skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Blenkiron Jr   [c. February 1868?]1

Middle Park, | Eltham, Kent.

Dear Sir

From what little experience I have had amongst horses I should say the mane of the stallion is as a rule thicker & stronger than that of the mare, when both are allowed to live in as near a state of nature as is possible—2 In the case of horses fighting, they invariably endeavour to seize one another by the neck, & I do not fancy the mane is there to act as a sort of protection any more than the forelock3

Yours faithfully | Wm Blenkiron Jr

My father is away & I am sorry to say from ill health4

CD annotations

1.3 they … neck, 1.4] double scored red crayon
End of letter: ‘Blenkiron | Mr Cassells (Trainer to Mr Turnbull) says mane is decidedly stronger in stallion. Mr C says that stallion constantly bite each other necks.—’5 ink


The date is conjectured from the relationship between this letter, the letter to G. H. K. Thwaites, 13 February [1868], and the letter to B. J. Sulivan, 18 February [1868]. In the former letter, CD explained, ‘My object is to find out with various animals how far the mane is of any use, or a mere ornament’. In the second letter, CD enquired about horses’ fighting.
In Descent 2: 268, CD wrote that stallions had thicker and fuller manes than mares. Blenkiron’s father, William Blenkiron Sr, ran a stud at Middle Park, Eltham (Craig 1982, p. 201).
In Descent 2: 268, CD wrote that he had enquired of two great trainers and breeders and been assured that horses invariably tried to seize one another by the neck when fighting.
The reference is to William Blenkiron Sr. CD cited him on the sexual preferences of racehorses in Descent 2: 272.
Mr Cassells has not been further identified. CD probably also refers to his neighbour George Henry Turnbull.


Craig, Dennis. 1982. Horse-racing: the breeding of thoroughbreds and a short history of the English turf. 4th edition. Revised by Miles Napier. London: J. A. Allen.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.


Answers for father, who is ill, on difference between manes of stallions and mares.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Blenkiron, Jr
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 83: 184
Physical description
ALS 2pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5340,” accessed on 5 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16