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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. D. Crotch   24 October 1871


Octr. 24/71

My dear Sir,

I have lent my copy of the “Descent” & cannot therefore refer to it, but I think you do not offer an explanation of the horns in the ♀ Rendyr; though you rightly negative the common supposition that the ♂ uses the Brow antlers for the purpose of removing the snow—1 As I have passed 5 summers & one winter in Norway & am quite familiar with the habits of these animals I think I can assert with confidence that the use of the brow antlers in the ♀ Rendyr is to drive away the ♂s when these have removed the snow with their fore-feet & so exposed the moss & lichens on which they feed. The ♀s are then for the most part heavy with young & would find the occupation of removing the snow very laborious—whilst the ♂s being without horns are unable to resist their fair but well armed assailants— I know that this is at least often the case & think it is probably always so & in fact the main reason of the permanency of the horns.

I wish I could go on with my Atlantis work, but from the moment I took my Brother to the Canaries he has done all the work— Conviction that a Miocene Atlantis known to man existed is unfortunately not proof—2 Nothing seemed so easy when I first started on the search, but now the very mass of material renders the task of separating flotsom & jetsom from aboriginal forms quite Herculean. It requires a Darwin & I am none. Meanwhile I hope this little fact I have mentioned may not be without interest.

I remain | My dear Sir | Yours very truly | W. D. Crotch

CD annotations

2.1 I wish … interest. 2.7] crossed pencil
Top of letter: ‘Rein-deer Horns’ blue crayon; ‘(1)’ pencil


CD discussed the antlers of female reindeer in Descent 2: 243–4, arguing that they were of no use to the females. He did not mention the belief that male reindeer used their antlers to remove snow.
Crotch’s brother was George Robert Crotch. Both brothers were entomologists; they went on collecting expeditions together (Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine 39 (1903): 256). On Crotch’s belief in a Miocene continent (Atlantis) linking the Iberian peninsula with the Azores and Ireland, see Correspondence vol. 13, letter from W. D. Crotch, 10 April 1865.


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.


Gives possible explanation for retention of horns throughout the winter by female reindeer.

Work on Atlantis.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Duppa Crotch
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 88: 114–15
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8031,” accessed on 3 August 2020,

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