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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Henry Gurney   2 July 1856

No 24 Palace Gardens | Kensington

2 July 1856


Mr C Buxton1 has forwarded to me your note of the 23d June as to the hybrids of P. Versicolor which I bought at Knowsley2 & which certainly appear to breed freely between themselves as well as with the Common Pheasant—3 I have not however made any accurate experiments as to the degree of relationship between the hybrids so intermixing & by this time these degrees of relationship have been lost sight of

I am assured that the hybrids between the mallard & pintail are sometimes fertile inter se—which I mention as it bears on the same subject & may be interesting to you4

I am Sir | Yours faithfully | J H Gurney Charles Darwin Esq

CD annotations

‘N. Q’added pencil, circled pencil
2.3 interesting to you] ‘See Fiennes in Zoolog Proc’ added pencil
Top of first page: ‘17’5 brown crayon


Charles Buxton was married to the eldest daughter of Henry Holland, who was a distant relative of CD’s. The Buxtons and the Gurneys were noted Quaker business families.
Edward Smith Stanley, Earl of Derby, had established a private menagerie at Knowsley Hall, Lancashire.
The fertility of offspring of Phasianus versicolor crossed with P. colchicus is discussed in Natural selection, pp. 438, 440.
In Natural selection, p. 439, CD cited two cases of a hybrid between the mallard and pintail: the first was a specimen exhibited by Twiselton Fiennes (see CD’s annotations, above) at a meeting of the Zoological Society on 13 December 1831 (Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London pt 1 (1830–1): 158); the second was mentioned in a letter to the Magazine of Natural History by James H. Fennell (Magazine of Natural History 9 (1836): 615–16).
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes on hybridism.


Hybrids of Phasianus versicolor breed freely between themselves as well as with common pheasants. Has been assured that hybrids between mallards and pintails are sometimes fertile inter se.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Henry Gurney
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Palace Gardens, 24
Source of text
DAR 165: 259
Physical description
3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1916,” accessed on 19 June 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6