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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   17 [March 1868]1

4 Chester Place | N.W.


My dear Sir

From facts given me by Mr J. Jenner Weir & his Brother, it was stupid in me not to have suggested to you to colour the breast of the pigeon, where the metallic tints are displayed, instead of the wings or tail.—2 I certainly shd. be very much obliged if you would do this; & if in course of summer you have the opportunity it would be capital to place 2 males with one female, one of the males being coloured on breast.— You can have no spare time, otherwise I wd ask you to buy on my account a few young pigeons & keep them for me & try the colour.—

I was very glad to have the pleasure of seeing you yesterday.—

My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

Mr H. Weir says that some male pigeons, from playing antics & courting the female so well, are troublesome from causing paired females to be unfaithful to their mates; & that such “gay” males (as the fanciers call them) have sometimes to be shut up.—3 Have you ever heard of such specially amorous “gay” deceivers??


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. J. Weir, 16 March 1868.
John Jenner Weir and Harrison Weir had expressed the opinion that colour did not play a significant role in sexual selection in pigeons but noted that the iridescent neck was the only part of the body with brilliant colours and that males inflated their necks during courtship (see letter from J. J. Weir, 16 March 1868).


For experiment on effect of male beauty, pigeons should be coloured on the breast.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Sent from
London, Chester Place, 4
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6017,” accessed on 2 March 2024,

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