skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Luke Hindmarsh   12 May [1861]1

Down, Bromley, Kent, S.E.

May 12th.

Dear Sir

I thank you sincerely for your prompt and great kindness, and return the letter, which I have been very glad to see and have had copied.2 The increase is more rapid than I anticipated; but it seems rather conjectural; I had hoped that in so interesting a case some exact record had been kept. The number of births or calves reared till they followed their mothers would perhaps have been best datum. From Mr. Hardy’s letter I infer then 10 must be annually born to make up the deaths from various causes.3 In Paraguay, Azara states that in a herd of 4000 from 1000 to 1300 are reared, but then though they do not kill calves, but castrate the young bulls, no doubt the oxen would be killed earlier than the cows, so that the herd would contain probably more of the female sex, than the herd at Chillingham.4

There is not apparently any record, whether more young Bulls are killed than cows. If you should continue to keep notes on this interesting subject, which you have so well illustrated, it would be worth while to have the date of the last killed owing to the number exceeding 50, until one has to be killed from number exceeding 70. I am surprised that Lord Tankerville does not have exact record kept of deaths and sexes and Births, after a dozen years it would be an interesting statistical record to the naturalist and agriculturalist.

With my cordial thanks for your kindness, I beg leave to remain, Dear Sir, | Yours faithfully and obliged | Charles Darwin.

CD note:5

Azara. (Quadrupeds des Paraguay. Tom. 2. p. 368) states (very accurate now) that cattle on Estuaries *in Paraguay [interl] increase at 1/4 or 1/3 of total— So that where 4000 kept of all ages & all sexes, they produce annually from 1000 to 1300 calves. These are probably reared. They do not kill calves, but castrate— probably more cows than oxen & Bulls, as cows, though killed, are probably not killed so soon.— I do not know [‘how’ del] whether at Chillingham more Bulls killed than cows. Nor how many calves born.— At Chillingham the Bull, if Mr H. estimate be correct must be 1/5 to keep up number—


In Variation 2: 119, CD estimated the annual rate of increase of the Chillingham herd to be ‘about one in five’.
The reference is to Félix d’Azara’s descriptions of the fauna of Paraguay (Azara 1801). See CD’s note, above. In Variation 2: 119, CD compared the rate of increase of the Chillingham herd with that of a half-wild South American breed, citing Azara’s estimate of an annual rate of increase for the latter of ‘one in between three and four’. CD used the comparison to support his argument that cross-breeding leads to increased fertility.
The note is in DAR 46.1: 91; it refers to Azara 1801, an annotated copy of which is in the Darwin Library–CUL.


Azara, Félix d’. 1801. Essais sur l’histoire naturelle des quadrupèdes de la province du Paraguay. 2 vols. Paris: Madame Huzard.

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


Thanks for information about natural increase of Chillingham cattle. Compares with case in Paraguay.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Luke Hindmarsh
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 145
Physical description
1p & draft 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3146,” accessed on 21 January 2022,

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