skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Francis Trevelyan Buckland   12 February [1868]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Feb 12

My dear Sir

I was greatly interested by your remarks in the last Nor. of Land & Water on the apparent excess of male trout over the females, for this happens to be a subject to which I am now attending.2 Can you obtain for me & yourself any further information on this head? Would fishmongers know from observing the roe & milt? It might be known with the stickleback from the bright colours of the males.3 Perhaps that excellent observer Mr Lord may have attended to this point in the case of the salmon of N.W. America, as the males wd be known by their hooked jaws.4

I wish much to know about the sexes in all our domestic quadrupeds & birds. Do you think this point has been attended to with fox-hounds & could you interest any great sportsman to give you information.

Perhaps the results may have been published in regard to dogs, horses, cattle, sheep, pigs &c & if so can you give me any reference. I should be grateful for any aid from yourself, or if you cd persuade others to aid me.

Pray believe me | My dear Sir | yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin

If you think the subject of any interest to others, any answers which you could obtain might be published in L. & W. & I shd. thus see them, & it wd save you all trouble in answering this.


The year is established by the reference to the article on trout in Land and Water (see n. 2, below).
Buckland’s article appeared in Land and Water, 5 February 1868, p. 41. A copy is in DAR 85: B142–3. CD quoted from the article on the proportion of the sexes in trout in Descent 1: 308. For a brief commentary on CD’s discussion of sex ratios in fish, see Pauly 2004, pp. 185–7.
CD discussed the colouring of the male stickleback Gasterosteus leiurus during the breeding season in Descent 2: 14. Gasterosteus leiurus is now considered a subspecies of Gasterosteus aculeatus (see Nelson 1994, p. 297). For a summary of CD’s discussion of the stickleback, see Pauly 2004, pp. 197–8.
CD cited John Keast Lord (Lord 1866) on the structural changes in male salmon during the breeding season in Descent 2: 4–6.


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

Lord, John Keast. 1866. The naturalist in Vancouver Island and British Columbia. 2 vols. London: Richard Bentley.

Nelson, Joseph S. 1994. Fishes of the world. 3d edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Pauly, Daniel. 2004. Darwin’s fishes. An encyclopedia of ichthyology, ecology, and evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


CD is much interested in FB’s remarks in Land and Water on the apparent excess of male trout over females and asks for further information on other fish, birds, and domestic quadrupeds.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Francis Trevelyan (Frank) Buckland
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Physical description
LS(A) 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5866,” accessed on 8 June 2023,

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