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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   8 May [1860]1

Down Bromley Kent

May 8th

My dear Sir

You have answered all my questions as fully, as clearly & as kindly as you have ever given me information on any point on which I was curious. I thank you sincerely.—   I am now drawing up an account of the differences of the breeds of pigeons & this morning used on your authority the very curious case about the down of just hatched Pigeons & the colour of the mature bird.—2

By the way it just occurs to me, whether any of the Breeders have noticed any difference in length of time of eggs being hatched in such different breeds as Tumbler, Turbit, Pouter, Carriers & Runts.—   I do not suppose there would be any difference, but it would be a good fact to give if you could ascertain it without much trouble & permit me to quote it on your authority. I never thought about it, till today or I would have observed when I had pigeons alive. It would be almost equally curious to know positively that such differently sized birds as Runts & Tumblers hatched their eggs in same time.—

With cordial thanks | Yours sincerely | C. Darwin

P.S. I hope that you will give my sincere thanks to Mr H. Weir, Mr Esquilant & Mr Jones for their kindness.—3


Dated by CD’s reference to writing his manuscript on pigeons (see n. 2, below).
CD’s journal indicates that he wrote up his material on pigeons between March and June 1860 (‘Journal’; Appendix II). The manuscript was eventually published as part of Variation. The case referred to was described in Variation 1: 170: Mr. Tegetmeier has informed me of 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. The case was mentioned again in Variation 2: 332. See also Correspondence vol. 6, letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 19 November [1856], 12 [May 1857], and [18 June 1857].
CD thanked Harrison William Weir for his assistance in Variation 1: 132 n. 2. F. C. Esquilant, secretary of the Philoperisteron Society, a pigeon-fanciers’ club, is also cited in support of this point in Variation 1: 170. P. H. Jones was a leading member of both the Philoperisteron and the National Columbarian Society and became the first secretary of the amalgamated National Peristeronic Society (Fulton [1874–6]).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Fulton, Robert. [1874–6.] The illustrated book of pigeons. With standards for judging. London, Paris & New York: Cassell Petter & Galpin.

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


Thanks WBT for observations on colours of newly-hatched pigeons of different breeds. Asks if breeders have noticed any differences in lengths of time eggs were incubated in different breeds.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2790,” accessed on 14 August 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8