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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. E. Gray   2 March 1868


2 March 68

My Dear Darwin

I am always very glad to hear from you & reply to any of your questions1

As far as my experience goes the Canines of males are always longer than in females in all mammalia and is certainly so in Cervulus, Moschus, and Antelop Montana which often have them highly developed in the males.2

It is not easy to say whether Cervulus is more allied to Moschus   The great peculiarity of Moschus (True) is the form of the Placenta (see Paper of Sclater on the Prong Horns in PZS) & Milne Edw. Monograph of Moschus 3 but then Kanchil so like Moschus has the placenta of the antelopes &c4

I know one exception about the canines in male, in a Lady friend who has canine much larger than I ever saw them in man; fortunately they are only seen when she laughs & are then a great disfigurement   A Dentist tells me he has sometime to remove them in female children.

I am not able to write more as I am suffering at this time with inflammation of the Iris & hardly see what I write5

Ever Yours sincerely | J E Gray

I have not examined the general osteology of Cervulus Moschus & Kanchil, but one the African musk has the united metatarsi as mentioned in the Catalogue like the Horse6

The Male Deer often have well defined canine but not larger

CD annotations

2.1 As far as … Moschus, 2.2] ‘I had better speak of Moschus alone’ pencil
2.2 and Antelop … males. 2.3] crossed pencil
3.1 It is … Horse 7.3] crossed pencil
3.3 but] ‘but’ added pencil
4.3 & are … children. 4.4] doubled scored pencil
7.2 the African musk] ‘Hyem’ added pencil
8.1 The … larger] double scored pencil
8.1 but not larger] ‘but not larger’ added pencil


The letter Gray refers to has not been found. CD’s last extant letter to Gray was written on 17 February [1868].
In Descent 2: 257–8, CD discussed sexual differences in canine teeth in Cervulus (now Muntiacus, the muntjac), Moschus (the musk-deer), and Antilope montana (now Antilocapra americana, the pronghorn).
Gray refers to Philip Lutley Sclater’s paper, ‘On the Antilocapridæ’ (Sclater 1867), and Alphonse Milne Edwards’s study, ‘Recherches anatomiques, zoologiques et paléontologiques sur la famille des chevrotains’ (Anatomical, zoological and palaeontological research on the family of chevrotains; A. M. Edwards 1864). The chevrotain or mouse-deer belongs to the family Tragulidae; for the differences in Gray’s and Edwards’s classification of genera within this family, see A. M. Edwards 1864, pp. 53–4.
The kanchil had been placed in the genus Moschus by Gray (J. E. Gray 1836), but then reclassified by him within the genus Tragulus (J. E. Gray 1843). Edwards classified it as T. kanchil in A. M. Edwards 1864. In Sclater 1867, Sclater disagreed with Gray’s position, stated in J. E. Gray 1866, p. 469, that the genera Moschus and Tragulus were closely allied, citing A. M. Edwards 1864 in support. Edwards had also argued that the placenta in Tragulus was not similar to that of deer or antelopes, but most closely resembled that of camelids (A. M. Edwards 1864, p. 102). Currently, Tragulus is placed within the family Tragulidae, while Moschus is the only member of the family Moschidae. For more on the history of chevrotain (Tragulidae) taxonomy, and complete synonymy for the kanchil, see Meijaard and Groves 2004. For a discussion of the phylogeny of the suborder Ruminantia, see Hassanin and Douzery 2003.
From the age of 60, Gray suffered from recurring periods of near blindness (ODNB).
Gray evidently refers to Hyemoschus aquaticus, the African water chevrotain, a member of the family Tragulidae (A. M. Edwards 1864, pp. 134–8). Edwards had noted that the metatarsals remained unfused in younger animals and that even after fusion the resulting canon bone retained a deep groove on the anterior surface (ibid., p. 134).


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Edwards, Alphonse Milne. 1864. Recherches anatomiques, zoologiques et paléontologiques sur la famille des chevrotains. Annales des Sciences Naturelles (Zoologie) 5th ser. 2: 49–167.

Gray, John Edward. 1836. On the genus Moschus of Linnæus, with descriptions of two new species. [Read 28 June 1836.] Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 4: 63–7.

Gray, John Edward. 1843. List of the specimens of Mammalia in the collection of the British Museum. London: Trustees of the British Museum.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Canine teeth in males are always larger than in females and certainly so in Cervulus moschus.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Edward Gray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
British Museum
Source of text
DAR 83: 159–60
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5970,” accessed on 20 October 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16