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Darwin Correspondence Project

From S. McLean to J. B. Innes   15 December 1868

Mill Burn Cottage | Inverness

Dec 15 1868

J. Brodie Innes Esqr


I beg to be excused for being so long in answering your letter of the 8th. which I duly received1

—As to your query whether the cow was sent to a Bull. or whether there was a Bull going along with the cow—I can not in th〈e〉 mean time answer— Mr. McDonald2 told me that the woman had only one cow—in the neighbourhood of a deer Forrest— the head of the animal resembles altogether that of a deer— the teeth ar differantly set from those of a cattle beast— the eye is distinctly that of a deer— in short the head and ears ar quite differant from that of a cow— the ears are perfictly bare of hair— the Legimentum 〈n〉uchie3—is much stronger than 〈t〉hat of a cattle beast of the same age— the Servical vertibra4 is als peculiarly that of a deer— the general construction of the trunk is such as a cattle beast of the same age would have—with the exeption of the dorsal Spines which are much Longer

The extremities—again differ completely from those of a cattle beast—the bones being much smaler and finer—the muscles being harder and much more of a tendinous construction—Showing a peculiar adaptation for speed— there are several parts of the body in the mean time perfectly free of hair—particularly the extremities— My own Impression is that when the animal casts its coat in Spring it will be almost bare of hair— the gait more resembles that of a deer than that of a cattle beast— the hair in the mean time is soft and silky— Any more Information I will gladly give—

Your obed. Serv | S. McLean


In his letter of 7 December 1868, Innes told CD he had asked McLean various questions about an animal he had purchased that was said to be a cross between a cow and a deer. Innes evidently sent McLean’s letter to CD on 17 December 1868 (see letter from J. B. Innes, 18 December 1868 and n. 1).
Mr McDonald, the animal’s previous owner, was a tenant of Blervie castle, near Forres, Scotland (letter from J. B. Innes, 7 December 1868). He has not been further identified.
The ligamentum nuchae or nuchal ligament is a large fibroelastic ligament extending from the cervical vertebrae to the occiput in many mammals, serving as a support for the head (OED).
Cervical vertebra.


Describes an animal that is said to be a hybrid between a cow and a deer.

Letter details

Letter no.
S. McLean
John Brodie Innes
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 171: 16
Physical description
4pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6504,” accessed on 22 May 2018,

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