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Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. D. Bartlett   16 May 1872

Zoological Society’s Gardens, | Regent’s Park, | London, N.W.

May 16th. 1872

Dear Sir

I turned a Snake loose into the yard with 2 of Grotes Porcupines, one of them shook his tail at the sight of the Snake, the other did not, but gnashed his teeth and appeared much inclined to bite the snake, I then tried the Crested Porcupine he did not shake his tail, but set his spines up and I thought he would attack the snake with his teeth1   he walked round the snake and appeared angry but did not touch it— I then put the Snake into the yard with the little Java Porcupine2 but he was evidently frightened of the snake and kept as far from it as possible but did not rattle his tail. I believe from what I saw that the Porcupine if hungry and in a wild state met with a snake he would kill and eat it,

Yours faithfully | A D Bartlett

Chas. Darwin Esq.


See letter to Francis Darwin, 13 May [1872]. In Expression, p. 93, CD reported that one porcupine rattled its quills and shook its tail when a snake was placed in its enclosure. Grote’s porcupine (Hystrix grotei) is now H. brachyura (the Malayan porcupine). The crested porcupine is H. cristata.
The Java porcupine is now known as the Sunda porcupine (Hystrix javanica).


Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.


Reports aggressive reactions of three kinds of porcupines to a snake, concluding that in the wild they would probably kill and eat it [see Expression, pp. 93–4]

Letter details

Letter no.
Abraham Dee Bartlett
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Zoological Society Gardens
Source of text
DAR 160: 47
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8332,” accessed on 20 June 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20