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Darwin Correspondence Project

From E. P. Wright   31 March 1865

〈10〉 Clare Street. | Dublin.

31st March 1865.

Dear Mr. Darwin.

I took the first opportunity of seeing my friend to find out if I understood him rightly when he told me it was the Arnee that he had found possessed of powers of diving—1 He tells me that there can be no doubt of its being the animal called Arnee in India, & on shewing me the pairs of Horns—of a wild male & female shot by himself, I have no doubt it is the Bubalus Arna of Horsfield Catalogue of Mammalia in the Museum of the H. E. I. Co.2 page 179—and the Bos Arnee of Shaw— between the wild Arnee & the domesticated form—there is hardly any perceptible difference—3 The Wild Bull constantly visits the tame cows, inde〈ed〉 often makes himself very troublesome by so doing & it was on the entreaties of some of my friends tenants, to shoot a wild Bull who was in the habit of breaking down fences, that the one of which my friend possesses the Horns was shot—

Another little bit of information is—the tongue of these creatures is a favorite morsel with the Europeans—but during the inundations they are not eaten—& on Mr. D’s tasting one, he found the reason to be, the extremely strong prawn or shrimp flavor of the meat. This is owing to the quantity of Gammari eaten with the grass that the animals dive for, & of which numbers are to be found in the paunch, with the unruminated grass. I hope you will never think I can fancy that finding out any fact, for you, could be a trouble, & that you will think the explanation satisfactory—

The Horns in my museum of B. arnee were named by Hodgson4 & it was with these I compared those of Dunlop.

Very truly Yours | E. Perceval Wright

CD annotations

1.1 I took … shot— 1.11] crossed pencil
2.1 Another] after opening square bracket pencil
2.6 I hope … Dunlop. 3.2] crossed pencil
Top of letter: ‘It is Bos Arnee which dives & swallows many freshwater Shrimps or crustaceans   See End—’ pencil; ‘Odd Habits leading to Transition5 red crayon


The friend was A. A. Dunlop. See letter from E. P. Wright, 24 March 1865 and n. 3. CD’s letter to Wright asking for further information on Dunlop’s observations has not been found.
The reference is to Thomas Horsfield’s Catalogue of the mammalia in the Museum of the Hon. East-India Company (Horsfield 1851). This zoological museum comprised specimens contributed by public servants attached as naturalists to missions and deputations on behalf of the Indian government, or presented by members of the civil and military services in India (ibid., p. iii). The collections had passed under the control of the secretary of state for India in 1858, and were housed in the India Museum, Fife House, off Whitehall, London (see Moir 1988, pp. 34, 95).
Horsfield 1851, p. 179, listed Bubalus arna as described in Hodgson 1847, pp. 709–11; Brian Houghton Hodgson had not yet decided if the domesticated ‘Buffaloe’ was a separate species from Bubalus arna. Horsfield included ‘Bos Arnee’, described by George Shaw (Shaw 1800–26, 2 (pt. 2): 400–1), as a synonym for Bubalus arna. Now named Bubalus bubalis, the Asian water buffalo is usually thought to include both wild and domesticated animals; however, some still treat the domesticated Bubalus bubalis as a separate species from what they call the wild Bubalus arnee (see Nowak 1999, pp. 1147–51).
Wright had been the director of the Zoological Museum of the University of Dublin since 1857 (DNB). Hodgson presented a specimen skull and horns to the Museum of the East India Company (Horsfield 1851, p. 179; see also n. 3, above).
CD was interested in cases of diversified habits that might lead, by the gradual process of natural selection, to changes in structure (see letter from E. P. Wright, 24 March 1865 and nn. 6–8).


It is Bos arni which dives for herbage and in so doing it also swallows many freshwater shrimps.

Letter details

Letter no.
Edward Perceval Wright
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 181: 175
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4802,” accessed on 23 September 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13