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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. B. Tegetmeier   [28 May 1861]1

I believe that as a general rule a hen when with egg will yield to any cock   I do not think she refuses (as with pigeons) when she requires impregnating

You can make tame hens squat to your hand by scratching the scapular region as with the feet of a cock

I had a tame cochin hen who used to squat to any thing that touched her back, much to the annoyance of my wife the contact of whose dress often produced the movement.

My hen cock was victor always and some of the hens constantly kept with him—a very handsome full feathered bird being in the same yard.— I have never heard that game cocks after being trimmed for fighting were not equal favorites with the hens

In fact strong cocks make the hens yield by stamping alternately with each foot and sometimes will tear open the side with the spur if the foot slips between the hens wing and her body.

The hens impregnated by the hen tailed game cock lay very fertile eggs.— I have just looked at two settings and found all the 21 eggs fertilized—so that impregnation must have been very effectually performed.2

CD annotations

2.1 You … cock 2.2] scored brown crayon
3.2 much to … movement. 3.3] scored brown crayon; ‘This shows so domesticated that all instinct lost.—’ added ink
4.3 being … alternately 5.1] scored brown crayon
Verso of letter: ‘Sexual Selection    W. B. Tegetmeier. | May 28— 1861’ red crayon


The date is given by CD’s annotation. The letter from Tegetmeier was written on the back of the enclosure sent with the letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 14 April [1861]. See also letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 28 May [1861].


[Queries in CD’s hand answered on same pages by WBT.] Sexual selection of fowls; role of beauty in cocks.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 84.1: 144
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3166,” accessed on 1 April 2020,

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