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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Hugh Dalziel   19 January 1878

“The Laurels,” | Beulah Road, | Thornton Heath, S.W.

Jany 19th 1878


I am a “dog fancier” and engaged as a newspaper critic on the merits of dogs exhibited at all our important shows— There is in what I may call our “fancy” a vexed question as to dew-claws, and although I have diligently sought by enquiry of our most intelligent exhibitors—surgeons—and veterinary surgeons—&c to discover the origin cause and use—if any—of these appendages I have utterly failed and now in my extremity I take the great liberty of appealing to you for help, wh I beg you will pardon although you may not be able to find time in the midst of your engrossing occupations to answer me1

I am sending to you by this post a copy of “The Country” newspaper where at page 37 you may find a letter on the subject signed “Sirius” written by me and wh will show you the state of the question among us non-scientific folk, and if you will be so good as favour me with your views and opinions on dew claws I will be greatly obliged and if you do so I may say you would further give satisfaction and pleasure to thousands of breeders and lovers of the dog by permitting your opinion to be published with the weight of your name attached2

I have consulted your published works but have failed to find the information on this special point which I now seek—

I may add that the newspapers I write for are “The Country” and “The Field”3

Yours obedly | Hugh Dalziel

Dr Darwin | Beckenham

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘To be answered.’ pencil


CD’s reply has not been found. In Variation 2d ed. 2: 309–10, CD mentioned that the hindfeet of dogs naturally included rudiments of a fifth toe.
The newspaper has not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL. Country: a Journal of Rural Pursuits was published between 1873 and 1879 (North 1997). Dalziel’s article on dew-claws was in the issue for 19 January 1878. CD’s opinion was not published in the following issues. Dalziel argued that dew-claws appeared most often in varieties closest to the ‘primitive race’ from which all dogs originated, and that they were rudimentary organs that were no longer necessary to the animal.
The Field was a weekly newspaper.


North, John S. 1997. The Waterloo directory of English newspapers and periodicals, 1800–1900. 10 vols. Waterloo, Ontario: North Waterloo Academic Press.

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


A "dog fancier" and newspaper critic of dog shows, HD seeks CD’s opinion on the origin, cause, and use of "dew claws".

Letter details

Letter no.
Hugh Dalziel
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Thornton Heath
Source of text
DAR 162: 35
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11327,” accessed on 22 September 2021,