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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. B. Innes   7 December 1868

Milton Brodie

7th. Decr 1868

Dear Darwin,

At our cattle shew today there was exhibited an odd looking beast supposed to be a cross between a Highland cow and a red deer or roe—1 It has much of the deer head, and legs, it is a dun, the hair curley, on body, and nearly bare on legs. I did not see it at liberty but it is said to go with the long trot of the deer and to carry its head looking about like them. It strikes one on looking at it to have as much of the deer as cow about it. All that the owner, McDonald tenant of Blervie2 knows about it is that a little cow in the hills who had been in places frequented by deer had calved it two years ago. A veterinary surgon at Inverness McLean bought it and I have told him to ascertain what he can about it and tell me, in case you may care to know about it. I have asked him to give an accurate description of its coat, the formation of legs, gait, habits, to ascertain whether the dam had been put to bull, or if a bull was within reach of access when she was running loose— To send a photograph of the beast, a female

If this is a curiosity and anything occurs to you to ask I will put the questions, or you could ask them of Mr. McLean VS. Inverness.3

Mr. Key, a corn merchant in Forres told me he had once before seen a beast of the kind but it was not such an ugly one as this.4

Believe me Dear Darwin | Yours faithfully | J Brodie Innes


Innes refers to a breed of Bos taurus native to Scotland (Highland cattle), to Cervus elaphus scoticus (the red deer), and to Capreolus capreolus (the roe deer).
Probably James McDonald. Blervie castle is five miles south-east of Forres in northern Scotland.
Mr Key has not been further identified.


Describes a supposed cross between a cow and a red deer or doe.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Brodie Innes
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Milton Brodie
Source of text
DAR 167: 21
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6493,” accessed on 30 May 2023,

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