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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. W. Reade   28 June [1869]1

C/o Charles Heddle Esq. | Sierra Leone—

June 28. ’68

Dear Sir

Mr Tickel, the civil commandant of Badagry writes to inform me that two rams of the Guinea breed born on Feby. 10th. showed horns on 6th. of March.2 This single observation from a man who is not an observer cannot be depended on of course, though useful to compare with other observations of a like kind. Alas! science has not penetrated to the Coast— If you care sufficiently about the matter to do so you might easily obtain a young ram & ewe from this colony for about £2 or less & my host Mr Heddle the leading merchant here, & a man of intellect (though not scientific) has promised to ship them for you, should you require them— His address is above—

I have just returned from the interior after an absence of five months & return tomorrow with the hope of discovering Source of Niger which is not far from here but in a very awkward locality— I shall be absent probably 3 months & if I can be of any use to you pray write & instruct me— I must confess that your queries about expression are too difficult for me to answer. I do not possess the faculty of seizing a fugitive change of feature especially when unprepared for it.

I saw a blue-eyed negress in the interior pure African, & not abnormal in respect of complexion &c. She was brownish but not more so than average of her tribe— Hilly country.

I remain | Yours truly | W. Winwood Reade

Charles Darwin Esq

CD annotations

1.1 Mr. Tickel … like kind. 1.4] scored blue crayon
1.5 If … Hilly country. 3.3] crossed blue crayon
Top of letter: ‘(Preliminary discussion Sexual Selection)’ blue crayon
Verso of last page: ‘On the Guinea [above del ‘coast’] coast of Africa there is a breed of sheep, in which the ewes are hornless, like those of the new breed; & Mr. Winwood Reade informs me that in one case observed, a young ram was born on Feb 10 & showed horns on March 6th.; so that in this instance, the development of the horns,, compared with one [such], [‘seems later’ del] occurs at a later period of life than in the Welsh sheep, in which both sexes are horned.’3 ink


Reade dated this letter 1868 in error. Reade travelled to Africa in mid-1868 (Correspondence vol. 16, letter from W. W. Reade, 19 May 1868), and wrote to CD on 17 January 1869 that he was about to travel in search of the source of the river Niger, from which expedition he had evidently just returned. See also Reade 1873, vol. 2.
Reade refers to Thomas Tickel. CD had asked Reade to investigate the age at which rams’ horns appeared in his letter of 21 May [1868] (Correspondence vol. 16). CD reported this observation, which he credited to Reade, in Descent 1: 289–90 n. 27. Badagry is now spelled Badagri.
This text is a draft of Descent 1: 289–90 n. 27.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Reade, William Winwood. 1873. The African sketch-book. 2 vols. London: Smith, Elder, and Co.


Horned rams of Guinea sheep.

CD’s queries about expression are too difficult for him to answer.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Winwood Reade
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Sierra Leone
Source of text
DAR 86: A32–3
Physical description
ALS 3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6260,” accessed on 1 April 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17