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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Hugh Falconer   23 November 1857


Nov. 23rd

My dear Falconer

You told me that you thought you could obtain information for me about the colours and markings of some Indian horses, from the very best authority, namely Col. E. Dickie.1 If you could interest him to oblige me with answers to the following questions, it would be conferring a very great kindness on me. I have put the questions in full, though I do not suppose he could answer all; but if he would take the trouble to answer some of them, I should feel extremely much obliged to him, and to you for aiding me in getting information on a point on which I am very curious

My dear Falconer | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

Would you be so kind as to send off my queries pretty soon, as time is precious.2


1. Major Gwatkin in a letter published by Col. Hamilton Smith, speaking of the Kutch or Kahleawar breed of horses, says “Kutch is the country where the mares are bred; the sire is an Arab. They are generally greys or light duns, and almost invariably have the zebra-marks on the arms and thighs with list down the back.”3 I am very anxious to know what are the colours of the pure Kutch mares; for it seems very surprising that the offspring, begotten by Arab sires, which I believe are never dun, should be generally dun or grey and have a dorsal stripe and transverse zebra-like marks on the legs. These latter characteristics, I hear, are generally lost in the Scandinavian duns, when crossed with any other colour.

2. In the Kutch or Kahleawar duns (whether or not a crossed breed), are the zebra-like leg-markings, and dorsal stripe very generally present? Does a transverse shoulder stripe, like that on the ass, ever occur? Is such shoulder stripe ever double, as sometimes, though very rarely, is the case with the ass.

3. Am I to understand from Major Gwatkin that the Grey Kutch horses have a dorsal stripe and zebra-like marks on the legs: I have never heard of this before.

4. Are any Kutch horses cream-coloured; and have such the dorsal, or shoulder, or leg stripes?

5. Chesnut horses often have a dorsal stripe: in India have they ever a shoulder or leg stripes?

6. Is the dun or other colour when accompanied by the above stripes, strongly inherited, when such coloured horses are crossed with others.

7. Are all the horses, whatever their colour may be, when striped, small and built like cobs.

8. What is the colour of the Dun or Cream or other colour, when accompanied by stripes in the foal, before first hair is shed? Are the stripes at this early age more or less conspicuous?4

C. Darwin Down, | Nov. 22nd 1857.


Edward John Dickey was the superintendent of the stud department of the Bengal Army from 1853.
The copyist recorded that Falconer had written on the original: ‘Wrote to Dr. Bruist Bombay 13 Jany, enclosing copy of the queries, as the best chance of having them well answered.’ George Buist was the editor of the Bombay times and an authority on India (DNB).
The letter from ‘Major Gwatkin, Superintendent of the Hon. East India Company’s Stud in Northern India’, received too late to be included in C. H. Smith 1843, was extracted in the ‘Advertisement from the publisher’ placed at the beginning of Charles Hamilton Smith’s volume. The passage quoted comes from p. xi, and is marked in CD’s copy of the work in the Darwin Library–CUL.
In the manuscript of his species book, CD relied upon Smith’s work for information on Indian horses (Natural selection, pp. 329–30). In Variation 1: 58–9, CD discussed the striped horses of India but did not mention either Dickey or Buist (see nn. 1 and 2, above).


DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

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.

Smith, Charles Hamilton. 1843. The natural history of horses. The Equidæ or genus equus of authors. Vol. 12 of Jardine, William, ed., The naturalist’s library. 40 vols. Edinburgh. 1833–43.

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


Can HF ask Col. E. Dickie [probably Col. Edward John Dickey] enclosed questions about Indian horses? [Questions relate to striped markings on the Kutch breed of horses.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Hugh Falconer
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 144: 20
Physical description
1p, encl 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2175,” accessed on 27 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6