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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. E. Gray   6 February 1868

Brit. Mus

Feb 6 1868

My Dear Darwin

Nathusius is not in any of the London Libraries   I have sent to the Royal Zoological, Linnean, & our own without effect— I should like to see your copy1   I will not keep it more than a week, so that your carrier can call for it again.2

It is too late for me to refer to it I fear, but as the subject is fresh in my head, it would be interesting to see it3   I find the skull of all the Domestic Pig from different countries & breeds very much alike

You make so few references to the Knowsley Menagery & my monograph of Ungulates in the Museum Catalogue that I suspect you have not the [facility] of refering to it.4 I will send a copy of the work back by your carrier when he comes on Thursday.

I wish there were more references to the present state of Zoology, founded on the examination of Specimens & I think you would have found that Mr Blyth poor man is scarcely trustworthy about cats, &c &c, especially since his malady—5 He came here the other day when I had a set of the skulls of Indian or rather asiatic Rhinocerates on the table   He said at once this is R. Indicus that R sondaicus, when all he was looking at were R Indicus the set of R. Sondaicus being on the other table which he had not seen.6

It is the same with respect to Felis chaus   he say the Indian one in the Garden is exactly like the F Chaus of Egypt., they are unlike in skull, sizes of eyes Tail &c as can be, the Indian chaus been the same as F caffer & F caligulata which are all one species—7

Ever Yours sincerely | J. E Gray

You do not seem to be aware of the African Zebu Bos dante which is the Zebu of Egypt—8 figured in the [Hyeroglifics] & still found in W Africa

You mention instances of insanity be Heredittary9   It is doubtless so but some cases shew a curiously [illeg]

I knew & indeed had some things to do with them, as the 3 children of a dead friend. The Husbands of two of the sisters, died insane   the third sister died insane or Idiotic, unmarried.

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘I cannot read all | I do not know your Catalogue of Ungulates | Send by QQQQ QQQQ’


Gray refers to Nathusius 1864 and to the libraries of the Royal Society, Zoological Society, and Linnean Society of London. See letter from J. E. Gray, 4 February 1868. CD’s annotated copy of Nathusius 1864 is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 630–5).
George Snow operated a carrier service between Down and London (Freeman 1978).
Gray had just presented a paper on the taxonomy of pigs at the Zoological Society of London; it was published in the society’s Proceedings (J. E. Gray 1868).
Gray produced two volumes with the title Gleanings from the menagerie and aviary at Knowsley Hall (J. E. Gray 1846 and 1850), and a catalogue of the Ungulata in the British Museum (J. E. Gray 1852a). The Gleanings are cited in Variation 2: 42, 149, 157. These works are not in the Darwin Libraries at CUL or at Down. CD ordered J. E. Gray 1846 or 1850 in a letter to a librarian with the conjectured date of 27 October [1846 or 1848?] (Correspondence vol. 3).
Edward Blyth evidently spent a period in a private asylum during 1865 and 1866. See Correspondence vol. 14, letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, [after 24 January 1866]. His health problems are discussed in Brandon-Jones 1995 and 1997. He is cited extensively in Variation, and supplied much information on cats (Variation 1: 43–5, 48).
Rhinoceros indicus, the great Indian rhinoceros from India and Nepal, is a synonym of Rhinoceros unicornis (Rookmaaker 1983). Rhinoceros sondaicus, the Javan rhinoceros, was originally found in south-east Asia, Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, and east India. Blyth had written a memoir on the rhinoceros in which he discussed R. indicus and R. sondaicus (Blyth 1862). Gray had produced a taxonomy of the genus based on specimens in the British Museum (J. E. Gray 1867a).
Gray wrote a series of papers on cat taxonomy in 1867 (J. Gray 1867b, 1867c, 1867d), one of which criticised Blyth’s classification of the wild cats of India and Africa (J. E. Gray 1867d). Blyth had published a paper on the wild cats of India (Blyth 1863), and remarks on specimens sent to the museum of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (Blyth 1856). CD’s discussion of cats in Variation drew on Blyth 1856 among other publications. For a modern taxonomy of wild cats, see Nowell and Jackson eds. 1996, pp. 307–13. Felis chaus is the jungle cat, which ranges from north-east Africa to south-east Asia. Felis caffer (or F. cafra) is now considered a variety of F. silvestris lybica, the African wildcat. Gray may also refer to F. silvestris ornata (the Asian steppe cat), which is found in India. Felis caligulata (or more commonly F. maniculata) is a name that appears in Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville’s Ostéographie, based on a mummified specimen found in Egypt (Blainville 1841–55, 3: 89–90, 175; see also Variation 1: 43).
CD had referred in Variation 1: 79 to all humped cattle inhabiting tropical countries as Indian zebu, or Bos indicus. Gray had classed zebus found in Africa as Bos dante in his catalogue of the Ungulata in the British Museum (J. E. Gray 1852, pp. 22–3).
CD discussed inherited insanity in Variation 2: 7, 78.


Blainville, Henri Marie Ducrotay de. 1841–55. Ostéographie, ou description iconographique comparée du squelette et du système dentaire des cinq classes d’animaux vertébrés récents et fossiles pour servir de base à la zoologie et à la géologie. 3 vols. and atlas (2 vols.). Paris: Arthus Bertrand.

Blyth, Edward. 1856. Curator’s report for the August meeting, 1856. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 25 (1857): 439-49. [Vol. 5]

Blyth, Edward. 1862. A memoir on the living Asiatic species of Rhinoceros. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 31: 151–75.

Blyth, Edward. 1863. Synoptical list of the species of Felis inhabiting the Indian region and the adjacent parts of middle Asia. [Read 26 May 1863.] Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (1863): 181–6.

Brandon-Jones, Christine. 1995. Long gone and forgotten: reassessing the life and career of Edward Blyth, zoologist. Archives of Natural History 22: 91–5.

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

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Gray, John Edward. 1846. Gleanings from the menagerie and aviary at Knowsley Hall. Knowsley: [privately printed].

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Nathusius, Hermann von. 1864. Vorstudien für Geschichte und Zucht der Hausthiere zunächst am Schweineschädel. 1 vol. and atlas. Berlin: Wiegandt und Hempel.

Rookmaaker, L. C. 1983. Bibliography of the Rhinoceros. An analysis of the literature on the recent rhinoceroses in culture, history and biology. Rotterdam: A. A. Balkema.

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


Would like a look at Nathusius.

Edward Blyth’s inability to recognise cats’ skulls.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Edward Gray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
British Museum
Source of text
DAR 165: 214
Physical description
5pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5846,” accessed on 21 January 2022,

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