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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Arthur Nicols   [20 March 1873]1

[16 Montague Street, London]

The experiments on the sense of smell in cats and dogs seem to me very good.2 From your previous note, I know you do not believe in the stories of cats returning home over unknown ground; but if such a case is mentioned in Nature, I would suggest your sending your experiment to that journal for publication, as bearing on Mr. Wallace’s theory, which I am half inclined to admit.3


The date is established by a reference in the letter from Arthur Nicols of 8 December 1875 (Calendar no. 10290).
For Nicols’s doubts about Alfred Russel Wallace’s theory that cats could navigate by sense of smell, see his letter of 21 February 1873. Nicols does not appear to have published his experiment before it appeared in his Natural history sketches (Nicols 1885, pp. 51–2).


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

Nicols, Arthur. 1885. Natural history sketches among the Carnivora wild and domesticated: with observations on their habits and mental faculties. London: L. Upcott Gill.


Responds to Nichols’ observations on sense of smell in cats and dogs.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Robert Arthur (Arthur) Nicols
Sent from
Source of text
Nicols 1885, p. 52

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8817G,” accessed on 11 December 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21