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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. V. Carus   2 February 1869

39, Elsterstrasse, Leipzig

Febr 2 1869.

My dear Sir,

I send you hereby the translation of Mr Steiger’s answer, the latter part in a somewhat condensed form.1 You see he has had just as little opportunity of comparing different races as Mr Sison; and even his observations on the growth of the horn are just as vague as Sison’s.2 So I regret, not to be able to give you more facts to the purpose. But on the whole both concur in the fact that the horns do not appear earlier in the Merinos than in other breeds.

In the case you should wish for more information I am afraid I shall not be able to get it here in Saxony. I wrote to Dresden to ask our Secretary to the Government for Agriculture for directions of breeders, and I got Mr Steiger’s name.3 I then applied to our Agricultural school, now in the way of being connected with the University, and I received Mr Sison’s address4 Now I confess I don’t know where to apply for more.

I hope you are pretty well. We all look forward for good news from you.

I remain | My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | J. Victor Carus


Mr. Steiger’s answer.

On reading again Mr. Darwin’s book on the origin of species, I see that I am too little of a scientific observer for being able to enter into a thorough discussion of my views. If not in the whole extent yet on the whole I have found Darwin’s principles to be true. But that is just, what strikes me, that I don’t see, why a thing is proved by so many words, what I found true by a thirty years working in practical breeding. I think it ridiculous with Mr. Darwin to call a great many varieties “races”, which are nothing but little variations of one species and cannot yet claim that title. I lay more stress than Darwin on other causes, not only on the selection.

Nearly all Saxon races are Merinos, in modern times there have some English Southdowns5 come true   My observations have been made therefore only on Merinos and I am not able to compare the growth of the horns in Merinos with other breeds. Our Merino-males are all horned, a small part also of the females. They are the descendants of those Spanish Merinos which had been brought to Saxony in the last half of the 18th. century.6 My flock is descended, also on the part of the mother, from this [illeg] Spanish immigration. In the Rambouillet and Negretti breeds it was said, that in the pure breed the ewes are not horned.7 But it is proved that even in Spain the ewes bear sometimes horns. With us about 3–5 percent of the ewes are horned, while the males are all so, except some few exceptions, which occur now very seldom. These not-horned rams (the so-called Kalben-böke)8 are not liked, properly speaking without reason.

The horns of the Merino rams are immediately after birth mostly present as small projections on the skull; they go on growing nearly equally as the whole animal. They are fully developed when the animal has attained its full growth, in the third year of its age. In the horned ewes the horns are also visible after birth but they remain small, about the 6th. or 8th. part of the weight of a male horn, the growth is nearly equal, in the same rate as the animal grows.

I tried to find if the formation of horns wants a larger amount of food; but all I found is, that the males want on the whole much more food than the ewes.

The castrated rams want less; but in these the horns are also often much smaller, so that I am inclined to think that the secretion or formation of the semen wants most of the food. In castrated animals all the other parts grow much quicker. Animals, on which the not-fleshy parts are covered with wool, are very difficult to breed and to keep so, and more difficult the male animals than the female and the castrated.

One observation is perfectly sure: that the horn of the male, as well as that of the female animal corresponds exactly to the nature of the whole animal, just as any other part. And this is the point which I should have liked to discuss with Mr Darwin.

While almost all breeders believe to be able to breed single parts or forms of single parts, I think the differences rest on illusion. The head of the English flesh-cattle is not absolutely smaller, but only so in relation to the greater amount of flesh on the fore part of the body, etc. etc.

Just the same holds good with the texture of the parts. Flesh, wool, skeleton, all that stands in close harmony.

CD annotations

2.1 On reading … reason 3.12] crossed blue crayon
3.9 3–5 percent] ‘3–5/100 Horned’ blue crayon
4.1 The horns … animal. 4.2] double scored blue crayon
4.4 In the … grows. 4.6] double scored blue crayon
7.1 One … harmony. 9.2] crossed blue crayon
End of enclosure: ‘All parts change in correlation.—’ blue crayon; ‘(I think I must say that at least no great difference in development, as Horns appear so very early in Merinos.)’9 ink; square brackets in MS


See letter from J. V. Carus, 22 January 1869. Steiger has not been further identified.
Carus refers to Robert Sison and the observations on merino sheep in Sison 1867 (see letter from J. V. Carus, 22 January 1869 and nn. 3 and 4).
Dresden was the capital of the Prussian province of Saxony (Sachsen). The government official has not been identified.
Carus refers to the Landwirtschaftliche Institut (agricultural institute) of the University of Leipzig; the institute was founded in 1869 (Kirchner 1904, p. 3).
The Southdown is a native English breed, the name of which derived from the South Down hills around Lewes in East Sussex. For more on the development of the breed, see Wood and Orel 2001, pp. 77–8.
The Rambouillet merino, developed from several Spanish flocks, was named after the royal experimental farm near Versailles in France (see Wood and Orel 2001, pp. 137–8). The Negretti breed was developed in Austria-Hungary from Spanish Negretti and Infantado flocks (ibid., pp. 179–80).
Kalben-böcke: calf-rams (German).


Kirchner, Wilhelm. 1904. Das Landwirtschaftliche Institut der Universität Leipzig in seiner neuen Gestalt, seine Einrichtungen und seine Tätigkeit. Vortrag, gehalten am 8. Januar 1904 in der Ökonomischen Gesellschaft im Königreiche Sachsen zu Dresden. Leipzig: Reichenbach’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung.

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


Sends translation of Mr Steiger’s letter responding to question CD had asked about growth of horns of merino rams.

Letter details

Letter no.
Julius Victor Carus
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 86: A45; DAR 161: 69
Physical description
2pp encl 2pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6592,” accessed on 21 September 2020,

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