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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Robert Elliot to George Cupples   25 June 1869

Laighwood, Dunkeld

25th June 1869

Dear Sir

I am in receipt of yours of the 23rd. Inst. to get the exact number of Lambs born on large Hill farms is impossible, the numbers can only be taken at the time of Castration.— I have kept no record of the numbers, but as I mentioned to you previously, I have obtained the exact numbers annually, and have found as near as possible that they are equal on the average, that is equal for all practical purposes, I cannot speak to one or two per cent.1 I know no one likely to have kept a record of the numbers at Castration time, the numbers are taken accurately at Weaning time & some may have retained a record I have not.— I am only told the numbers for what number of females I keep and keep all the males.—

This year I have 11 Female Calfs and 4 males, last year I had a few more males than females. I may mention that our ratcatcher says that there are 5 male rats for each female, and that he has found that to be the case in all rat nests he has found with young ones in them, thinking this extraordinary I have examined all old ones killed, some hundreds, since he said so, and have found that they were chiefly males.—2

I am | Dear Sir | Yours truly | Robert Elliot

George Cupples Esq

The Cottage | Guard Bridge | Fifeshire

CD annotations

1.1 I am … males.— 1.9] crossed blue crayon
2.1 This … males,] scored blue crayon
Top of page: ‘Male Rats’ pencil; ‘& Cattle’ blue crayon


See letters from Robert Elliot to George Cupples, 4 June 1869 and 21 June 1869.
CD cited Elliot for the information on proportions of the sexes in rats in Descent 1: 305.


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


Number of lambs born not kept. Counted only at time of castration.

Proportion of sexes in cattle and rats.

Letter details

Letter no.
Robert Elliot
George Cupples
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 86: A65
Physical description
2pp †(by CD)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6805,” accessed on 17 January 2020,

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