skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From George Cupples   12 March 1874

The Cottage, | Guard Bridge | Fifeshire N.B.

March 12/74.

My Dear Mr Darwin,

I assure you I am sincerely ashamed of the trouble I give you with the imperfect statistics which I have sent and send still.1 Please don’t answer in any way, until I have done getting in such returns as are likely. I had a most cordial Irish note the other day from the breeder of that most celebrated Greyhound “Master Magrath”—whom I did not before know from Adam—saying that when the bustle of the Assizes in his town should be got rid of, he would be delighted to answer my queries (whence I infer that he is a lawyer of some sort.)2 I had written also to the proprietor of “Peasant Boy” (the leading Favourite, I believe, though now defeated by an outsider, for the great cup of the coursing Derby.3 I have not yet heard from him—and did not know him before—but I shall stir him up. I want to pick up statistics of the kind for you during the next few weeks—even although they should not help at all for the present. Who knows what one may hit upon—or to what use it may turn some day. Surely it is abominable that statistics are never thought of in a scientific light by breeders &c. &c.

I might have some remarks or notes to make when I send in what I get in this way—on the general run of the thing in Greyhounds &c—to be taken for what they are worth (probably nothing, but not nonsensical.

I had read about the Todas, with interest.4

How wonderful a worker you must be! The youngest of scientific inquirers, with his mark to begin making—might well be astonished at this alone. For myself, in view of it, I sit as it were in the dust, in sackloth and in ashes—glad were it only to be employed in the humblest service, though it should prove useless.5 It is well-meant—and all over the world there are hundreds and hundreds of men like-spirited towards you, who I wish could have the opportunity to enlist themselves—young, strong, in China, in Japan, everywhere throughout the range of civilization. The habit will spread, at all events—and this, to you, will be a satisfaction.

Pray believe me ever | yours truly | George Cupples

to | Mr Darwin.

[Enclosure 1]

Rednock

Thursday | 26th.

My dear Sir

Absence from home must bring my apology for not having answered yours of the 16th. Inst: earlier. I am afraid my “answers” will be almost valueless nevertheless as you have requested me to give an opinion I have done so.6 I have bred dogs of many kinds since I was 20 years of age, but never kept any statistics, so I can only speak from memory & laterly from my stud book whh. is far from a complete affair however. I cannot give you any names of greyhound breeders with whom I am acquainted—but the sporting papers are always advertising sales as from the kennels of various gentlemen—who breed the saplings7 they send for sale— Mr. Clarke of Howden is one8—but I do not recollect others at present; People who wd. probably be able to give you information on these subjects—wd be the owners of Stallion greyhounds who breed a good deal from their own dogs— there is a whole column in the Field—weekly.9

I have no puppies to part with at present—I have a brace, that are more wolfhound than any yet bred— but I fear they do not promise the size I long for— Their dam, a very tall bitch, is to go to the largest deerhound in England in a day or two & I hope for good results.

The dog I allude to is a son of “Torrum” the Champion & the only one that has equalled his father in size.10 I have never seen deerhounds, but once, that equalled these dogs in size— I have lately had an old bitch poisoned—during the late election time!!11 & have only my old wolfhd. Colin—the young black bitch & her two pups by Colin. I still long for woolfhounds—but fear alone I shall never breed them.

Yours truly | G. A Graham

Queries.12

(The following queries refer to live-stock or animals of all kinds; but dogs, and mor particularly Greyhounds, are specified because of the number of births at one time from a single mother, taken with the supposition that some sort of statistics can be got in connection with them.)

*1. Have any authentic cases been known—with Greyhounds, or any other dogs, or live-stock of any kind—where there seemed to be a tendency running in a strain or family, to produce either males or females in excess. (N.B. Such cases occur with Short-horn cattle.)? * This query is of main importance.

Answer.

Have not noticed such in my experience.

2. Do such cases occur with individual brood-bitches (or brood-animals of any kind)?

Answer.

decidedly

3. In such cases—if occurring—is there any practice, as a rule in general, of preserving more of the young of one sex than of the other sex? Would more of the females be destroyed than of the males (or vice versa)—?

Answer:

In my experience, a preponderance of males is kept.

4. Be so good as say (if the above is the case in your knowledge,) how many on an average you suppose would be preserved of each sex— for example in Greyhounds (or other dogs,) if a bitch produced 4 females & 2 males at a litter, and another bitch produced 4 males and 2 females—? What would, generally speaking, be the proportion preserved of either sex?

Answer.

In this cases, equal—as a rule, & where the no. of puppies is large, abt. 3 males to 2 females wd. be preserved, as far as I can personally vouch.

The above Answer runs thus (I write it out in a plainer hand so far as I can read it)

viz.

In this case (or these cases?), equal (i.e. equal proportions? i. e. would be preserved?)— as a rule, and where the number of puppies is large, about 3 males to 2 females would be preserved, as far as I can personally vouch.

for Mr Darwin

from

Captain (G.A) Graham | of Rednock | Dursley | Gloucestershire

a well known distinguished breeder of Deerhounds and of Wolfhounds—

who has systematically aimed at restoring the old Irish Wolfhound or Wolf-dog.13

[Enclosure 2]

The Grange | Alloa

March 4. 74

My dear Sir

I have yrs. and will try very shortly to send you some portion of the money— I hope you are better— I have been transported to this district—and put to great expense—&—as I extend up to—Kinross I hope some day to have the pleasure of making your acquaintance—

Your questions of Statistics I have sent to Sir W. Forbes–Bt—14 as my opinion you shall have also but with all humility as I realy dont know much about but as to deerhounds from my experience has been that Bitches have been more difficult to rear—and the general rule has been to preserve males in preference to females one or two at the outside being kept only for Breeding purposes—

I also think within the last 80 years that Bitches were never hardly given away— as it was not desirable to extend the Breed and those who possessed them very unwilling to part with them— At the same time there are cases of some Bitches shewing more endurance & pluck in the field— When Sir William sends answers I shall write again.

Yours sincerely | J W Robertson

from Major Robertson breeder of the 1st. prize Deerhd at Birmingham Shows for two consecutive years, and a systematic Deerhd. breeder15

[Enclosure 3]

from Sir W. Forbes, Bart.—of Fintray Aberdeenshire.

In his letter to Major Robertson, enclosing this, Sir W. Forbes says—

These questions would require a life-time to give any real answer to. My keeper has known a Greyhound bitch have 17 pups:— and a Pointer ditto, 16:— and a Terrier (bitch) threw

1st. year — 4 bitches & 1 dog

2 year Ditto ditto

3d year Ditto ditto

4th year 2 2

5th. year 2 2

6th. year 1 3

7th. year 3 1

This I understand him to mean—but I have cut off that portion to send, in case it may be of any value. The remainder of the letter related to military matters, and was returned to Major Robertson.16

Fintray House | Aberdeen.

March 4/74

My dear Major Robertson

Mr Darwins questions 〈    〉 1st year 2nd. & 3d. 4 bitches & 1 dog:— 4th & 5th years. 2 of each 6th & 7th years: 3 dogs & 1 bitch pup

Please return this—filled up.

Queries.

(The following queries refer to live-stock or animals of all kinds; but dogs, and more particularly Greyhounds, are specified because of the number of births at one time from a single mother, taken with the supposition that some sort of statistics can be got in connection with them.)

*1. Have any authentic cases been known—with Greyhounds, or any other dogs, or live-stock of any kind—where there seemed to be a tendency running in a strain or family, to produce either males or females in excess. (N.B. such cases occur with Short-horn cattle).

*This query is of main importance.

Answer.

2. Do such cases occur with individual brood-bitches (or brood-animals of any kind)?

Answer.

Queries.

3. In such cases—if occurring—is there any practice, as a rule in general, of preserving more of the young of one sex than of the other sex? Would more of the females be destroyed than of the males (or vice versa)?—

Answer.

No rule.

4. Be so good as say (if the above is the case in your knowledge,) how many on an average you suppose would be preserved of each sex— for example in Greyhounds (or other dogs,) if a bitch produced 4 females & 2 males at a litter, and another bitch produced 4 males and 2 females—? What would, generally speaking, be the proportion preserved of either sex?

Answer.

matter of fancy

CD annotations

Enclosure 1:
1.1 Absence … earlier. 1.2] crossed pencil
2.1 I have no … them. 3.5] crossed pencil
Enclosure 2:
1.1 I have … acquaintance— 1.00] crossed pencil
On cover: ‘Nothing of importance except in relation to Deer Hounds on whole most ♀ are destroyed.’ pencil

Footnotes

Cupples had sent CD’s queries about dog breeding to deerhound breeders, and was forwarding the replies to CD; see letter from George Cupples, 21 February 1874 and enclosures.
Lord Lurgan (Charles Brownlow) had owned the greyhound Master McGrath, the most celebrated hare-coursing dog of its time; as lord lieutenant of County Armagh, Ireland, Brownlow would have been involved in organising the assizes. Master McGrath’s breeder was James Galwey, in Waterford, Ireland. See Robin Hood, ‘Master M’Grath’, New Sporting Magazine n.s. 56 (1869): 129–32. Master McGrath lost only one of the thirty-seven course meetings he was entered in (Leighton 1910, pp. 110–11). His early death occurred in December 1871 (The Times, 23 January 1872, p. 5; Baily’s Magazine of Sports and Pastimes 21 (1872): 293–4).
The biggest annual hare-coursing event was the Waterloo Cup, held at Great Altcar in Lancashire; Peasant Boy came second in 1872 and 1873, losing the 1873 race to the greyhound Muriel, who ran only this one race in her career. Peasant Boy’s owner in 1873 was Francis Richard Hemming of Bentley Manor, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. See www.greyhound-data.com (accessed 8 October 2013).
The Todas, a hill-tribe in India, were polyandrous and had formerly practised female infanticide. CD had learned of their practices from the work of William Elliot Marshall (Marshall 1873), and might have recommended the book to Cupples. In Descent 2d ed., p. 258 n. 99, CD considered whether the preponderance of male births in greyhounds without the systematic destruction of female puppies challenged Marshall’s view that a ‘male-producing race’ was the consequence of female infanticide. For CD’s evidence relating to greyhound-breeding practices, see the letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 17 February 1874, and the letter from George Cupples, 21 February 1874 and enclosures.
In the Bible, the wearing of sackcloth and ashes indicates mourning, but it can also denote repentance and humility.
Cupples had sent George Augustus Graham CD’s queries about the numbers of males and females preserved by breeders in litters of puppies (see letters from George Cupples, 3 February 1874 and 7 February 1874).
Sapling: young greyhound (Chambers).
Graham refers to William Hardisty Clark. See, for example, Sporting Gazette, 31 October 1874, p. 1028.
Graham refers to the column ‘Greyhound produce’ that appeared in the coursing section of the weekly magazine Field.
Two sons of the famous deerhound Torrum, Monzie and Young Torrum, were also notable for their size (Leighton 1910, p. 97).
A general election took place in early February 1874.
The ‘Queries’ took the form of a hand-written questionnaire; Graham wrote in only the answers.
The section of the letter from ‘The above Answer’ to ‘Wolf-dog.’ is in Cupples’s hand.
William Forbes.
The section ‘from Major Robertson … breeder.’ is in Cupples’s hand. Cupples refers to Oscar, the deerhound who won first prize at the Birmingham Show in 1865 and 1866 (see Cupples 1894, p. 62, and Drury 1903, p. 122). Oscar was the grandson of the deerhound Torrum (see n. 10, above; Cupples 1894, p. 92).
In the previous enclosure, James W. Robertson told Cupples that he had sent CD’s list of queries to William Forbes. The section ‘from Sir W. Forbes … returned to Major Robertson’ is in Cupples’s hand. Forbes had been captain (later honorary colonel) of the ninth Aberdeenshire Rifle Volunteers; Robertson was a major and adjutant in the marines.

Summary

Promises answers to CD queries on dogs.

Summary

Enclosure 1: G. A. Graham responds to CD’s questions (transmitted by GC) on greyhound breeding and proportion of sexes reared.

Summary

Enclosure 2: J. W. Robertson’s general rule has been to preserve male deerhound puppies in preference to females.

Summary

Enclosure 3: Proportion of sexes in dog litters [for Descent, 2d ed.] from W. Forbes.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-9356
From
George Cupples
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Guard Bridge
Source of text
DAR 161: 302; DAR 90: 114–16, 119–26
Physical description
3pp, 3 encs †4pp †(by CD)4pp †, †(by CD)4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9356,” accessed on 21 May 2019, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-9356

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

letter