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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Robert Swinhoe   5 August 1867


5 August, 1867.

My dear Mr. Darwin

Your letter of 27 February with its enclosure on human expression has a long time been before me;1 and has my attention— I am taking long to make observations, but it is your wish that such should not be made in a hurry. To make them as complete as I can I am enlisting the services of Surgeons, Missionaries &c   The skin on a Chinaman’s countenance is so tightly stretched that it is often difficult to detect the wrinkles, and it is the study of the mandarins & literati to affect a stolid look, often under the most trying circumstances. The lower classes will I expect give the best opportunities for experiment. I will do my best for you any way.

I have taken the following note for you under date 13 June. Mr. Gisbert, the Spanish Consul at Amoy,2 visited me this afternoon. He ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠s me that when he was an engineer on the roads in Spain some years ago, he was fond of shooting and roaming about the country. That in the Sierra Morena, a Strawberry-tree (Arbutus unedo?) was very abundant, and bore large quantities of a red fruit like fine large red strawberries. These gave quite a glow to the woods. The spot on the mountain chain he speaks of is on the divisional line between the provinces of Seville and Badajos.3 Under these trees Hedgehogs occurred innumerable and fed on the fruit, which the Spaniards call Madroño. 4 He has often seen an Erizo (Hedgehog)5 trotting along with at least a dozen of these Strawberries sticking on its spines. He supposes that the Hedgehogs were carrying the fruit to their holes to eat in quiet and security, and that to procure them the Hedgehogs must have rolled themselves over the fruit which was scattered in great abundance all over the ground beneath the trees.

Let me call your attention to the Red domestic Pigs in the Zoological Gardens— They are the Pigs and only domestic animal of the Formosan Savage. I have seen white patched and white varieties, but the Red is the prevalent colour. It seems to me that these pigs are direct descendants from the wild pig of the Formosan Mountains Sus taivanus;6 but I have found them breed freely with the curious long-haired Pig of North China.7 The red mother in two cases produced each time 8 young, all black like their sire. There has not been time yet to see if the offspring are prolific.

The wild pig of Formosa is blackish-brown with a whitish moustache streak. The latter disappears or shows very faintly in the domestic state. The colour of these animals would seem to show that with them at least erythrism is the first stage in domestication as in the gold-fish; albinism the second; at melanism they have not yet arrived— In the sty they are shy and wildish.

The Chinese in Formosa import the black long-faced and curved-back breed of Amoy and have not much fancy for the savages’ breed.

Dr Sclater on noting the arrival of these Pigs from Formosa unfortunately stated that they were the wild Formosan Pig, and that he therefore could not understand the fact of one of them having a white patch.8 We have also sent the wild pig, which I hope will reach safe and give an opportunity for comparison—

I sent a Bear from Chefoo (N. China)9 noting how like it was to & probably the same as the Himalayan (Ursus tibetanus). I suppose Chefoo (one of the ports open to trade) was taken for some place in Formosa, & the Society were informed that it was sent to illustrate my Ursus formosanus but unfortunately turned out to be U. tibetanus. I have lately sent a true Formosan Bear to put the matter straight. I think no one will deny that it is a good species.10 Insular forms of Bears, Flying Squirrels, Jays & many other animals, you can with almost certainty indicate as distinct from those of the adjacent main.11

I trust your health is fast reestablishing, and that the work we are all looking forward to will appear ere long—12

Your’s very sincerely, | Robert Swinhoe

Charles Darwin

CD annotations

1.1 Your letter … trees. 2.14] crossed pencil
2.1 Mr. Gisbert,] after opening double quotes, pencil
2.2 visited … He] crossed pencil
Top of letter: ‘As you have lately published an account of Hedgeh wch carry apples [illeg] on their spines, you may think the following statement sent me by’ pencil, del pencil | ‘Formosa Pigs’ pencil


CD evidently sent Swinhoe a handwritten copy of his queries about expression. Neither the letter nor the original enclosure has been found. Swinhoe had the enclosure published in Notes and Queries on China and Japan 1 (1867): 105; this published version is reproduced in this volume as the enclosure to the (missing) letter to Robert Swinhoe, [27 February 1867].
Francisco Xavier or Javier Gisbert. See letter to Hardwicke’s Science Gossip, [before 1 December 1867]. Amoy (now Xiamen) is located in Fujian Province at the mouth of the Amoy (now Jiulong) river (Columbia gazetteer of the world).
The Sierra Morena is a mountain range, parts of which are in the provinces of Seville and Badajoz, in south-western Spain (Columbia gazetteer of the world).
Madroño: the Spanish name for the tree Arbutus unedo.
Erizo: the Spanish name for the common hedgehog, Erinaceus europaeus.
Swinhoe had earlier described the Formosan mountain pig as Porcula taivana (see Swinhoe 1862, pp. 360–1), but later amended his description, calling the species Sus taivanus (see Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (1864): 383). Sus taivanus is now considered a sub-species of S. scrofa (see Oliver ed. 1993, p. 113). Formosa (now Taiwan) has both coastal and inland mountain ranges.
Swinhoe is probably referring to the Chinese subspecies now designated Sus scrofa moupinensis (Oliver ed. 1993, pp. 112–13).
Philip Lutley Sclater was secretary of the Zoological Society of London (DSB). For Sclater’s account of the pigs sent to London from Taiwan, see Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (1866): 419.
Chefoo (now Yantai) is situated on the north coast of the Shandong peninsula, China. It was opened to foreign trade in 1862 (Columbia gazetteer of the world).
Swinhoe had initially described the Formosan black bear as probably a distinct species from the Himalayan black bear (see Swinhoe 1862, pp. 351–2), but after examining a number of skulls of both forms, he concluded that they belonged to the same species. The bear that Swinhoe had just sent to the London Zoological Society Gardens survived and, according to Abraham Dee Bartlett, could not be distinguished from the Himalayan form (see Swinhoe 1870, p. 621). The species is now known as the Asiatic black bear, Ursus thibetanus (Nowak 1999, pp. 681–2). The Formosan bear is now Ursus thibetanus subsp. formosanus.
Swinhoe described two species of flying squirrels native to Formosa (Swinhoe 1862, pp. 358–9). He also described the jay native to Formosa as a distinct species (Swinhoe 1863, p. 386).
Swinhoe refers to Variation, published in January 1868.


Columbia gazetteer of the world: The Columbia gazetteer of the world. Edited by Saul B. Cohen. 3 vols. New York: Columbia University Press. 1998.

DSB: Dictionary of scientific biography. Edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie and Frederic L. Holmes. 18 vols. including index and supplements. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1970–90.

Nowak, Ronald M. 1999. Walker’s mammals of the world. 6th edition. 2 vols. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Oliver, William L. R. ed. 1993. Pigs, peccaries, and hippos: status survey and conservation action plan. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

Swinhoe, Robert. 1862. On the mammals of the island of Formosa (China). [Read 9 December 1862.] Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (1862): 347–65.

Swinhoe, Robert. 1863a. The ornithology of Formosa, or Taiwan. Ibis 5: 198–219, 250–311, 377–435.

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


Will do his best to get observations on expression among the Chinese.

Reports observations on hedgehogs collecting fruit with their spines.

Discusses the domestic pig of Formosa, its wild ancestors, and its capacity to breed with other races.

Letter details

Letter no.
Robert Swinhoe
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 330
Physical description
ALS 4pp damaged †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5598,” accessed on 29 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15