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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. D. Crotch   14 November 1873

Richmond Green

Nov 14/73

My dear Sir

I should have written before had not Mrs. Haliburton1 told me that you were unwell. I hope that is not the case now & will tell you of the results of my enquiries respecting the Rendyr. The Stag very rarely loses both horns at the same time— often there is an interval of several days— so that although most magnificent horns are often found singly the pair might have to be sought 60 miles away— indeed any fright usually causes these timid creatures to run 20 miles at least. The hind retains her horns until she hides herself for calving—& reappears without them,—or, which is excessively rare, with one— Thus the time of calving & shedding the horns can be limited to about a fortnight—tho, this fortnight is, like Easter, a moveable feast.2 I am not yet at the end of the Lemmings—3 They came in the winter on & under the snow— they must have started with the first fall & alternately traversed the surface for speed & tunnelled beneath for food—as I myself often saw them in the autumn of /72— The damage done by them was quite condoned by the subsequent extra-growth of grass where they had been— nearly every one, & certainly every old male & ♀ have a raw on the rump caused by their backing up against a stone


on the approach of even a fancied enemy—such as a Dipper on a stone or a ring ousel. They swim all the lakes but drown with the least wind. & tho’ they are tenacious of life they die with a mere tap on the nose— I left thousands on the snow in Octr. /72—& in May /73 there were none, & but few skeletons—so that the bulk had gone elsewhere to die. Now, if you are not weary I want to ventilate a new theory & as briefly as possible—but not about the Lemmings.

—My dog (& a hundred others) goes 70 miles with me for the first time—runs away & returns home by a quite4

CD annotations

1.1 I … Rendyr. 1.3] crossed pencil
1.3 The Stag] after opening square bracket pencil
1.3 often … least. 1.6] crossed pencil
1.9 feast.] before closing square bracket pencil
2.1 I am … quite 2.5] crossed pencil
Top of letter: ‘Rein Deer | W. D Crotch’ ink


Sarah Harriet Haliburton.
In Descent 2: 243–4, CD argued that the antlers of female reindeer were of no use to them. Crotch had written to him suggesting that they were used by the pregnant females to drive off the males once the males had cleared snow from the grass with their forefeet (Correspondence vol. 19, letter from W. D. Crotch, 24 October 1871). CD cited Crotch’s further observations in this letter in Descent 2d ed., p. 503 (see also Correspondence vol. 20, letter from W. D. Crotch, 17 November 1872).
Crotch published his findings on the lemmings, the product of ten consecutive summers spent in Norway, in Crotch 1876.
CD published on the homing instinct in animals in his letter ‘Perception in the lower animals’, Nature, 13 March 1873, p. 360.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Crotch, William Duppa. 1876. On the migration and habits of the Norwegian lemming. [Read 4 May 1876.] Additional note relative to the Norwegian lemming. [Read 15 June 1876.] Further remarks on the lemming. [Read 2 November 1876.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Zoology) 13 (1878): 27–34, 83, 157–60.

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.


Sends information on shedding of reindeer horns in males and females.


Letter details

Letter no.
William Duppa Crotch
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Richmond, Surrey
Source of text
DAR 88: 127–8
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9141,” accessed on 3 August 2020,

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