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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   31 July [1855]

Down Farnborough Kent

July 31st

My dear Fox

I have received the young Cochin, Call Duck, & Sebright Bantam all safe, for which hearty thanks, & I congratulate you on your horrid work being more than half done.1 Your deeds are beyond thanks.—

When you have occasion to write again: will you tell me, whether the Sebright Bantam is a single sub-variety; I fancy there are 2 or 3 differently coloured Bantams so called: if so please inform me which kind was parent of the chloroformed infant.— There is going to be a great show of Poultry & Pigeons at end of August at Annerly, which I shall go to.—2

Thank you for extract from Wood:3 I shall get the Book.— I quite agree in probability of what you say about the Breeds of Dogs;4 but there are many who would not, & therefore I am anxious to get as many precise facts as I can about crossing, both for this object, & generally for the comparison of mongrels & Hybrids.

The line of argument you put in your note falls without the least impression on some people, as on Mr. Dixon of Poultry notoriety,5 who argued stoutly for every variety being an aboriginal creation, & seemed to entirely disregard all the difficulties on the other side.6 And difficulties enough there are, as it seems to me, on all possible sides!

I did not know Bewick had written on Dogs;7 I will see to it.—

With hearty thanks | Ever yours | C. Darwin

Onion: Rhubarb: Beet & Orache or Atriplex; have all come up after 100 days’ immersion.

(I send. 3 stamps of 6d. each.)


CD refers to the killing of the eight-day-old fowls that he wanted for his comparison of new-born chicks. See letter to W. D. Fox, 19 March [1855].
The Anerley poultry show took place on 28, 29, and 30 August 1855 (Poultry Chronicle 3 (1855): 505). Anerley is located near Sydenham, site of the Crystal Palace.
Wood 1855, in which the habits and breeds of domestic dogs are discussed on pp. 131–78. CD probably refers to a passage on p. 171 describing the cross between a greyhound and bulldog made by Lord Orford (see letters to W. D. Fox, 26 April [1855] and 22 [July 1855]). The passage is quoted in Variation 2: 95.
Fox had evidently argued that the domestic breeds were descended from a single primitive breed.
Edmund Saul Dixon, the author of Ornamental and domestic poultry (E. S. Dixon 1848). See letter to W. D. Fox, 27 March [1855], n. 5.
Unlike most of his contemporaries who believed that domestic animals and birds were descended from original wild stocks, Dixon argued that domestic animals were independently created and that a rigorous study of hybridisation and cross-breeding would reveal that species and varieties had fixed limits (E. S. Dixon 1848, pp. ix–xiv).


Bewick, Thomas. 1790. A general history of quadrupeds. The figures engraved on wood by T. Bewick. [The text by R. Beilby.] Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Dixon, Edmund Saul. 1848. Ornamental and domestic poultry: their history and management. London: Office of the “Gardeners’ Chronicle”.

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

Wood, John George. 1855. Sketches and anecdotes of animal life. 2d ed. London and New York.


Has received the duck and bantam.

Anxious to get as many facts as possible on crossbreeding of dogs.

Reports on seeds that have germinated after 100 days immersion [in salt water].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 65)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1733,” accessed on 17 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5