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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Brodie Innes   28 January 1870

Hybrid Cow.— There is at present a hybrid cow among a herd at the home farm of Beaufort—a cross apparently between a deer and a cow. Except in the colour, which is black, the animal is identical in appearance with the one lately sold by Mr Maclean, V.S., to the proprietor of Wombwell’s Menagerie.1 Strange to say, both animals were bred in or near the same parish—Ardclach2—and in many respects bear a similar history. Mr Lawson, manager at Beaufort,3 bought the cow last autumn among a herd of cattle, and it has since been seen and admired by many. The hybrid cow in Wombwell’s menagerie was calved at Lochindorb,4 and was exhibited by Mr M’Donald, Blervie,5 at the Forres Christmas Cattle Show in 1868.

Dear Darwin

The above is from the Elgin Courant of this day 28th. Janry. 1870.6 I have not seen the animal. It is satisfactory to know that the former one, which I told you of before, and which seemed if not a hybrid, a wonderfully good imitation of one has gone to a menagerie where perhaps in life or death the truth of its origin may be tested. Some old red deer seems to have taken to erratic courses about the ancient haunts of the Wolf of Badenoch7

Faithfully Yours | J Brodie Innes


Mr S. McLean, a veterinary surgeon at Inverness, had bought the supposed deer–cow hybrid from Mr McDonald of Blervie at the Forres Cattle Show on 7 December 1868 (see Correspondence vol. 16, letters from J. B. Innes, 7 December 1868 and 14 December 1868, and letter from S. McLean to J. B. Innes, 15 December 1868). On the history of Wombwell’s Menagerie, which had three branches, see Bostock 1927.
Ardclach is a hamlet eleven miles south-south-west of Forres.
Mr Lawson has not been further identified.
Lochindorb Castle is south of Forres.
McDonald of Blervie has not been further identified. Blervie castle is five miles south-east of Forres.
Innes glued the clipping to the top of his letter.
The ‘wolf of Badenoch’ was Alexander Stewart, earl of Buchan, who occupied Lochindorb from about 1371 (ODNB).


JBI sends clipping about a hybrid between a deer and a cow, from the same parish as the one reported in 1868.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Brodie Innes
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 167: 27
Physical description
2pp enc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7087,” accessed on 23 June 2018,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18