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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Waring   9 January 1874

Woodlands, | Chelsfield.

Janry. 9th. 74

My dear Sir,

I shall at all times be most willing to afford you any information I may be able to give you, and to answer any question to the best of my power—and I assure you no apology is necessary in the present instance, for you have merely asked me a very simple question.—1 Personally I have not had any experience in breeding Greyhounds—but I know the same rule applies to them, as to all other sporting Dogs.— As a general rule the progeny of a Bitch is usually pretty evenly divided between Males and Females—but at the same time it is not by any means uncommon for either sex to greatly predominate.— For instance within the last 12 months, a highly bred Terrier Bitch of my own, had 4 Females and one Male—and a Beagle Bitch 5 Males and no Female. I have known a Hound Bitch to produce 14 Puppies—but the usual number is from 6 to 9 or 10.— It entirely depends upon the constitution, and capabilities of the Mother, as to the number of Puppies she is allowed to suckle—and usually it is not allowed to exceed 6—or 7 at most—and in some cases the Mother is materially assisted by artificial means.— When the Bitch is weakly or delicate, and that particular strain of blood is much valued—it is a very common practise to procure a Foster-Mother for a portion of the Puppies—the Foster-Mother always being of the same description of Animal, if possible— a Greyhound for Greyhound Puppies— a Fox-Hound for Fox-Hound Puppies— and so on.—

In selecting the Puppies to be kept, it is the invariable practice to keep the stronger ones, and to destroy the smaller and weaker ones—for whenever there is a large number there almost always are 2 or 3, or more,—small and weak.— In a case such as you have put to me, where a Bitch had 8 Puppies, 6 being Males and 2 Females; the latter would be nearly certain to be saved—particularly if the strain of blood was valued—unless they were so weak and small, that there would be little probability of rearing them—and so in the reversed case.—The great object of all breeders of Animals being, to retain the several strains of good and desirable Blood they may possess, as long as possible— and of course it gives them better opportunities of doing this, where they have both Males and Females of the same strain—as it affords them greater opportunities of crossing it to a much larger extent, than if they only possessed it either on the Male or Female side.— I fear I may not have written very intelligibly—as I am not by any means “great” in that line— therefore I hope you will not hesitate to put any further question to me—if you think I can make it more clear.—

It is now a long time since I have had the pleasure of meeting you—and I have been very sorry to hear, your health has been such, as almost entirely to confine you to your own House.— I trust you are at the present time fairly well—and with all the good wishes of the Season

Believe me | Yours very truly | Wm. Waring

Chas. Darwin Esqre. | &c. &c.

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Infanticide2blue crayon; ‘Important if Bitch has many puppies some are generally puny & weak & are destroyed, but not if produced successively—’ pencil


See letter to William Waring, 6 January 1874 and n. 2. CD did not cite any further information from Waring in Descent 2d ed.
In Descent 2d ed., pp. 258–60, CD discussed the role of infanticide in humans and other species as it pertained to the proportion of sexes, but concluded the problem was too intricate to solve. He mentioned his inconclusive work on greyhounds in ibid., p. 258 n. 99.


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


Breeders normally destroy weak and puny puppies in large litters, but would keep females if only one or two.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Waring
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 90: 76–8
Physical description
6pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9235,” accessed on 8 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22