronounced) in the young, which disappear more or less in adults. Vide Lion & Puma cubs, reptiles innumerable, very many fish also (as the young of Salmonidæ), &c &c &c. Are not some caterpillars even more intensely marked and coloured when small? Some of your other queries I have noticed by anticipation in my ‘notes for Mr. Darwin’.22 The rest when I can manage it.
Yours truly ever | E. Blyth.
P.S. Coracias, 3 Indian species,—garrula in the N.W. only,— indica throughout India, replaced E. of the Bay by affinis. The 2 last interbreed, & shew every possible intermediate gradation, i.e. where they come into contact,—each race remaining pure in its proper region. Whether C. garrula & indica also interbreed, I am unaware.
Treron. 3 yellow-footed races,—chlorigaster in the Indian peninsula & Ceylon,— phœnicoptera in Bengal & all Upper India,—& viridifrons in Burma. The first and second seem to intergrade where they come in contact.23
Turtur suratensis of India & T. tigrina of the Malay countries, do. N.B. The latter is distinct from chinensis, with which the Pr. of Canino seems to confound it.24 But the Columbidæ present very numerous cases of species of different regions barely separable,—or what many would call distinct local races of the same species, but there is no knowing where to stop when this principle is once admitted. The C. livia group affords one instance out of very many: still I cannot help thinking that Carpophaga œnea of the Nicobars, as compared with œnea of all the surrounding countries, is just such a local race as Lagopus scoticus & Lepus hibernicus, which I have treated of in my ‘notes for Mr. D.’ now forwarded.
The Scandinavian Bottletit has no markings on the head; & compare, if you can, other Scandinavian Tits with British specimens.
For hybrid Kallij Pheasants, & the intermediate races, vide J. As. B. XVII, 694. 25
For representative species or races, differing only in certain details of colouring,—& which are never found in the intermediate country,—cite Mustela Gwatkinsii of the Nilgiris,—M. flavigula of the entire Himalaya & even Arakan Mountains,—& M. ——? (hitherto flavigula, var.,) of the Malayan peninsula.
The Mydaus meliceps thus occurs in Java, only on certain elevated table-lands, & never in the intermediate country; & the species seems absolutely the same in the Malayan peninsula! See Horsfield’s Zool. Res. in Java.26
Have you studied Corse’s paper on the Indian Elephant & its varieties in the Asc. Researches?27
The groups exemplified by Sciurus maximus & Pteromys petaurista are especial puzzles, as to what are to be considered species & what varieties!
Now for another matter. Is not the Kual-Kole (however should it be spelt?) or ‘turnip-rooted Cabbage’ quite a modern variety? Originating I think in S. Africa, famous for fat-rumped sheep & Hottentots, & to which the broad-sterned Dutch race have taken kindly! No particular analogy, but the Cape climate is likely to have originated the Kual Kole 28
Encloses "notes for Mr. D" [see 1818] and a memorandum on the wild cattle of southern India [see 1819].
Breeds of silky fowl of China and Malaya. Black-skinned fowl.
Doubts any breed of canary has siskin blood; all remain true to their type.
Wild canary and finch hybrids.
Hybrids between one- and two-humped camels.
Does not regard zebra markings on asses as an indication of interbreeding but as one of the many instances of markings in the young which more or less disappear in the adult.
Crossing of Coracias species at the edges of their ranges.
Regional variations and intergrading between species of pigeons.
Regards the differences in Treron as specific [see Natural selection, p. 115 n. 1].
Gives other instances of representative species or races differing only in certain details of colouring.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1817,” accessed on 29 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-1817