skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To the Field   [before 15 June 1861]1

I hope that you will permit me to return my sincere thanks to “Eques,” of Argyllshire, for his information.2 I have talked to many persons, but have never found any one who knew nearly so much about the inheritance of colours in horses. “Eques” asks me to define what is meant by dun—I wish I could. It seems that almost any colour that is not bay, chesnut, black, grey, or one of the roans, is sometimes called dun. Even in mouse-duns I have seen two very distinct tints. The commonest colour which, in my limited experience, I have heard called dun, is a bay or chesnut, more or less diluted with cream or clay tint. In India, the Kattywar breed, which is more striped than any other breed, is called dun; but, as I am informed by Col. Poole, the colour is generally between brown and black.3 I now see that I should have put my question thus—Are horses, of any of the many indefinite tints commonly called duns, with a stripe along the spine, or with stripes across the legs, ever produced from parents neither of which are striped? for the first appearance or origin of the stripes is chiefly interesting for my purpose. I put the case—Are duns ever produced from parents neither of which are duns, because horses thus coloured are so frequently striped? and I thought I should more easily find out the parentage merely of the dun colour. What “Eques” says about the dirty mark on the withers, representing a single or double stripe, is exactly what I have observed. If “Eques” could find out, without much trouble, the colour of the dam and sire of his dun mare with the list and stripes, which was bred in Argyllshire, I should be very glad to hear it;4 but I have already caused “Eques” very much trouble, and I beg permission again to thank him.—

Charles Darwin (Down, Bromley, Kent).


Dated by the publication of the letter in the 15 June 1861 issue of the Field. It appeared under the heading ‘Dun horses’.
See letter to the Field, [before 25 May 1861] and n. 5.
CD had written in 1858 to Skeffington Poole, a retired lieutenant-colonel from the first regiment light cavalry, Bengal, with queries on the colours and stripes of native Indian horses (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to Skeffington Poole, 13 October [1858]). CD cited information on the subject provided by Poole in Variation 1: 58, 59.
A response from ‘Eques (Argylshire)’ was published in the 27 July 1861 issue of the Field; the author stated that the dam of his dun mare had been dun, ‘a bluer dun than herself’, and the sire, brown (Field, 18 (1861): 91).


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

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


His thanks to "Eques" of Argyllshire for his remarkable information on the inheritance of colour in horses. Acknowledges the difficulty of defining dun. Requests further information.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
The Field
Sent from
Source of text
The Field, the Farm, the Garden, the Country Gentleman’s Newspaper 17 (1861): 521

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3182A,” accessed on 8 December 2021,

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