From Edward Blyth 6 February 1868
7 Princess Terrace, | Regent’s Pk,
My Dear Sir,
I am exceedingly obliged to you for the copy of your new work, about which I shall have many remarks to make, as I can find time to write them, some of which may be useful for the next edition.1 As regards the mule canaries, since I wrote to you about them, I have seen some dozens of goldfinch-mules, without finding a single exception to the rule of their having streaked plumage.2 I now send an extract from a newspaper bearing on the subject of hereditariness in the matter of fecundity.3
I think you notice the prolificacy of the small Chinese sheep formerly in the Z.G.—4 The common small goats of Bengal have commonly four kids at a birth. The same breed to all appearance is figured as African (I think from Guinea?) by Fred. Cuvier.5 About merinos, I have just cut the following passages about merinos from two Australian newspapers.
1. “Every squatter or wool-grower would acknowledge that the fleece of the merino sheep was greatly superior to that of the Cotswold; yet exactly 400 years ago, Edward IV of England presented King John of Arragon6 with twenty Cotswold ewes and four rams, and they were the progenitors of the present merino sheep”— I want information concerning the flocks of black sheep on the Pyrenees, & in Spain and Sardinia. Are they not descendants of O. musimon, with crescentic horns and short tail, like the Shetland race figured by Lowe, which is the same as the old Highland race.7 There are two breeds of merinos with glossy wool, one obtained by means of selection in Lincolnshire, while it is stated of a French breed—
2. “The Mauchamp variety of the merino was raised from a lamb born with bright smooth hair instead of wool, such as has no doubt been often seen in other flocks, but quietly got rid of as an eyesore; and the descendants of this lamb have since been crossed with both fine and coarse woolled sheep, imparting to all the desired quality of brightness of staple, and this without any one of the race having been subjected to such a combination of circumstances as gave rise to the peculiarity in England”. The last remark merely refers to the climate &c of Lincolnshire.8 The remarks on pedigree wheat, as grown in Australia, will doubtless interest you.9 About unequal developments of the two sides of the body (Vol. II, 53), you might have noticed the skulls of Cetacea (with the only exception known to me of Platanista),10 & to the best of my recollection the greater development is always on the same side? How about the developed tusk of the Narwhal,11 And lower tusk of adult male Mastodon ohioticus?12 and again the whalers assert that the vision of the cachelot is always defective on one side, so that they endeavour to get at the blind side of their quarry!13 Among crustaceans, the males only of the Gelasimus crabs have one claw preposterously developed, which I have observed to be as often the right one as the left; whereas in Ocypoda I think that it is almost constantly on one side.14 How, too, about the two very different claws of the common lobster?
I sincerely congratulate you on the success achieved by your son at Cambridge.15
Yours most truly, | E. Blyth
Discusses the origin and characters of sheep breeds, particularly the merino.
Reports observations on reversion to wild type in canary mules
and lists some animals that show a unique development restricted to one side of their bodies.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5845,” accessed on 8 December 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-5845