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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   12 [May 1857]1

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Sir

Many thanks for your most kind offer of the Eggs of the Rumpless Polands.—2 Will you be so kind as to send them by enclosed address as soon as you conveniently can, as we have a Hen ready to sit: it is really a shame accepting so many as a dozen, but I shall by having so many be able to see whether the Breed comes true as Rumpless.—3 Have you found them true??

With respect to the Scanderoons my pair has never laid an egg since those which produced your pair.4 I am ashamed to say that I do not know Cock from Hen.—5 Would you like to have the pair to try to breed from; I shd. think the change might very likely make them breed. All that I now want of them is a carcass for skeleton & measurement in fresh state. If you like to have them, I must send them off on a Wednesday night, so that you would have somehow to get them home before late on the Thursday.6

I have now got some Fowls from the Dyaks of the interior of Borneo sent me by the Rajah:7 shall I send them to you at same time?

Will you tell me what colour your turbits are which have thrown the dark tails: you are quite right it is just the class of facts which interest me:8 —in Mayors’ time, I see that the red & yellow Turbits had white tails.—9

I know I have your note, (but I have mislaid it) about the colour of Pigeons & their down.— Will you kindly tell me briefly the fact again?10 By the way I wonder if I have any Pigeons which you want: do you want black Barbs? Just mention what you want, & then I can see whether I have anything to suit.—

I have not yet got your Poultry Book;11 though I presume that it is lying at my Brother’s (for I have not been for a long time in London; my health having been of late very indifferent), & therefore I do not know whether you describe the plumage of chickens in their down: Dixon describes most of them;12 but the chicks of Gold & Silver Pencilled & spangled Hamburghs are not described, & I shd. like to know them.

I wonder whether Fowls when crossed throw odd & unexpected colours like Pigeons do.— Do you know of any such facts? For instance if you were to cross black Spanish with Black or Silver Polands, do you suppose ever red or other marked new colour would appear?—13

Let me have a line about the Scanderoons; if you do not choose to have the pair to breed from; I then will try & make out which is Hen, & send her, & I think I will kill the Cock.— Also say shall I send Borneo Fowls?

Pray believe me | My dear Sir | Your’s very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. I have just been looking at Scanderoons, but I really fear the Hen is ill, for I think I know which is which.— The servant in charge reported 3 weeks ago (I have been from home last fortnight) that one of them looked moping, & so she certainly does with wings a little drooping; & that may account for the pair not having gone to nest this spring.— but I will observe more carefully during this coming week


The date is suggested by the relationship to the letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 18 May [1857], which it precedes, and by CD’s reference to having been away from home a fortnight. CD returned to Down from Moor Park on 6 May 1857 (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
Tegetmeier had earlier promised CD a rumpless chick (see letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 11 February [1857]). CD was collecting specimens of the young of various breeds of fowl to note the first appearance of the typical characters of each.
See letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 23 June [1857] and [19 July 1857]. CD found that the rumpless Polish fowl did not breed true.
CD had sent Tegetmeier a pair of Scanderoons in August 1856 (see letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 30 August [1856]).
According to Eaton 1852, it was not easy to tell Scanderoon cocks from hens: ‘in this point the best and oldest Fanciers have been sometimes deceived’.
James Brooke, raja of Saráwak, had sent CD several specimens of domestic fowls kept in Borneo.
CD collected such facts as instances of reversion to what he considered was the progenitor of the races of domestic pigeons, Columba livia. See Variation 1: 195–203.
[J. Moore] 1765, pp. 127–8. This book is an anonymously edited, revised, and enlarged edition of a treatise on domestic pigeons originally prepared by John Moore in 1735 (J. Moore 1735). The later work was inscribed to John Mayor, by whose name it was sometimes known.
CD cited Tegetmeier in Variation 1: 170 concerning ‘a curious and inexplicable case of correlation, namely, that young pigeons of all breeds, which when mature become white, yellow, silver (i.e. extremely pale blue), or dun-coloured, are born almost naked; whereas other coloured pigeons are born well clothed with down’.
Tegetmeier ed. 1856–7, issued in parts.


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

Eaton, John Matthews. 1852. A treatise on the art of breeding and managing tame, domesticated, and fancy pigeons, carefully compiled from the best authors, with observations, containing all that is necessary to be known of tame, domisticated, and fancy pigeons. London: the author.

Moore, John. 1735. Columbarium; or, the pigeon-house. Being an introduction to a natural history of tame pigeons. London.

[Moore, John]. 1765. A treatise on domestic pigeons; comprehending all the different species known in England … Carefully compiled from the best of authors. To which is added, a most ample description of that celebrated and beatiful pigeon called the almond tumbler. London.

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


Accepts a dozen eggs of rumpless Polands. Having so many enables him to see whether the breed "comes true".

Asks what colour turbits have dark tails – "it is just the class of facts which interest me".

Do fowls when crossed throw odd and unexpected colours like pigeons?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Physical description
ALS 9pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2090,” accessed on 27 May 2024,

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