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Darwin Correspondence Project

From George Cupples   13 September 1869

The Cottage, | Guard Bridge | Fifeshire. N.B.

Septr 13 /69—

My Dear Mr Darwin,

I lately saw an old man in this neighbourhood (above 90, but in full possession of his memory and characteristic Scotch shrewdness) who was for more than 40 years a mole-and-rat-catcher. He states that he has often heard it alleged among the fraternity of the trapping line of business that there is a decided majority of males in the nests of young rats, and his own experience disposes him to corroborate this. As to moles, he had not happened to think of the question (if I understood him rightly)—but I only saw him for a short time, and can easily see him again. He spoke of a professional friend who is to be in this part of the country ere long, and who could doubtless throw light on these points.1

I did not get in all my returns on sheep—and nothing on cattle. If you have much time before publication or completion, I could obtain further statistics on any head that might appear worth while to you—2

CD annotations

1.1 I lately … rat-catcher. 1.3] crossed blue crayon
1.3 He states … corroborate this. 1.5] scored blue crayon; closing square bracket blue crayon
1.5 As to … these points. 1.9] crossed blue crayon
2.1 I did … to you— 2.3] crossed blue crayon
Top of letter: ‘G. Cupples | Rats’ blue crayon


CD was collecting information on the proportion of the sexes for his chapters on sexual selection in Descent. On rats and moles, see Descent 1: 305.
Cupples had been compiling information on sheep and cattle bred in Scotland (see letter from James Rait to George Cupples, 20 July 1869).


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


Proportion of sexes in rats.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Cupples
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Guard Bridge
Source of text
DAR 86: 75
Physical description
, CD note

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6889,” accessed on 7 April 2020,

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