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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Skeffington Poole   [21 October 1858]1

Premising the breed of horses inquired about, to be that of Kattywar.—

I beg to offer the following replies to the questions sent, but at the same time give them from recollection only.2

(1) “Dunn” is a colour between a brown and a black, but there are various shades of it in the Katty horse—

“Dunn” has nothing to do with “Cream Colour” A “cream-coloured” horse has a mealy mouth, and this is never seen in a “Dun” horse— Neither Bay nor Chestnut have anything to do with “Dun” nor is it so understood in India— “Mouse-Dun” is a colour like a mouse, only tinged with “dun”. There are also Mouse Coloured horses that you would not apply dun to at all.

(2) “Tiger Marks” are stripes on the cheeks, noses withers, and fore and hind legs, many shades darker than the colour of the horses, and are called so from their resemblance to the stripes on a Tiger.

I have never heard these stripes called “Zebra Marks” by the Natives nor do I suppose the people of Kattywar, where these horses are bred ever saw or heard of a Zebra, besides which, the stripes on the Katty horse are not analogous to the Zebra— Colonel Curtis3 I daresay applies both terms with the same meaning.

(3) There are so many shades of “Dun”, “Mouse-dun”, & Mouse colour that the colt or filly varies very much in colour when first foaled, and it would be almost impossible to describe what is asked—indeed none but a most experienced hand can tell what the colour of a foal will be—

The stripes are more distinct on the colts being first foaled than at any other time (just the same as the wild Ass, which is found in numbers on the banks of the Runn)4 they then become less & less distinct till after the first coat is shed when they come out as strong as before, and fade or grow out as the age of the horse increases, but in some horses I have known the stripes perceptible at the age of 25 years

(4) The “Tiger” like bars, or stripes on the legs, are common in “dun”, “Mouse-dun” and “Mouse” coloured horses, the stripes are common on both fore and hind legs, but not more so on the fore than the hind legs— These stripes are also often to be seen on the cheeks and sides of the nose, also round the eyes— If this breed of horses of the above colour had not the stripes about them they would not be of the pure Katty breed—and horses of these colours without the stripes are not considered pure—

There are plenty of these coloured horses in “India” but they are an inferior Animal altogether

In Kutch the adjoining Province these coloured horses are numerous but worth very little in comparison, the pure Katty being valued at as many thousands of rupees as the Kutch is at hundreds—

(5) (1) The shoulder stripe like that of a domesticated ass, is general on
all these pure Katty horses of the above colours—
(2) One half of the “Indian dun” horses may have a shoulder stripe, and also have the “List”—5
(3) I have often seen the shoulder stripe double and sometimes treble, these are considered extra well bred.

(6) I have seen both Greys & Bays with these stripes when first foaled but they soon fade away. I have never known them in a chestnut. Black horses are very rare in India—

(7) No crossing of other colours will produce a “dun” in my opinion, either the dam or sire must be a “dun”—6

(8) I don’t believe that any distinct breeds of horses whether “dun” or any other colour when crossed would produce offspring with “List” or shoulder “stripes” or tiger like stripes on the legs unless such marks appear in one of the parents.—


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letters to Skeffington Poole, 20 October [1858] and 22 October [1858] (this volume, Supplement).
See Correspondence vol. 7, letter to Skeffington Poole, 13 October [1858] and n. 4, and this volume, Supplement, letter to Skeffington Poole, 20 October [1858]. CD cited information from this letter in Origin, pp. 164 and 166, and Variation 1: 58 and 59.
See this volume, Supplement, letter to Skeffington Poole, 20 October [1858] and n. 4.
The Runn of Kutch (or Rann of Cutch) is a salt marsh north of Kathiawar (Kattywar).
List: a stripe of colour (OED).
CD was interested in whether the dun colour in horses could appear when neither parent was dun, as an instance of reversion to the ancestral colour; see also this volume, Supplement, letter from J. K. Ince, [1857–61?] and n. 4.


Information about about Kattywar (Kathiawari) horses in India.

Letter details

Letter no.
Skeffington Poole
Charles Robert Darwin
Source of text
Ronald Levine, Modern 1st Editions

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2346G,” accessed on 27 November 2020,

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