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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Lawson Tait   26 March [1876]1

7, Great Charles St. | Birmingham.

Mar 26

My Dear Sir,

I have just made an observation which may interest you on a kitten of known parentage, both tailed cats, yet born with a characteristic Manx tail. The reason is that it has a small spina bifida, a deformity common in the human species & by no means incompatible with adult life.2

I shall work this out carefully, for we might here not only have an explanation of Manx tails but loss of tails elsewhere.

When my observation is complete I shall be glad to send you the specimen, which I intend to place in the Hunterian Museum.3

I have found a case of double thumb amputated and regrown. I shall send you the authenticated facts as soon as I have these complete.4

Yours truly | Lawson Tait


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Lawson Tait, 1 March 1876.
CD discussed the crossing of tailless Manx cats with ordinary cats in Variation 2: 66. Spina bifida is a condition in which the vertebrae of the spine fail to unite perfectly at the embryo stage (Chambers).
The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons of England in London.


Chambers: The Chambers dictionary. Edinburgh: Chambers Harrap Publishers. 1998.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Cat born tailless as a consequence of a spina bifida.

Letter details

Letter no.
Robert Lawson (Lawson) Tait
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 178: 31
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10429,” accessed on 14 April 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24