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Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. S. G. Canning   27 April 1874

31. Portman Square. London.

Monday. | April 27th. | 1874.

Dear Sir

I am encouraged by your kind reception of my former letters, to trouble you with some further particulars relating to peafowl;1 in case they may be of any use in your next edition of Variation of animals under Domestication. Respecting this work, I was informed by Mr Murrays people a few days ago, that a second edition was expected but not before next autumn.—2 I observed in a work on Peafowl some time ago, the writer said ‘I never saw two Peacocks fight!”3 I cannot think this author can have been very observant; they are (in the breeding season) a remarkably pugnacious bird, more determindly & deliberately so if I may use the expression, than most other birds;4 what I have remarked very peculiar in their habits is,—that in the Spring & summer breeding time; the peacocks take each for himself a certain piece of ground, a small district, where he reigns supreme & shews off his train; they constantly dispute & fight on the boundaries of their respective dominions; & if one of them wanders or is driven into the middle of the others dominion he is chased away & runs in terror or flies from the other (even if he is a larger bird) till he reaches his own domain, when he instantly seems to regain courage, turns sharply round & faces his pursuer; I have often thrown food exactly between them, while disputing over the ‘boundary question’, & neither has ventured to take it, for fear of the other; whereas a few inches on either side would be safe for each to feed without harm from the other.—

Of course these details may be already known, or perhaps useless to you, in either case I hope you will excuse my troubling you with them.—

Believe me | Faithfully yrs | A S G Canning

C. Darwin, Esqre | &c. &c. &c.


See letters from A. S. G. Canning, 18 February 1874 and 23 February 1874. CD’s replies to Canning have not been found.
Variation 2d ed. was published in February 1876 (Publisher’s circular 1876). CD’s publisher was John Murray.
See Tegetmeier 1867, p. 287.
CD had briefly described peacocks fighting in Descent 2: 46 (Descent 2d ed., p. 364).


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

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

Tegetmeier, William Bernhard. 1867. The poultry book: comprising the breeding and management of profitable and ornamental poultry, their qualities and characteristics; to which is added ‘The standard of excellence in exhibition birds’, authorized by the Poultry Club. London and New York: George Routledge & Sons.

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


Further particulars on pea-fowl.

Letter details

Letter no.
Albert Stratford George Canning
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Portman Square, 31
Source of text
DAR 161: 43
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9431,” accessed on 20 October 2020,

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