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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Walter Elliot   12 December [1858]1

Down Bromley Kent

Decr. 12th

My dear Sir

I received about a week ago your very kind note of Oct. 28th & a few days subsequently the Treatise on Pigeons.2 But I am really ashamed to see what trouble it must have cost you. Some of the facts it contains have interested me, more especially as it shows that some of the very interesting specimens which you formerly sent me are at least nearly a century old.3 What a curious production it is! It has much amused me & has vividly showed me the differences between an Oriental & European mind. Man, it seems, is not alone subjected to the most atrocious quackery.

Many thanks, also, for the Poultry paper. I had surely thought that I had acknowledged & thanked you for the Kaseen fowls &c:4 it was a great oversight on my part not to have done so. All my fowls are now in the hands of a very skilful man, Mr Tegetmeier, for description:5 subsequently they shall be deposited in Brit. Museum.6 In simple truth your kindness has been extreme.—

I am glad to hear from Dr. Hooker that you are going to join the Linn. Socy. 7 I have not been in London for some time, but if your election has not come on, I shall be proud to sign your certificate.

There is one small point, on which I am particularly interested & have taken great pains to collect information. I mention it for the chance of your seeing anything of the kind & as I know that you observe all natural objects. It refers to the stripes sometimes seen along the back, on the shoulders, & across the legs of certain horses; & on the legs of Donkeys. I want to collect all cases; especially what coloured horses have them: whether stripes more on front or hind legs; whether in Donkey the shoulder stripe is ever double. Especially Whether stripes of all kinds are plainer in foals or adults. &c &c., I have a mass of information from N.W. coast of India.—8

With my very sincere thanks for all your kindness & hopes for your health | pray believe me. My dear Sir, Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin


Dated by the reference to Walter Elliot’s election to the Linnean Society in January 1859 (see n. 7, below).
Elliot’s letter has not been found. He had corresponded with CD since 1856 (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to Walter Elliot, 26 January 1856). The treatise to which CD refers was a Persian tract by Sayzid Mohammed Musari that Elliot translated for CD. CD cited Elliot’s private translation in Variation 1: 141 and n. 10.
Elliot sent CD ‘an immense collection’ of skins of many domestic breeds of pigeons and fowls from India in answer to CD’s request of 23 January 1856. See Correspondence vol. 6 and Variation 1: 132 n. 1.
CD received a shipment of Burmese fowls sent by Elliot earlier in the year (see letter to W. B.Tegetmeier, 17 January [1858]).
CD lent his collection of skins of foreign breeds of fowl to William Bernhard Tegetmeier for him to describe. See letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 14 April [1858] and [21 April 1858].
In fact, CD donated to the British Museum only his collection of sixty domestic pigeons and six ducks in 1867 (British Museum (Natural History) 1904–6, 2: 256 and 336).
Elliot was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society on 20 January 1859 (Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 4 (1860): iii).
Elliot’s observations on Indian horses are cited in Variation 1: 58–9.


British Museum (Natural History). 1904–6. The history of the collections contained in the natural history departments of the British Museum. 2 vols. London: the Trustees.

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

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


Thanks WE for an oriental treatise on pigeons, a paper on poultry, and specimens.

Asks about stripes on shoulders and legs of horses and donkeys.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Walter Elliot
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.162)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2380,” accessed on 27 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7