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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. V. Carus   22 January 1869


Jan. 22d. | 1869.

My dear Sir,

As soon as your letter reached me I tried to get the directions of some trustworthy keepers of Merino-herds.1 I found only two. Both of them have answered my questions, viz. yours, but one of them, Mr Steiger,2 has not yet sent me his reply, as he intended to give it in a more elaborate form. At the same time he asked me, if he might be allowed to ask you directly about some points on which he should like to have your opinion   Of course I told him he may do so. The other man was for a long time “administrator” of the oldest flock of Merinos we have in Saxony, that of Lohmen, it is Mr Sison.3 He sent me with his answer a number of the “Agronomische Zeitung” containing his description of the Lohmen-herd. This I send you by the same post.4

His answer is as follows (I should send you his letter, but his handwriting is the old Saxon one, and I am afraid, you would not be able to make it out):

“The flock has been kept by intercrossing since 1765. The formation of the horns goes on in the same rate as the development of the rest of the body. When the body is developed early and vigorously, the horns do so also. The lamb has already when it is born in most cases rudiments of the horns; four to six weeks later the points of the horns are formed. After one year the young ram, when it is well fed, presents itself with its noble form of the head crowned by the horns, and now the mark is burnt on the horn. Rarely only and exceptionally it is necessary to repeat this marking by burning. At 112 year the ram is moderately able for propagating.

“The formation of the horns keeps the same rate as the formation of (the body and) the teeth. When the animal has got its complete dentition, the growth of the horns seems to have come to an end. The exterior of the horns is vigorous, I should like to say shining; they are fatty in touching them; the colour is dark. Then slowly the colour gets lighter, the surface more opaque, the horn seems dry, rough, “chalky”; finally it gets brittle; and if the ram is a good fighter, his horns are at the age of 8 to 12 years scarcely imblamable.

“There occur also exceptionally horns in ewes, their bodies are always stouter, the wool vigorous. A family of horned ewes is no rarity, but all horns are smaller.

“In the muttons (the castrated rams) the horns are weaker.

“There occur also rams without horns; but these are not liked, especially by the shepherds. Their progeny is partly horned, partly hornless; on the whole they inherit well.

“In comparing the Merinos with other breeds within the reach of my neighbourhood, I could not observe any special differences. Also with them the formation of the horns is in relation to the development of the body. Yet the form of the horns of the Merinos is finer, nobler than in the other cross breeds of wool and flesh sheep.

“Special notices” on the formation of the horns are never made in our registers. Yet all the matters concerning them are well known especially to the shepherds”

Thus far Mr Sison, who seems to be a goodnatured downright herdsman. Since August 1868 he has his flock no more, as Lohmen, a crown-estate, was given to a new tenant by way of auction, so that it seems as if our Government would give it up to compete with foreign wool. This Mr Sison complains eagerly.

I am sorry I cannot give you more to-day. For even Mr Sison’s notices don’t keep strictly to the points, which I copied him from your letter.

As soon as Mr Steiger, the other Merino-man, sends me his Memoire, I shall try if I can send it to you entirely or if I translate the most important passages.

Meanwhile let me tell you how glad I was to be of any service to you

If my translation has sold even the publisher cannot tell before Easter-fair, when all the booksellers settle their accounts5

Believe me | My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely, | Prof. J. Victor Carus

CD annotations

1.1 As soon … post. 1.10] crossed blue crayon
3.1 The formation … formed. 3.5] scored pencil
5.1 “There occur … in ewes,] underl pencil
5.2 A family … smaller.] underl pencil
6.1 the horns … weaker.] underl pencil
8.1 “In comparing … sheep. 8.4] double scored pencil
9.1 “Special … accounts 14.2] crossed blue crayon
Bottom of third page: “Sheep Horns—’ red crayon


See letter to J. V. Carus, 5 January 1869.
Steiger has not been further identified.
Robert Sison. The oldest flock of merinos in Saxony was founded in 1765 from the Spanish Escurial flock and was initially sent to Stolpen (eighteen miles east of Dresden). From here, rams were sent to state farms, including that at nearby Lohmen. Initially, the rams were crossed with a local hornless Saxon sheep (Wood and Orel 2001).
CD’s copy of Sison’s article, ‘Lohmen. Königliche Merino Stammschäferei Sachsens v. 1765’ (Sison 1867) is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Carus refers to the German edition of Variation (Carus trans. 1868). Although the first volume had been printed in December 1867, the second did not appear until July 1868. The publisher, Eduard Koch, had informed CD that sales of the book would improve when both volumes were available (see Correspondence vol. 16, letter from Eduard Koch, 21 July 1868).


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

Sison, Robert. 1867. Lohmen. Königliche Merino Stammschäferei Sachsens v. 1765. Agronomische Zeitung 22: 209–12.

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


On development of horns in merino sheep. Encloses reports from herdsmen he has approached.

Letter details

Letter no.
Julius Victor Carus
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 86: A43–4
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6569,” accessed on 30 March 2020,

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