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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Thomas Churton   3 September 1877

Park Chambers, | (35 Park Square) | Leeds.

Sep 3. 1877

Dear Sir

Mr. Rickards, a Sub-Inspector of Factories, and formerly a medical practitioner at Armley near Leeds, told me to-day of a case of a tailed infant which he saw some years ago. He amputated the tail, after consultation with the late Mr. S. Smith, then Senior Surgeon to the Leeds Infirmary.1 He has forgotten the name of the patient, but knows the house, and I do not doubt that the name & subsequent history of the child could be obtained, if desired.

He informs me that the tail was two inches in length, moveable (by the child), and could be drawn tightly down— apparently by an extension of the coccygens.

If alive, this person would be now about 23 years old, and it might be worth observing whether his descendants have any tails. It is impossible to doubt the truth of Mr. Rickards’ account of this case. His address is Pool, nr. Otley, Yorkshire

When in Aberdeen in 1876 (July) I saw in the Hospital there, under Dr. Smith-Shand, a man who had 2 nipples on each side of his chest— the second being (I think) just below the ribs.2 Prof. Struthers3 was at the time informed of this case.

I am, dear Sir Your’s very truly | Ths. Churton MD. | Lecturer in Therapeutics | Leeds Sch. Med &c

Chas. Darwin Esq.


George Henry Lascelles Rickards and Samuel Smith. CD had revised his disussion of the vestigial tail in humans in the second edition of Descent, stating the case for its existence more strongly and incorporating new references (Descent 1: 29–30; Descent 2d ed., pp. 22–3).
James William Fraser Smith Shand. CD discussed mammary glands and nipples in male mammals in Descent 1: 30–1 and 209–11; see also Descent 2d ed., p. 36 n. 38.
John Struthers.


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.


Report of child with tail and man with four nipples.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Churton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 161: 148
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11126,” accessed on 19 September 2021,