From W. D. Fox 12 March 1
Delamere Ry | Northwich
My dear Darwin
I remember well what you mention about the slate coloured & White Muscovy Ducks.2 The Slate coloured, I imagine, were the produce of some cross raised at Birmingham. I have never seen them since nor do I think I ever reared any, as I lost the Drake.
The white always breed true to colour, as far as my experience goes, & I keep a large flock of them—(I have about 20 now)—
With however this exception that they have a great tendency to a Black Topper on head (exactly as represented in Bewicks plate).3
Unless some considerable pains are taken in weeding out all these black topped Birds—the pure white would soon cease.
I never saw however a single black feather any where but on the top of Head.
The Black Lambs I also well remember.4 They were Southdown Ewes. The Ram I never saw— He was provided by Giblitt the Great Butcher5—and I was told in answer to my enquiries that he was all but white, having a small patch only of Black—I think about the head. The flock was the queerest I ever saw, and every lamb being black in the lot, looks as if there was a positive law of some kind in the matter.
I will write to ask if Mr Woodds man6 remembers where the Black was in Ram, but I fear it will not be satisfactorily answered.
The Ram appeared cross bred with a good deal of Southdown in him.
The only pure cross of Sheep I know (if one can use such a term)—are between pure Leicester & Southdown. I think it was the late Earl Morton7 who had a beautiful flock of these. They had no horns—& partook of each strain.
I have a small flock of the black & white sheep—which keep very true to shape & colour. When crossed with Leicester they produce a race pretty nearly balanced—except that there is a great tendency to Black lambs. The only 3 born this year are black. Having once got the black strain in this way from a cross with the black & white & Leicester—it takes many generations—at least 6 or 7—I am told by a friend of mine—to get back the white colour—by continual crossing with a Leicester. I can only speak to the 3d generation—which was as black as the first.8 I have never seen or heard of horned produce from hornless crosses. I do not think they exist so in our English crosses. The Cheviot & Leicester are often crossed—& certainly have no horns— Neither have the Southdown & Leicester.
There seems little tendency in crosses of Sheep to return to primordial wildness—as the Irish have been almost renovated by the Leicester cross: and the Shropshire Down sheep are a greatly improved cross bred sheep.
I fear I have not added much to my former notes on these points.9
What I wrote at time, may be strictly depended upon— In this letter you will see what are surmises only.
I should be very glad to hear of your getting to Malvern for 6 or 8 weeks.10 It is a glorious place for renovating the health in. If my time & means would allow of it, I shd go for a month every spring & be got into condition. I quite believe I owe my life to it in my last illness—and it was a curious illustration of the System versus the Drs. as Gully completely denied the existence of what I told him was my conceived idea of my wretchedness—but added “Well if it is so, the water cure will prove its existence—and so it did. I have never met with more than one similar case, which was most carefully treated according to rule, and the young man died of it.
I cannot tell you how glad I was to see you so well in London.11 It was a great pleasure to see so many old & valued faces—& all looking so well. I very much want to see Susan and Caroline again.12
If you go to Malvern I shall try to come over & get a weeks bathing while you are there. I have some curious enquiries about you & your Book sometime. You ought to occupy a cage by the side of the Gorilla in the British Museum sometimes to let the Public see you.—
Kindest regards to Mrs Darwin.— Ever yours sincerely | W D Fox
Discusses crossed varieties of sheep and ducks.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4037,” accessed on 28 August 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-4037