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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Walter Elliot   7 August 1869

Wolfelee | Hawick | N.B.

7 August 1869

My dear Sir

In reply to your inquiry about the Indian Wild Boar, I believe the male in the breeding-season consorts with several sows.1 Except in the breeding season, the old Boars are solitary, but in beating them out of cover, I have frequently found an old Boar with the Sounder.2 When not so associated the old Boar goes out to feed alone for I have often, where the cover was too extensive to beat, gone out early in the morning before dawn, & watched for these solitary males returning from feeding, as they always show the best sport. They are the most savage & powerful & when they join the sounder, they drive the young boars away, wh. are then found two or three together, harboring apart but returning to the Sounder after the breeding period when the old one reverts to his solitary habits. I cannot say positively that this is the universal & constant habit of the animal, but it is a very general one, as far as my observation goes.

I dont think I ever thanked you for the copy of the “Variation of Animals & Plants under Domestication”, wh you were kind enough to send me.3 It came during a prolonged absence from home & I found it on my table when I returned. I had hoped to do so in person, when I was at High Elms about two months ago, but Mr John Lubbock, who had promised to take me over to Down, did not come home till too late to do so & I was obliged to go back to Town next morning4

He promised however to tell you of my regret at the disappointment.

Believe me | Yours very truly | Walter Elliot

Charles Darwin Esqr

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Polygamy’ blue crayon


See letter to Walter Elliot, 3 August [1869]. CD cited Elliot for this information in Descent 1: 267, in a discussion of polygamy in relation to the principles of sexual selection.
‘Sounder’: a herd of wild swine (OED).
Elliot’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for Variation; see Correspondence vol. 16, Appendix IV.
John Lubbock and his family, of High Elms, Down, were near neighbours and friends of the Darwins. Elliot and Lubbock had both attended the meeting of the British Association at Dundee in 1867 (see Anthropological Review 6 (1868): 17).


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

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

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

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


Polygamous breeding habits of the Indian wild boar. [See Descent 1: 267.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Walter Elliot
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 86: A72–3
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6856,” accessed on 19 October 2020,

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