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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Henry Ambrose Oldfield   10 May [1856]

Down Bromley Kent

May 10th.

Dear Sir

I hope that you will forgive the liberty which I take in addressing you;1 but Mr Vaux has told me that I might use his name as an introduction.—2 When looking at the Assyrian drawings, Mr. Vaux told me that you had remarked that the Dogs there represented, were like the Thibetan Dogs, with which you were familiar in Nepaul.—3 I am greatly interested in regard to all domesticated animals, & their ancient history, & shd. feel very much obliged if you would inform me whether this resemblance is close.—

In drawings which I have seen, (but perhaps they were poor ones) of Thibetan Mastiffs, the ears were longer & the chops depended much lower than in the Assyrian, drawings, giving to the head more of the appearance of the Blood Hound.— As I am writing, would you be so good as to inform me whether there are other breeds of Dogs in Nepaul. If by any chance your attention shd. have been turned to any of the domesticated animals or birds, I shd. be most grateful for any information, more especially in regard to Poultry & the breeds of Fancy Pigeons, or Rabbits if such be kept, as I am paying especial attention to the Pigeons, & am endeavouring to make a collection from all parts of the world.—

Hoping that you will excuse this intrusion, I beg to remain | Dear Sir | Your faithful servant | Charles Darwin


Oldfield was surgeon to the British Residency in Nepal, 1850–63. He was apparently on leave in 1856, for the cover preserved with the letter is addressed to him at 8 Gloucester Gardens, Gloucester Terrace, Hyde Park, London.
William Sandys Wright Vaux, of the department at antiquities, British Museum, was the author of Handbook to the antiquities in the British Museum: being a description of the remains of Greek, Assyrian, Egyptian, and Etruscan art preserved there (Vaux 1851).
In Variation 1: 17, CD mentioned having seen these drawings, which he stated were from the Assyrian tomb of the son of Esar Haddon dated ‘about 640 B.C.’, at the British Museum. He also added: ‘This dog has been called a Thibetan mastiff, but Mr. H. A. Oldfield, who is familiar with the so-called Thibet mastiff, and has examined the drawings in the British Museum, informs me that he considers them different.’ (ibid. 1: 17 n. 4).


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

Vaux, William Sandys Wright. 1851. Handbook to the antiquities in the British Museum: being a description of the remains of Greek, Assyrian, Egyptian, and Etruscan art preserved there. London.


Asks HAO about breeds of Tibetan dogs and other domesticated animals.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Henry Ambrose Oldfield
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.128)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1872,” accessed on 13 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6