skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Abraham Dee Bartlett   30 January [1865]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Jan. 30th

My dear Sir

You have two rabbits of mine from Porto Santo.2 Will you be so good as to have one of them killed, taking great care that the skull & vertebræ are not broken, & sent as soon as you can, addressed,

C. Darwin Esq

Care of Down Postman



per Rail

I shall be very much obliged if you will inform me whether you have got young from these rabbits with the females of any other breed?3

I want to beg one other favour; I want to examine under the microscope the tipped feathers of Gallus Sonneratii 4   Could you send me one or two?

Believe me my dear Sir | yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by CD’s request for the return of the Porto Santo rabbit, which he received in February 1865 (see Variation 1: 114).
The Porto Santo rabbit was a feral form of a domesticated breed that had been introduced to Porto Santo, an island off the coast of Portugal, in the fifteenth century. It was distinct in size and colouring from the wild rabbits native to England. For CD’s interest in the rabbits, see Variation 1: 112–15, Notebooks, Notebook QE, p. 18, Correspondence vol. 5, letter from R. T. Lowe, 19 September 1854, and Correspondence vol. 6, letter from T. V. Wollaston, [February 1856]. CD had received two live rabbits from Porto Santo in 1861, and placed them at the Zoological Gardens, Regents Park, London (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to A. D. Bartlett, 26 May [1861]). The rabbits had since undergone modifications that made them resemble the English variety in colouring (see Variation 1: 114). CD was revising the chapters on domestic animals for Variation (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 13, Appendix II)). The material on rabbits appears in chapter 4 (Variation 1: 103–30). The Porto Santo rabbits are discussed in Variation 1: 112–15 and 2: 279.
CD had asked Bartlett to cross the Porto Santo rabbits with other breeds (Correspondence vol. 9, letter to A. D. Bartlett, 26 May [1861]). In Variation 1: 115, CD cited Bartlett’s observation that the Porto Santo rabbits would not mate with any other breed of rabbit at the Zoological Gardens. CD noted that, had the history of these rabbits not been known, most naturalists would have considered them a distinct species (see also Correspondence vol. 9, letter to P. L. Sclater, 2 June [1861]).
CD discussed Gallus sonneratii, a species of fowl, in Variation 1: 233–4, noting that he had examined the feathers of some hybrids raised at the Zoological Gardens.


Orders that one of CD’s Porto Santo rabbits be killed and sent to him.

Asks whether ADB has got young from mating these with females of other breeds.

Letter details

Letter no.
Darwin, C. R.
Bartlett, A. D.
Sent from
Source of text
Yale University Library: Manuscripts and Archives (Joseph Bradley Murray Collection (MS 363) Box 1, folder 4)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4758,” accessed on 23 January 2017,