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Darwin Correspondence Project

From F. B. Goodacre   17 August 1878

Wilby Rectory | Attlebro’ | Norfolk

Aug 17/78

Dear Sir,

In case it may interest you, I venture to trouble you with a brief account of some experiments in cross breeding between Chinese & Common geese; should you feel inclined to make any similar ones yourself you are quite welcome to my half bred gander, & I have little doubt but what I could obtain one or two 34 common goslings on easy terms;1 It was chiefly in consequence of a passage in your Origin of Species that the idea was suggested to my mind to make these particular experiments2 I asked many naturalists last year to join me, but found only one man Dr. Meadows3 of 5 George St. London both willing & able to do so; a brother in law of mine in this county & a small farmer near here, have also by accident assisted through having had birds from me in exchange:

I shall be very happy to give you any further information in my power I have observed a few curious things about these crossbred birds & have some still more curious thoughts on the subject but I will not now trouble you with more minute particulars

With kind regards | Believe me | Yrs. truly | F B Goodacre


Wilby Rectry. | Norfolk


6 goslings hatched here

Father a colored Chinese

Mother a grey & white small com: goose.


Dr. Meadows had one of above goslings ♂ which he kept at his country place at Maidenhead4 with a gosling ♀ no relation which I bought judging (from appearance alone) it to be a similarly bred bird   Result several goslings this spring   About same time this spring I had one gosling hatched from egg of one of last years 6 goslings A Chinese gander (not very nearly related) or else her own brother of the same nest the father I suspect the latter On Jly 6th. another very similar gosling hatched the undoubted offspring of 2 of /77 goslings Chinese gander (No II) having died much diseased (as No I died in /77).

The common goose (mother of 6 /77 goslings) has hatched several goslings this year the father of which is my crossbred bird of /77 one of the gander goslings I sent away & he paired with a Chinese goose; result several goslings I have not yet seen

3♂ & 1♀ of the goslings of /77 mentioned in events of this year the other two killed for table   I have skull & windpipe of ♂   The goslings of this year of cross bred birds are I believe mostly within my reach but will be killed for the table when ready if I cannot get them put out for experiments it seems a pity to miss such an opportunity with such variety of mixture of blood

crossbred 1st. generation

____ ____ 2nd. ________

____ ____ 34 Common 2nd. gen

____ ____ ___ Chinese ___ ___

Dr. Meadows & myself purpose keeping a pair each for stock

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Geese | Hybridsred crayon


The Chinese goose is a domestic variety of the wild swan goose (Anser cygnoides). The common European domestic goose is a variety of the wild greylag goose (Anser anser).
In Origin, p. 253, CD had discussed hybrid fertility in crosses between Chinese and common geese, noting that not only were the two types fertile, but also that their hybrid offspring were fertile inter se.
Meadows owned Poyle Manor, near Colnbrook, Buckinghamshire (ODNB).


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.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Crossing experiments with common and Chinese geese. Offers CD geese if he wishes to repeat experiments.

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis Burges Goodacre
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Attleborough, Norfolk
Source of text
DAR 165: 63–4
Physical description
ALS 7pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11664,” accessed on 22 September 2023,