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Darwin Correspondence Project

From George Cupples   4 January 1869

The Cottage | Guard Bridge | Fifeshire. N.B.

Jany 4th. 1869.

Dear Mr Darwin,

(If I may be permitted so to say,)

I seize on any pretext in order to have an opportunity of wishing you the best wishes of the season, with health improved from that reported in your last kind communication to me. I trust the seaside change did good, so as to refresh you for further work in the great cause.1

My said pretext is merely this—that I have lately got a fine Pyrenean dog, and find there is an singular peculiarity in the breed (the breed being an old one, the main foundation of others better-known)—viz. that they have six well-developed toes on the hind-foot, and I understand this is always the case when they are pure. In this country, when there are five, I think (as in “collies”,) the dew-claw is considered an excrescence—and a dog of high-breed, as in deerhounds, is bound to have only four hinder-toes.2

I do not know that this is worth mentioning to you—but you will perhaps pardon the officiousness as before, on the ground of the deferential homage meant to be expressed. And it may stand for what it is worth.

With sincere regards | I am | Dear Sir, ever truly yours | George Cupples

Charles Darwin, Esq. | F.R.S. &c. &c. &c.

P.S. I have been and am receiving some interesting notes on in-breeding from Mr Wright (who wrote to you some time ago.)3 I do not know if he made any such statements to you—but he has had large experience—and if ever there is anything of the sort you might want, I could get it for you. | G.C.


CD had been at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight from 17 July until 20 August 1868 (see Correspondence vol. 16, Appendix II).
In Variation 2: 317–18, CD noted the development of the rudimentary fifth toe in some large breeds of dogs.
John Wright had written to CD on 11 June 1868, sending information on female preference in mating and proportional numbers of sexes for horses and dogs (Correspondence vol. 16). He later sent information on the size of male and female deer-hounds (see Correspondence vol. 16, letter from George Cupples, 13 July 1868).


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

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


Receiving notes on inbreeding from T. T. Wright, who has long experience with the subject.

Reports six-toed pup.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Cupples
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Guard Bridge
Source of text
DAR 161: 287
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6543,” accessed on 31 March 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17