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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Skeffington Poole   23 October 1858

23rd. Oct. 1858

Dear Sir,

I have yours of yesterday, & I am glad that the information I have been able to give is useful to you.1

You will observe that what I have stated is “from recollection only”. I mention this, as you wish to quote my name as authority, this I have no objection to, but as there may be some little inaccuracy, I should not like to assert all I have stated, as positive facts, though to the best of my recollection they are so, under this proviso you may quote my name—

The true Kattywar horse is not a “Stumpy” “Cob-built” animal in any respect, but well proportioned with a fine high crest and withers, standing from 15 to 16 hands high (I have heard them 17 hands high) they have very easy paces and are pleasant to ride from having high action—

There are plenty of animals that are Bull-necked, “Stumpy” & “Cob-like”— These are generally called “Tattoos” though they may be the height of a horse—

The true breed of Kattywar horses has much deteriorated in the last twenty years, and will soon become extinct from want of care. Not one twentieth of the horses being bred there now that there were thirty years ago. There are many fine horses still in existence, but are difficult to be seen as they are located in the [houses] with the people who are very [anxious] about them— I have seen many bay mares of the Katty breed equal in appearance to the best English blood.

The wild Ass on the banks of the Runn, is the same as that found in Northern Persia, but I do not know the scientific name. It stands higher than the domestic ass, is most beautifully proportioned— The head and legs are striped when first foaled, but the mark across the withers is not so distinct, as either that of the tame ass, or the Kattywar horse and soon becomes [illeg].2

The colour is much the same as that of the domestic light coloured Ass—

They are very fleet, so much so, that it is a rare occurrence to overtake them on the most fleet horse, although run over a country perfectly level— They keep in herds of about 15 or 20 and are very difficult to be got near— They frequent the Runn more about [illeg] [Jamna] and Naggar Parkar3 than any other point— When the dam is going to bring forth, she leaves the herd and hides herself in any adjoining jungle, where she leaves the young, visiting it each day till it can run strongly—as should the old males get at it, and it prove to be a male, they emasculate it by biting out the testicles, at least this is the way in which the natives account for so many Geldings being found in the herds, which can always be recognised, they being so much larger than the others, and when shot they have always proved to be Geldings— The Villagers at the breeding season watch the dams into the jungle, & by this means obtain their young— The doctor of my Regt. at Deesa4 had two a male and female, which he brought up & though every care was taken of them, they could not be tamed, so as to be used for riding or any domestic purpose, indeed they are said to be untameable.

I believe it to be well known, that some years ago, some of the Katty breed of horses were sent home to one of our Sovereigns, this may account for the breed appearing in England— It is to be traced to a breed of horses now to be seen at Elvaston Castle (Lord Harrington’s) and these are known to have come originally from the Royal Stud.—5


CD cited Poole for this information in Origin, p. 163. The Runn of Kutch (or Rann of Cutch) is a salt marsh north of Kathiawar (Kattywar).
Nagar Parker is a town north of the Rann of Cutch, and is now in Pakistan.
Deesa is a town east of Cutch, in Gujurat, India. Poole’s regiment was listed as being stationed there in 1841 and 1848; the surgeon on both occasions was Abraham Israel Montefiore (India list).
Elvaston Castle in Derbyshire was the seat of the fifth earl of Harrington, Leicester FitzGerald Charles Stanhope. The story about Kathiawari horses being sent to England has not been substantiated.


Further 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. 2347F,” accessed on 23 November 2020,

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