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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. B. Tegetmeier   [c. 26 September 1863]1

Dear Sir

Excuse this hurried note but I thought you would like to see the Enclosed from last weeks Field Newspaper.

Yours most truly | W B Tegetmeier

Do not trouble to acknowledge receipt.


A fact for Mr Darwin—zebra-striped ass.—3 There is a grey coloured female jackass, about 15 years old, in the possession of a fruiterer in this neighbourhood, which has the four legs striped like a zebra up to the knees and hocks respectively. The stripes grow fainter behind; on the forelegs anteriorly, though not complete as in the zebra, they are very distinct and symmetrical. The muzzle and jaw, half way up to the eye, are black, and there is a broad black band at the base of each ear. All the history I could obtain about the animal was that “it came out of Suffolk,” and that it was “a rare good ’un”—this last exclamation being produced by an offer on my part to buy the skin of the animal, should it ever die, a fact which is, I suppose, somewhat problematical, as one never sees a dead ass. I opine, from the above exclamation and other “hints,” that its owner would rather I did not wait for its decease, but is quite ready to part with it now for “a consideration.”—C. R. Bree, M.D. (Colchester)4


The date is established by the date of publication of the enclosed abstract from the Field newspaper (see n. 2, below).
The enclosure, which appeared in the Field, 19 September 1863, p. 298, is with Tegetmeier’s letter in DAR 178: 59.
CD was interested in the inheritance of shoulder stripes in horses and asses, and had asked several of his correspondents to report any observations they had made on this subject (see Correspondence vols. 6–8); he considered the presence of stripes to be a reversion to a primitive characteristic of an ancient progenitor (see Origin, pp. 163–7, and Variation 1: 55–64; 2: 41–3).
The zoologist Charles Robert Bree was a surgeon at the Essex and Colchester Hospital (Medical directory). There is no record of any correspondence between CD and Bree on the inheritance of shoulder stripes in asses; Bree was not cited in Variation. Bree had been a strong opponent of Origin (see Bree 1860 and Correspondence vol. 8).


Bree, Charles Robert. 1860. Species not transmutable, nor the result of secondary causes. Being a critical examination of Mr Darwin’s work entitled ‘Origin and variation of species’. London: Groombridge & Sons. Edinburgh: Maclachlan & Stewart.

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

Medical directory: The London medical directory … every physician, surgeon, and general practitioner resident in London. London: C. Mitchell. 1845. The London and provincial medical directory. London: John Churchill. 1848–60. The London & provincial medical directory, inclusive of the medical directory for Scotland, and the medical directory for Ireland, and general medical register. London: John Churchill. 1861–9. The medical directory … including the London and provincial medical directory, the medical directory for Scotland, the medical directory for Ireland. London: J. & A. Churchill. 1870–1905.

Origin: 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. 1859.

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


Encloses a cutting from the Field: C. R. Bree on zebra-striped asses.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 178: 59
Physical description
1p enc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4314,” accessed on 9 July 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11