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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Lawrence Ruck   [after 29 April 1869?]1

Pantlludw, | Machynlleth.

1 Castration of Lambs is usually so barbarously performed viz by the teeth that the operation is attended more or less by weakness, sometimes death should frost or wet set in soon after consequently the horns are affected in growth according to the strength of the animal left to it after recovery which in some cases is very tardy & perhaps never so you find some Ram-Lambs with strongish horns & some with stunted horns after the operation.2 There appears to be no uniformity as to size or length of horn I should think the wether horn is reduced to about one third of the matured Ram’s horn

2 Lambs at six weeks— Sheep after the rutting [season] The growth of the horn would cease after castration should the Lambs be allowed to run free over a year or more

3 According to the mode of castrating Lambs hereabout it would be dangerous to work the Lambs at an earlier age than usual   I cant say what a skillful “Vet” might do with proper care & attention.

—The Ewe Lambs develope small horns in this country occasionally consequently it is in the nature of the animal; in the blood.3 Castration affects animals differently as to kind or sort for instance the horse pig cat ox vary in size after also as to habits or courage etc

I dont suppose the Cock would crow much afterwards. which I leave for you to find out   The subject requires a treatise   I cant say that I have myself curiosity upon the subject   We find it necessary & useful at times. Please extract from this if you like

CD annotations

1.6 to size … Ram’s horn 1.8] scored pencil


The date is conjectured from the relationship between this letter and the letter from M. A. Ruck to Francis Darwin, [29 April – 27 May 1869] (Correspondence vol. 17).
Mary Anne Ruck also passed on information on the growth of sheep’s horns that she had received from a neighbour in Wales (see Correspondence vol. 17, letter from Edward Jones to M. A. Ruck, 28 April 1869).
CD was gathering information on the age at which horns appeared in sheep breeds in which both sexes had horns in comparison with those breeds in which only the males were horned (see Correspondence vol. 17, letter to J. V. Carus, 5 January 1869). In Descent 1: 289 n. 26, CD noted that information received from north Wales indicated that horns could be felt in both sexes of sheep at birth.


On the horns of castrated lambs.

Letter details

Letter no.
Lawrence Ruck
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 88: 134–5
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7409,” accessed on 23 January 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18 (Supplement)