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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   17 December [1857]

Down Bromley Kent

Dec. 17th

My dear Fox

I am very much obliged for your Rabbit Letter: I have forgotten your having before mentioned to me this breed: I presume it is that called at Shows the “Himalaya breed”.—1 You call it black nosed & brown-tailed; I suppose the ears are black. If not, & you could get me an old accidentally dead specimen I shd. be very glad, but I can hardly doubt it is the so-called Himalaya, one of which I have now skeletonising from Zoolog. Socy.— I am particularly glad to hear about this variety being so true: its history has been published, & I have it somewhere, but for the life of me I cannot tell where.2 It is was produced, I think, from a cross of two sub -breeds of the French Silver Grey Rabbit.— I know it is closely connected with Silver Greys. If the ears are not black, will you tell me: all that I have seen had red eyes.—

There is one odd point in this breed, which will serve to identify it, the young are quite white & the black ears &c appear subsequently.—3 I had forgotten that the under side of tail was brown.— By the way Silver-Grey Rabbits are quite black when born, a curious contrast with so called Himalaya.—

I have heard from Mr Woodd & will second him & if possible attend the voting.—4

In regard to Douche you will find the same water will last sweet, especially with charcoal floating on it, for a long time.5

Yours affectionately | C. Darwin


CD mentioned the Himalayan breed of domestic rabbits in the letter to W. D. Fox, 14 June [1856].
In Variation 1: 108 n. 15, CD cited an article in the Cottage Gardener 18 (1857): 141–2, on the origin of the Himalayan rabbits. The author believed the breed resulted from a cross between a tame silver gray doe and a silver gray buck that had ‘one-eighth of wild blood in him.’ (Cottage Gardener 18 (1857): 141).
In Variation 1: 109, CD cited Fox as having found that on occasion in these rabbits ‘the young are born of a very pale grey colour’.
Charles Henry Lardner Woodd, Fox’s brother-in-law and a geologist with whom CD had earlier corresponded (see Correspondence vol. 4, letter to C. H. L. Woodd, 4 March 1850), was seeking membership of the Athenæum Club (see Correspondence vol. 7, letters to George Bentham, 27 January [1858], and W. D. Fox, 31 January [1858]). Woodd is not listed in Francis Gledstanes Waugh, Members of the Athenæum Club, 1824 to 1887 (London, [1888]).
CD had erected a douche in the garden of Down House in 1849 to enable him to continue the cold-water treatment that he had begun at James Manby Gully’s hydropathic establishment in Malvern (see Correspondence vol. 4, letters to Susan Darwin, [19 March 1849], and to W. D. Fox, 4 September [1850]). By 1853, CD no longer used the douche (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to Edward Cresy, 29 April [1853]).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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


Thanks WDF for his letter about a rabbit breed that he thinks is the Himalaya. He is particularly glad to hear of it because it breeds so true.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 105)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2187,” accessed on 17 May 2022,

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