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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Julius Victor Carus   5 January 1869

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

Jan 5. 1869.

My dear Sir

I am going to beg a favour of you which I shall be very much obliged if you will grant.

The females of the Merino breed of sheep do not possess horns, & I am particularly anxious to learn at what age the horns are developed in the young rams, in comparison with other breeds in which both sexes have horns. I am very anxious to know whether the horns in the young Merino rams appear earlier or later, or grow quicker or slower than in other breeds of sheep in which both sexes are horned in the same district. Merinos appear to be extinct in England, but as Saxony is their head quarters perhaps you cd communicate with some agriculturist, & procure for me trustworthy information, & this wd be a very great kindness.1

It caused me very great regret that owing to my absence from home I did not have the pleasure of making your acquaintance when you were in England.2

My dear Sir | yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. Do you know how your translation of my last book has sold?3


In the nineteenth century Saxony was a centre for the breeding of merino sheep; the breed had been popular in England earlier in the century but had declined dramatically (see Ponting 1980, pp. 16–21, 23–4).
Carus had been in England for the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Norwich in August 1868, but CD was staying at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight from 17 July until 20 August 1868 (see Correspondence vol. 16, letter to J. V. Carus, 16 August [1868], and Appendix II).
CD refers to the German translation of Variation (Carus trans. 1868).


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

Ponting, Kenneth. 1980. Sheep of the world. Poole: Blandford Press.

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


Asks JVC to ascertain the age at which merino rams develop horns, and whether they grow faster or more slowly than in other breeds of sheep in which both sexes have horns.

Asks how JVC’s translation [of Variation] has sold.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6545,” accessed on 18 February 2020,

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