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Darwin Correspondence Project

To C. J. Andersson   25 March [1856]1

Down Bromley Kent

March 25th.

Dear Sir

I am very much obliged to you for the Proof sheets, received this morning.2 But before I refer to the cattle, let me congratulate you on producing a work, which judging from the 32 pages promises to be so interesting, and how wonderfully you have mastered English! I declare you write a better style, forgive me for saying, than half our English authors.—

The facts you mention about the cattle, & about the Damara prizing the great horns & colours, are exactly the sort of facts, which I wanted to know.—3 Will you think me very unreasonable if I ask you a few other questions?— Do you suppose that the natives ever unite a particular Bull & particular cow together?4 as to breed any particular colour or excellence. I presume you saw no other breeds (or even sub-breeds) than the Damara, Bechuana & Namaqua breeds?—5

Will you have the kindness to tell me whether you noticed any different breeds of Dogs (or of Sheep) in the same or in different tribes of natives? Do the natives keep Fowls or other poultry? But I fear you will think me very unreasonable in asking so many questions; but I am most deeply interested about all domesticated animals. I can only trust to your friendship towards my relation F. Galton to make you forgive me being so troublesome.6

With very sincere thanks, pray believe me Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

I cannot resist one other very odd question,— do you suppose that the natives select their wives for their personal appearance or beauty; & does a native & European at all agree in their ideas of the beauty of the female sex; or have they a different beau ideal?7


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from C. J. Andersson, [6 April 1856] (Correspondence vol. 6).
CD refers to the proof-sheets of Lake Ngami: or, explorations and discoveries during four years’ wanderings in the wilds of South Western Africa (Andersson 1856). They have not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
CD cited Andersson’s observations of cattle in Andersson 1856 (under the title Travels in South Africa) in Variation 1: 88 and n. 62, 2: 207 and n. 59, and 2: 300 and n. 27.
The part of Andersson’s reply relating to cattle has not been found (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter from C. J. Andersson, [6 April 1856] for the surviving part); but CD wrote in Variation 2: 207, ‘Mr. Andersson further informs me that the natives frequently match a particular bull with a particular cow.’
Damara, Bechuana, and Namaqua were the names of peoples, and by association, regions of southern Africa. Bechuanaland is now Botswana. Damaraland and Namaqualand are regions of Namibia.
Francis Galton and Andersson travelled together in southern Africa from 1850 to 1852 (Andersson 1856).
For Andersson’s reply to this question, see Correspondence vol. 6, letter from C. J. Andersson, [6 April 1856].


Thanks for proof sheets of Lake Ngami: or, exploration and discoveries during four years’ wanderings in the wilds of South Western Africa (Andersson 1856).

Is very grateful for the information CJA has provided about cattle in South Africa, and wishes to ask further questions about native breeds.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles John (Carl Johann) Andersson
Sent from
Source of text
National Library of South Africa, Cape Town
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1845F,” accessed on 19 May 2022,

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