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Darwin Correspondence Project

To George Robert Waterhouse   5 March [1867?]1

Down, | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Mar 5

My dear Waterhouse

Will you have the kindness to answer me a question. In the Museum there is a Specimen of a slim Abyssinian wolf, described by Rüppel in his Wirbelthiere von Abyssinien.

In my notes I have called this Canis Simensis, which I think must be wrong;2 Gervais calls it C. Sinus; will you kindly tell me which is right?3

When last in the Museum I had intended calling upon you, but I staid so long talking in the working room that I expended all my strength.4

Believe me my dear Waterhouse | yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is conjectured on the supposition that the letter concerns a possible correction to the proof-sheets of Variation. CD received the first proof-sheets on 1 March 1867 (see ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). Canis simensis (see n. 3, below) is mentioned in the first chapter of Variation. The letter also suggests that CD may have visited London recently; CD visited London in February 1867 (see n. 4, below). His most recent visit to London in a February before this was in 1863.
CD refers to Eduard Rüppell, and to Neue Wirbelthiere zu der Fauna von Abyssinien gehörig (Rüppell 1835–40). The description of Canis simensis, now the Ethiopian wolf, is in Rüppell 1835–40, 1: 39; it is illustrated on plate 14. Waterhouse worked in the geology department of the British Museum.
The 1843 List of the specimens of Mammalia in the collection of the British Museum records the Abyssinian wolf as ‘Canis Simensis’, referring to Rüppell 1835–40, plate 14 (Gray 1843, p. 58). CD underlined ‘Canis Sinus’ in his annotated copy of Paul Gervais’s Histoire naturelle des mammifères in the Darwin Library–CUL, and wrote ‘C. Sinensis Sinensis’ in the margin (Gervais 1854–5, 2: 58; see Marginalia 1: 325–7). No reply to CD’s query from Waterhouse has been found, but CD cites Rüppell and refers to Canis simensis in Variation 1: 33, n. 51.
CD had visited London from 13 to 21 February 1867 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 15, Appendix II)).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Gervais, Paul. 1854–5. Histoire naturelle des mammifères, avec l’indication de leurs moeurs, et de leurs rapports avec les arts, le commerce et l’agriculture. 2 vols. Paris: L. Curmer.

Gray, John Edward. 1843. List of the specimens of Mammalia in the collection of the British Museum. London: Trustees of the British Museum.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Rüppell, Eduard. 1835–40. Neue Wirbelthiere zu der Fauna von Abyssinien gehörig. 4 vol. in 2. Frankfurt am Main: S. Schmerber.

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


Wishes to know the correct name for the British Museum’s specimen of an Abyssinian wolf described by Wilhelm Rueppell, Neue Wirbelthiere zu der Fauna von Abyssinien [1835–40] .

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Robert Waterhouse
Sent from
Source of text
Natural History Museum, Library and Archives (Archives DF PAL/100/9/22)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1394,” accessed on 22 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15