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Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. J. Stuart   2 September 1875

Calicut. | Madras Prest. | India1

2nd. Sept. 75.

Dear Sir—

Your book on animals & plants2 is my favourite resource when idle. I believe firmly in the Origin of Species by natural selection and go with Spencer3 I think to the full length of all his conclusions   allow me as a sympathiser & especially as an admirer of any one who is good eno’ to give time & trouble to collecting and recording scientific facts impartially & accurately observed to send you the following case.

There is in this Station a dun pegue pony with black prints the property of Capt. Hole4 Supt. of Police in this district   It has 17 black stripes some very distinct others faint but all clearly perceptible to any observer from the shoulder to the flank on one side the other I have not observed. Also a deep black spinal stripe. And 9 cross stripes distinct & black on the foreleg above the knee.5

I am going to try breeding the fowls native here and shall be happy to give you any infn. you may wish for about them   I have not yet had the opportunity of examining the ordinary jungle cock, here common all over India closely nor the G. Sonneratii but my impression is that the common country fowl of these parts resembles the latter bird, I send you a few feathers both from cock & hen—6 If the G.S. is the wild bird of these parts I dont see anything very improbable either in his having been domesticated, or in his having frequently crossed with the original fowl wt.ever that may have been. I think the human race has shown a strong inclination to domesticate & to cultivate any & every wild animal and wild plant that promised to be either useful or ornamental, and therefore it seems to me most-probable that all the different wild species of fowls would probably be domesticated in the neighbourhoods where they are abundant in the wild state. No doubt these again are from one parent if one goes back far enough. But since they branched off from him I dont see why they sd. not all have been domesticated and I think it most probable that the jungle fowl of wt.ever species & wherever found would naturally be domesticated by whatever people inhabited the country where he abounded. I think the same argument applies to other domestic animals of wh. there exist or have existed several species. What made man domesticate one species that desire wh. we see some of in the love of children for stealing & rearing young birds in our hedgerows wd. it seems to me most probably lead other branches of the human race to domesticate other species in the attempt to domesticate every wild animal within their reach.

Believe me | Dear Sir | yours truly | A. J. Stuart. | Madras Civil Service

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Thanks Horses | Agree about | domestication etc— *G S [del] | In wild— some sterile be | G. Son—sterile—states’7 pencil


Calicut is now Kozhikode in Kerala, southern India.
Herbert Spencer.
Frederick Hole.
CD discussed stripes in horses in Variation 1: 56–61. The Pegue or Pegu pony (now usually called the Burmese or Shan pony) is named after the district (now called Bago) in Burma from which it came. In Variation 1: 58–9, CD referred to a report by Edward Blyth, who had seen two bay Pegu ponies with leg-stripes.
The feathers have not been found. ‘Ordinary jungle cock’: the red junglefowl, Gallus gallus (see Variation 1: 226, where CD refers to it as Gallus bankiva). Gallus sonneratii is the grey junglefowl (see Variation 1: 233–4). CD held that all domestic breeds had descended from Gallus bankiva (the red junglefowl; Variation 1: 236–46).
CD’s reply to Stuart has not been found.


Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Has observed a dun pony with black stripes.

Intends breeding native fowls and will happily furnish CD with any information he can.

Discusses the domestication of animals.

Letter details

Letter no.
Andrew John Stuart, 6th Earl Castlestewart
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Calicut, Madras
Source of text
DAR 177: 268
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10149,” accessed on 21 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23