skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Francis Galton to Francis Darwin   7 April 1871

5 Bertie Terrace | Leamington

April 7/71

My dear Darwin

Your letter saying that your father will kindly take care of the 8 little rabbits, was most grateful. If you will fill up the enclosed note addressed to him & fix a day not earlier than Tuesday, not later than Thursday next week, I am sure that Fraser will pack them off safely.1

There is one thing, note, to attend to, that is exceptional with this breed of rabbits; namely, a strong tendency to scurf (eczema) on the nose, muzzle, eye-lids, and legs. This is apt to become a most serious evil but is infallibly checked by tobacco-water (an infusion of strong pig-tail tobacco) rubbed well in. I use a soft tooth brush. They squeal very much, sometimes, and they are usually narcotised afterwards, but it all goes off;—pain, narcotism & scurf.

These 8 rabbits are, 6 of them by one doe, & 2 by another—both thoroughly x circulated. Their father was the same &, in addition he is the son of a pair who had both been injected with defibrinized blood.2 My paper will come out in the next no. of the R Soc: Proceedings & I will send your father a copy, with their pedigree, marked.3

I shd. propose that these rabbits be kept to grow & strengthen till the end of July (when they will all be more than 612 months old) Then I wd. put all the does to the bucks, and get perhaps 20 young from them, and I would not put the does again to the bucks but let them thoroughly recover & let them & the bucks be operated on early in Septr; thus—

July 30 (say) does put to bucks
Aug 30 litters born
Sept 30 litters weaned
Oct 7–11 does & bucks operated on.

As regards the 20(?) young which are to be expected, I should be inclined to operate on 10(?) of them in a new way, (into jugular vein from a supplying carotid artery) while they are quite young, say,

Oct 14–21 operate on 10(?) of the young

and the remaining 10 to be kept for further proceedings,—breeding or operations, as may be then thought advisable.

Though I shall not have my old excellent assistant Fraser, who sails this day week for Calcutta, I shall have the run of the University Coll: Physiolog: Laboratory & shall be able, I believe, to conduct all the operations there with convenience, greater than hitherto.4

With kindest remembrance, | Ever your sincerely yours | Francis Galton

CD annotations

4.6 July … on. 4.9] outlined red crayon
5.4 Oct … young] outlined red crayon


Oscar Louis Fraser was Galton’s assistant in his experiments on rabbits (Galton 1871, p. 395). The enclosure has not been found.
For more on Galton’s experiments, see the letter from Francis Galton, 9 January 1871, n. 1.
No copy of Galton 1871 has been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
In 1871, Fraser left England to take up a position as osteologist to the museum at Calcutta (Galton 1871, p. 395).


Galton, Francis. 1871. Experiments in pangenesis, by breeding from rabbits of a pure variety, into whose circulation blood taken from other varieties had previously been largely transfused. [Read 30 March 1871.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 19 (1870–1): 393–410.


CD will take care of the eight little rabbits. FG outlines their future.

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis Galton
Francis Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 105: A25–7
Physical description
ALS 5pp † (by CD)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7662,” accessed on 24 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19