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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. V. Carus   17 November 1871

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Nov 17 1871

My dear Sir

As soon as I receive revises I will send you a set; but tho’ I have corrected above 200 pages I dare say the revises will not be ready for some time.1 If it wd save you much labour I wd mark all the corrected passages in the sheets; & please inform me soon if you so wish. Nathusius, in his Viehzucht just published, throws doubt on the hybrids between the goat & sheep.2 The most important paper known to me on the subject is by Chevreul, Annales Sciences Nat. 3rd Series. Bot. (Zoolog? perhaps I may have made a mistake) Tom. 6. p. 188. in which he quotes M. Gay;3 but I doubt whether the latter is a very good authority. Molina, however, in his Hist. Géograp. de Chili 1788 Part 1 p 376, speaks of similar hybrids.4 Prosper Lucas (Hered. Nat. Tom. 2 p. 185) refers to Bomare, who says male goats cross more readily with sheep, than Rams with female goats.5

Mr Fink, however, (Communications to Board of Agricult. England Vol 1. p 280) says the reverse about the sexes. Nott & Gliddon in “Types of Mankind 1854 p 379” give, I believe, some references on the subject.6 From what I state briefly in the Origin on, I believe, good authority, the hybrids of the Common & Chinese geese must be very much more fertile in India than in Europe;7 & so it may possibly be with the hybrids of goats & sheep in Chili.

And now I want to ask you kindly to make one enquiry for me. Nathusius in above book, says Rams when castrated have no horns or only rudimentary Horns.—8 I suppose this applies to Merino Rams, for it is not true with respect to our English Breeds, in which both sexes have horns. With these breeds castration only reduces the size of the horns.

My dear Sir. yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


Carus was preparing a new German translation (Bronn and Carus trans. 1872) from the sixth edition of Origin. See letter from J. V. Carus, 14 November 1871.
Hybrids between sheep and goats are discussed in Vortäge über Viehzucht und Rassenkenntnis (Lectures on cattle breeding and recognition of breeds) by Hermann von Nathusius (Nathusius 1872–80, 1: 26). CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 636). On the possibility of sheep–goat hybrids, see the letter from J. V. Carus, 14 November 1871 and n. 3.
CD refers to Michel Eugène Chevreul and Chevreul 1846, in which the breeding of sheep–goat hybrids in Chile is reported on the authority of Claude Gay (see Gay 1847–54, 1: 166).
CD refers to Juan Ignacio Molina. CD’s annotated copy of Molina 1788–95 is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 395).
In his Traité philosophique et physiologique de l’hérédité naturelle (Prosper Lucas 1847–50), Lucas cited Jacques Christophe Valmont de Bomare on the crossing of sheep and goats. CD’s extensively annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 513–23).
John Henry Fink’s article appeared in Communications to the Board of Agriculture (Fink 1797). CD’s annotated copy of Josiah Clark Nott and George Robbins Gliddon’s Types of mankind (Nott and Gliddon 1854) is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 603–6).
In Origin, p. 253, CD had cited the observations of Edward Blyth and Thomas Hutton on the fertility of cross-bred geese in India.
CD had noted the effect of castration on the development of horns in Descent 1: 247. CD added information from Nathusius 1872–80, 1: 64–5, in Descent 2d ed., p. 506.


Chevreul, Michel Eugène. 1846. Considérations générales sur les variations des individus qui composent les groupes appelés, en histoire naturelle, variétés, races, sous-espèces et espèces. Annales des Sciences Naturelles (Botanique) 3d ser. 6: 142–214.

Descent 2d ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1874.

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

Fink, John Henry. 1797. Answers to the queries proposed by Sir John Sinclair, concerning the breeding of sheep in Germany, particularly in Upper Saxony and the neighbouring provinces. Communications to the Board of Agriculture 1: 276–94.

Gay, Claude. 1847–54. Historia fisica y politica de Chile: segùn documentos adquinidos enesta repùblica durante doce años de residencia en ella y publicada bajo los auspicios del supremo gobierno. Zoología. 8 vols. Paris; Santiago: Museo de Historia Natural de Santiago.

Lucas, Prosper. 1847–50. Traité philosophique et physiologique de l’hérédité naturelle dans les états de santé et de maladie du système nerveux: avec l’application méthodique des lois de la procréation au traitement général des affections dont elle est le principe. 2 vols. Paris: J. B. Baillière.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Molina, Juan Ignacio. 1788–95. Compendio de la historia geografica, natural y civil del reyno de Chile. Translated by Domingo Joseph de Arquella da Mendoza and Nicolas de la Cruz. 2 vols. Madrid: A. de Sancha.

Nathusius, Hermann von. 1872–80. Vorträge über Viehzucht und Raßenkenntniß. 2 vols. and supplement. Berlin: Verlag von Wiegandt & Hempel.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


CD offers to mark corrected passages in sheets of 6th edition of Origin.

Discusses question of hybrids between goats and sheep, on which H. von Nathusius has cast doubt in his recent Viehzucht [1872]. CD gives several references for a contrary view.

Asks JVC to inquire about HvN’s assertion that castrated rams have no horns.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8073,” accessed on 15 September 2023,

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