skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From James Scott Bowerbank   [4 November 1867]1

2 East Ascent | St Leonards on S〈ea〉

My Dear Sir

I have sent back th〈e〉 Proof to the Printer with insertion of your name as you suggested.2

I have long wanted some slight stimulus to induce me to write to you, on one or two little facts in natural history that may interest you.

1st. When a Boy of 14 while on a visit at Ightham Court Lodge in Kent I chanced to see a litter of Puppies under a Pointer Bitch & was much surprised to find half had all the characters of Pointers 〈wh〉ile the remainder had 〈eve〉ry appearance of Setters   〈A〉t my expressing my surprise to the old Huntsman that 〈i〉t should be the case he 〈ex〉plained it by saying that 〈t〉he Father was a Setter an 〈ac〉cidental mis-alliance   Well then said I how is it that they are not mongrels a〈n〉d he told me that if they had been low bred dogs such would have been the case but that with pure Breeds mismatched it was often as I saw it. & he moreover assured me that each puppy as it grew up would follow the instincts indicated by 〈its〉 appearance.

2nd. Some years since o〈ur〉 Housekeeper at Sun 〈Street〉 London3 had a little hairless Barbary B〈itch〉 who never had had puppies. When she went to heat I 〈com〉menced a negociation with a man in Covent garden who had a Dog of 〈the〉 same species but while I was negociating our Young Dog a mongrel Spaniel with long brown hair was operating & so the negociation became useless, and in due course there came a litter of 5 puppies. Who all died before they were 〈    〉 months old. 3 of these 〈pu〉ppies were black & hairless 〈like the〉 Mother & the other 〈2 were〉 covered with short 〈brown〉 hair like the Father 〈in〉 colour. The Bitch had 〈a〉 second Litter of puppies but this time we secured 〈the〉 right Father a regular black thorough Bred Barbary dog, but alas the mischeif had been implanted in the mother and again about half the litter looked like pure Barbarys & the other half like the short haired progeny of the first Father   Again all of the puppies died but one, a short brown haired dog which lived to be 2 years old

CD annotations

1.1 I have … years old 4.13] crossed pencil
Top of first page: ‘J. S. Bowerbank | Ch. on Crossing | Effects of 1st Cross on subsequent [illeg] | Nov. 4 186〈    〉’ pencil; ‘Ch IX’4 brown crayon


The day and month are established from CD’s annotation. The year is established by the fact that CD cited Bowerbank for this information in Variation 1: 404 n. 138 in the second printing of February 1868 but not in the first printing of January 1868 (Freeman 1977). Variation was set up in type by mid-November 1867 (Correspondence vol. 15, Appendix II).
Bowerbank’s publication has not been identified.
Bowerbank refers to the premises of the family business, Edward Bowerbank & Sons, distillers, at 7712 Sun Street, London (Post Office London directory 1860).
CD’s annotation indicates that he included Bowerbank’s letter among his notes on hybridism. ‘Ch IX’ refers to CD’s chapter on hybridism in Natural selection. Even after the publication of Origin, CD continued to make notes that he labelled for this chapter. Some of this material was eventually used in Variation (see Natural selection, pp. 387–8). The breeding of dogs is not mentioned in Natural selection. The reference in CD’s annotation to a chapter on crossing is probably to chapter 11 of Variation (1: 373–411), which included a section headed ‘On the effects in female animals of a first impregnation on the subsequent offspring’. In this section, CD gave examples of such effects in horses and pigs, and mentioned in a note similar effects in dogs, but did not cite Bowerbank’s observations (see Variation 1: 404).


Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.

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


Reports two observations on crossing in dogs: the preservation of both pure types in the offspring of a pointer and a setter, and the influence of a first mating with a mongrel on the progeny of a Barbary bitch and a subsequent Barbary male.

Letter details

Letter no.
James Scott Bowerbank
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
St Leonards-on-Sea
Source of text
DAR 160: 261
Physical description
inc †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13780,” accessed on 22 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14