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Darwin Correspondence Project

From George Rolleston   16 August 1878


Friday. | Aug. 16. 1878.

Dear Mr Darwin.

The enclosed account of the transmission to me of a wattle bearing Pig’s head all the way from Illinois U.S.A. may amuse you— Do not return it, I have had it copied. The head arrived all safe. I had an instructive comment on the transaction furnished me by the sight of some 6–10 pens filled with the Best improved Berkshire-Breed Pigs being shipped for this very Illinois, in Bristol a few days ago. The Greyhound Pig will soon be a Pig of the Past in Illinois—1

“The history of the Castle Martin Breed of Bos in Pembrokeshire is very interesting being closely parallel to yours of the Himalayan Rabbit: Black parents often have White Calves with Black Ears Muzzles udders and Stockings.2 Lord Cawdor3 who takes an active share in Breeding animals of the useful sorts will, I hope, enable me to send you some precise facts about this matter. In the meanwhile I am securing skulls & skeletons for myself!

You will not trouble yourself to answer this—

Yours vy Truly | George Rolleston


Ridott Stephenson Co. Illinois. U.S.

June 28. 1878.

Professor Rolleston.

Dear Sir,

The beginning of May last, I had a letter from our mutual friend, Alfred Hill Esq. asking me to procure a Pig’s head having wattles on, as he saw one in my in my hog-yard when here. The year before he was here, Mr. Hunt4 & myself had used a male hog having wattles, not because he had wattles but because we thought he had a very vigorous constitution: about 5 pigs of his had wattles more or less uniform, & those Mr. Hill noticed (not much escaped his notice.) After receipt of his letter, I at once began to look for a hog with wattles & only found one hog & he had one wattle & a small lump where the other ought to be. I drove about my neighbourhood, say, a circle of 7 miles one day, & that was all I found. I then ceased till after corn planting & last week made a business of it: the weather is hot & salt wd. not preserve unless the brains were taken out & the note said, “cut off a hog’s head—” so I found a jar of alcohol to put it in. I found 3 little pigs in the country south of me. I spent 3 days before I succeeded but when I try to do a thing, I do not like to fail. I enclose the receipt of the American Express Company: they thought the charges wd. be about 14/ your money to Liverpool. I am aware it will be costly, but then a few years from now, there will not be a specimen left. There is no such thing as a breed of them in existence, an occasional “Sport” is all, & farmers do not use them to breed from because they are of a wild nature, and difficult to father young. The head I have sent you I consider an excellent specimen, as I saw them 30 years ago, Except two small dark spots on the head, probably a cross from “Poland Chinas”5 our favourite hog. I have done my best, & hope it will arrive safely & answer your expectations. Of course had the hog been older, the wattles wd. be larger, but I cd. not find a larger with any. These wattles are well developed for the age of the hog.— I have expended for the Pig, alcohol, tin case one sovereign, & if it arrives safely you can allow me one sovereign for my time & use of my Horse & Buggy & making the wooden case. & please send a P.O. Order for £2.0.0. to

Charles Blakeway | Dorhill | Near Kidderminster | Worcestershire | England

If it shd. not be satisfactory, send only one pound, and I will lose my time & trouble, for I cd. not do it again for that pay, & shall be vexed if the specimen does not please you.

90° in shade. Indian corn growing 3″ a day, but hot for Cereals.

Now Sir, if this is a failure from any cause, let me know, for you must have one of them in any way. I did not put any water to the alcohol, & that I packed it in was not what I first used. I think if I had to get another I wd. advertize in the county south of this. Still they are so rare that a man who had one, might not notice it. I have written Mr. Hill by this mail, but he put no address on his letter, so I only know, Birmingham England. I directed Alfred Hill. J.P. As you correspond, if he does not receive it, tell him, I wrote.

I remain | Yours respectfully | Herbert Blakeway | address as headed.


Rolleston referred to CD’s discussion of the Irish greyhound pig in Variation 2d ed. 1: 79 in his paper ‘On the domestic pig of prehistoric times in Britain, and on the mutual relations of this variety of pig and Sus scrofa ferus, Sus cristatus, Sus andamanensis, and Sus barbatus’ (Rolleston 1876, pp. 266–8). CD briefly referred to the Berkshire pig in Variation 2d ed. 1: 74, 82.
Castlemartin, an area in Pembrokeshire, Wales, was noted for the development of a strain of cattle that together with other subvarieties became amalgamated in the Welsh Black breed; a herd-book was opened in 1874 (Colyer 1974). CD had described how Himalayan rabbits were sometimes produced from silver-grey and chinchilla parents in Variation 2d ed. 1: 113–14.
John Frederick Vaughan Campbell, second Earl Cawdor of Castlemartin.
The Poland China breed of pig was developed between 1835 and 1870 in Butler and Warren counties, Ohio (Encyclopaedia Britannica,, accessed 31 January 2017).


Colyer, R. J. 1974. Some Welsh breeds of cattle in the nineteenth century. Agricultural History Review 22: 1–17.

Encyclopaedia Britannica: Encyclopaedia Britannica online.

Rolleston, George. 1876. On the domestic pig of prehistoric times in Britain, and on the mutual relations of this variety of pig and Sus scrofa ferus, Sus cristatus, Sus andamanensis, and Sus barbatus. [Read 15 June 1876.] Transactions of the Linnean Society of London (Zoology) 2d ser. 1 (1875–9): 251–86.

Variation 2d ed.: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1875.


Sends a copy of a letter from Herbert Blakeway of Illinois, which accompanied a pig’s head with wattles.

Discusses the Castle Martin breed of Bos, the history of which shows parallels with the Himalayan rabbits.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Rolleston
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 176: 215
Physical description
ALS 2pp, encl 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11477,” accessed on 4 March 2024,