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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   2 April [1861]

Down Bromley Kent

April 2d.

My dear Sir

Many thanks for all your interesting enclosures & note.1 Your paper at Zoolog. Socy. seems to have been very successful.2 I hope that you may be able to prove that your cock is still fertile & the peculiarity hereditary.—3 It is most singular, the increased combativeness, & a good suggestion that of this cock beating others & so propagating its breed; but probability of this of course will depend on some of the offspring inheriting the peculiarity. I think you will find that the feathers on neck of the male G. varius though not hackles differ from those of hen: the other two known species have hackles.—

Until you know positively that your game-cock always produces “Hennies”, the cross between it & a hen Sebright would hardly be fair.— I feared that a hen-tailed Hamburgh Cock would not easily be procured:4 I would almost wager that such a cross would bring back the tail.—

The notice on Hares is done by some right good naturalist: the examination of their skulls would be out of my line; though I do want & must go to B. Museum for skulls of the largest & smallest species of Hares.—5 You must have a power of clairvoyance; as shown by the offer of examination of skull & skin of the wild fawn-coloured rabbit; so much do I want wild vars. of the rabbit that this very morning I had letter telling me that I shd receive in a week a silver-grey from a Norfolk warren.—6

I presume I may clean the skull well.— But how can I get particulars about this rabbit, whether it is a breed or a single chance variety; & where it lives, & whether the case is true.— I must take in the Field, & will do so.—7

Many thanks for information about the young Pigeons; I shall quote this additional case to the others given by you.—8

By the way in my poultry M.S. I have been lately often “taking your name in vain”: many little facts given by you, which I never thought would have come into play, have been very useful. Did you notice in my “Origin”, I say a little on young Pigeons.—9

With respect to Herbert on Hybridity. He published an appendix to his Amaryllidaceæ 1837 (a large & expensive Book). Also Journal of Hort. Soc. Vol 2. (1847) p. 1 and p. 81.—10

I see you describe nostrils as peculiar in Polands; I think this perhaps ought to be figured— Could you procure & send me (by Carrier) a Polish Bird of any Breed. The whole bird might come dead.—11

I sent you order for 10s for expences,; but I see that I cause you so much loss of time that we must have a settling before I send my M.S. & God knows when that will be done; so many interruptions occur.—12

With sincere thanks | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin


Tegetmeier’s letter has not been found.
Tegetmeier exhibited an adult male brown-breasted red game fowl that had developed female plumage at a meeting of the Zoological Society of London on 26 March 1861 (Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (1861): 102).
At the meeting (see n. 2, above), Tegetmeier stated that he was carrying out experiments to test whether the disposition of male fowl to adopt female plumage was hereditary. In Variation 1: 253, CD mentioned the case, stating that Tegetmeier’s bird had now ‘retained the same character during five seasons’ and had produced ‘both hen-feathered and male-feathered offspring.’
CD had suggested that Tegetmeier might like to attempt this cross (letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 28 March [1861]).
Tegetmeier may have sent CD part of a paper by Edwards Crisp (Crisp 1861), which appeared in the same part (part 1) of the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London for 1861 as the notice about Tegetmeier’s unusual fowl. There is a copy of this part of the Proceedings in the Darwin Library–CUL with both papers lightly annotated. Crisp compared the anatomical structure of several specimens of hare, rabbit, and the so-called leporine or rabbit–hare hybrid. CD cited Crisp 1861 in Variation 1: 126 in his discussion of the relative skull capacities of domestic rabbits and hares.
The letter has not been found. CD’s specimen of a silver-grey rabbit came from the Thetford warren in Norfolk. That of a wild, ‘fawn-coloured variety’ (presumably the one provided by Tegetmeier) is said to have come from Scotland (Variation 1: 127).
Tegetmeier was the editor of The Field, the Farm, the Garden, the Country Gentleman’s Newspaper. This periodical is not listed among the journals in the Darwin Library–CUL or the Darwin Library–Down.
See Variation 1: 170.
Origin 2d ed., p. 445.
Herbert 1837 and 1847.
Tegetmeier was a specialist on Polish fowl (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 20 March [1856]). Skulls of Polish fowls are figured in Variation 1: 262, 263; the nasal bones are discussed in ibid., p. 264.
Tegetmeier had been asked to read, for a fee ‘like a Barrister’, CD’s manuscript on fowls, intended for Variation (see letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 22 March [1861] and 28 March [1861]). An entry on 30 March 1861 for ‘Tegetmeier 10s Science./’ is recorded in CD’s Account book (Down House MS). On 13 June, CD paid him £5 5s. ‘for scientific assistance’. Tegetmeier’s help is acknowledged in Variation 1: 225 n.


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

Crisp, Edwards. 1861. On some points relating to the habits and anatomy of the oceanic and of the freshwater ducks, and also of the hare (Lepus timidus) and of the rabbit (L. cuniculus), in relation to the question of hybridism. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (1861): 82–7.

Herbert, William. 1837. Amaryllidaceæ; preceded by an attempt to arrange the monocotyledonous orders, and followed by a treatise on cross-bred vegetables, and supplement. London: James Ridgway & Sons.

Origin 2d ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1860.

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


Details of peculiarities in poultry.

Is examining wild varieties of rabbit.

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

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3108,” accessed on 16 May 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9