skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Russell1 to George Cupples   18 June 1869

Pitbladdo | Cupar Fife

18th June 1869

Dear Sir,

I am favoured with the note you referred to when I saw you yesterday.

I fear I can give you little, or I should say no information that can be of service to you in the enquiry you desire to make. As a matter of course in most of flocks, many Lambs die either at birth or shortly afterwards, and shepherds as a rule are not over communicative to their employer on these mishaps— I never ask my shepherd to give me exact numbers until the males have been castrated which is done in the month of May; this year on the 12th of May from 167 Ewes there survived Males 124. Females 112—2

Although this is no data I have always found that at weaning time there were more Males than Females.

It quite escaped me to talk about the Terrier Yesterday   I do not wish “Dan” back as he leads the big dog astray. If you can get the “Cocker” we spoke of cheap, and let “Dan” assist the purchase it might be a good arrangement. I wont pay a large price for any dog at present, as I have been spending too much of my spare cash on horses &c of late!!!

Excuse this hurried note as I could not have written you for a day or two had I let this post escape

Yours truly | John Russell

CD annotations

2.3 and shepherds … mishaps— 2.4] scored blue crayon
2.4 I never … castrated 2.5] double scored blue crayon
2.6 this year … 112— 2.7] scored left margin, double scored right margin, blue crayon
Top of letter: ‘Sheep’ blue crayon


John Russell has not been further identified. Cupples had evidently contacted him about CD’s request for information about the proportion of the sexes in sheep.
CD aggregated the information he received on sexes of sheep in Descent 1: 304–5.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.


On the proportion of sexes in lambs.

Letter details

Letter no.
J Russell
George Cupples
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 86: 56–7
Physical description
4pp †(by CD)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6786,” accessed on 6 December 2019,

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