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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Henty   23 May 1868

No 2 Norfolk Terrace | Brighton | (late Montpelier Villas

23 May 68.

Dear Sir

I wish that my delay in responding to your request for returns of the numbers of each sex in breeding Stock had enabled me to send you more than I have been able to obtain1

I send you one only but that is from a very careful observer

I have applied to many others but recd. an invariable reply that the numbers are so equal they never saw any object to be attained by recording them

One answer to this effect was from a breeder of cattle—the others from flock masters.

I have met with a gentleman here a Dr Lyford2 (formerly practising at Winchester) who takes an interest in such enquiries   He had established to his own satisfaction the same theory as that in the pamphlet of Monsr Thury3 but spoke also confidently with respect to the human species that the sex of the issue was in the control of the parents   In one respect he differed I believe from Monsr Thury who said if I mistake not that monsters in the case of twins were always of one sex whereas he possesses a pair of (Siamese) twins which he assisted in delivering where the sexes vary4

On the theory which I quoted in my former letter I have found a notice in the treatise on Sheep (Chambers, Information for the people Tit:5 Sheep) in which it is stated rather broadly that “the offspring of a young ram & ewe of from 4 to 5 years old will in general be feminine while that of an old ram & young ewe will in general be masculine”

The facts given are from an article in the Quarterly Journal of Agriculture first Vol & first Series which I have referred to at the British Museum

(It is found in the Index under the head “Periodical literature. “Quarterly Journal of Agriculture 1st. Series—Edinb:) but I must confess the instances quoted did not seem very clear—6

I have not seen your recent work—on animals under domestication”, but hope soon to have that pleasure7

I remain Dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | Wm Henty

I have heard of one instance where one bull served two herds. The produce of one herd was 19 male calves & one female

The other was about the same.

I hope to learn further particulars.

The owners wished to have females—


Sexual account of lambs reared at Teppering (nr Arundel)
during 10 consecutive years
Male Female
1859 267 298
1860 272 256
1861 291 280
1862 255 245
1863 240 260
1864 313 303
1865 306 344
1866 309 294
1867 335 338
1868 380 342
2968 2960

CD annotations

Table, righthand column: ‘298’, ‘260’, ‘303’, ‘344’, ‘338’] cross added next to each, pencil
End of enclosure: ‘The account is by careful Breeder & sent me by W. Henty Esq of | 2. Norfolk Terrace | Brighton’
Verso of enclosure: ‘Mr Henty says that all the Breeders of sheep & cattle with whom he has talked thought sexes equal & this seems true.’


CD’s letter to Henty has not been found, but see the letter from William Henty, 20 February 1868.
Henry Giles Lyford.
Henty refers to Marc Thury and Thury 1863; see letter from John Harward, 15 May 1868 and n. 3.
Thury 1863, p. 24. Lyford did not publish on the subject.
Tit.: i.e. titled.
Henty’s quotation is from Chambers and Chambers eds. 1842, 2: 454. The discussion in Chambers and Chambers eds. 1842 draws primarily on an article in the Quarterly Journal of Agriculture 1 (1828–9): 63–5 (‘A method of obtaining a greater number of one sex, at the option of the proprietor, in the breeding of live stock’), which itself is an account of reports in Annales de l’Agriculture Française vols. 37 and 38 of experiments proposed by Charles Girou de Buzareingues in 1826.
Henty refers to Variation.


Thury, Marc Antoine. 1863. Mémoire sur la loi de production des sexes chez les plantes les animaux et l’homme. 2d edition. Geneva and Paris: Joël Cherbuliez.


Sex ratios in cattle and sheep.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Henty
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 85: B24, DAR 166: 182
Physical description
7pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6203,” accessed on 13 August 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16