To Laurence Edmondston 2 August 1
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Sir
I am very much obliged for your letter of the 23d, & for your information on the wild Pigeons, which is of much value to me.— I enclose the stamps for the Rabbit, for which I heartily thank you, as it will prove interesting in comparison with some other insular individuals.—2 You are so kind as to offer to take the great trouble of sending me some young Rock Pigeons: if I could have had them ten years ago, they wd have been worth their weight in gold to me, but now, I think, I could have hardly any chance of breeding them for a sufficient number of generations to make it worth while to have them; though this does not make it the less kind of your offering to send them.—3
About a month ago I wished extremely to ask you a question but I refrained solely because I thought I had already trespassed to a quite unreasonable degree on your kindness; but as you offer with so much goodnature to assist me further, I will ask my question, as I do not think it can cost very much trouble, & it is a point on which I have vainly sought for information.
In most parts of N. Europe, small horses or ponys are common (Eel-backs) of a Dun or Mouse-colour. Do such occur in the Shetlands? These duns generally, (perhaps always (?)) have a black stripe along the spine, & sometimes, (as I have seen) transverse dark Zebra-like marks on the legs, & I have been assured on perfect authority a transverse shoulder stripe like that of the Ass. Now any information on ponys of this colour wd be of extreme interest to me, as it is a most widely geographically extended & ancient breed.—4
Is the spinal stripe universal with the duns? Have you ever seen the shoulder asinine stripe? are the transverse leg marks common? But especially I want to know whether these marks when they occur are plainer on the very young foal before the first hair is shed. And more than all I want to know whether the Dun or Mouse colour ever appears when neither parent is dun, and as far as known, no ancestor has been of this colour; though this must always be very doubtful.
Is the Dun (with spinal stripe & occasional other stripes) a very hereditary colour, ie will one parent of this colour generally transmit it, when two horses of different colours, one being dun, are crossed? When duns & other colours are crossed what colour results? I have written to Norway to beg for information;5 & if you can give me any (& coming from you, I know it will be reliable) it will in truth be of extreme use to me. Something analogous occurs in cream- & roan & chesnut horses; though in the two latter colours I have heard (& seen) only the spinal stripe. I do not know whether these colours ever appear in the Shetland herds.
I can trust only to your great kindness, so often shown to me, to forgive this long note, & I beg to remain, with hearty thanks, My dear Sir | Your’s sincerely | Ch. Darwin
Anything about the stripes on Chesnuts interests me almost as much as in Duns.
Thanks for rabbit.
Are there dun-coloured ponies in Shetlands? Are they striped?
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2131,” accessed on 14 February 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-2131