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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Samuel James Augustus Salter   20 November 1867

17 New Broad St. | E.C.

November 20. 1867.

My dear Sir,

I recollect some time ago seeing, in the Field Newspaper, some questions put by you, asking for information relative to the colouring & marking of horses.1 If I am not mistaken your queries had reference to dun-coloured horses approximating asses in their characteristic markings. Would you be so very kind as to tell me if you obtained any information on this head and if it is published.2

I have been making observations on this subject for years; and I have a good many notes and some sketches, which I mean to put together & bring before the Zoological Society.3

I find that the three stripe-markings, supposed to be characteristic of Asinus are all found in Equus.

1st. The stripe down the back, common in duns, occasional in chestnuts.

2nd. Stripes on the legs rare and only seen in duns.

3rd. Cross-stripe over the withers very rare indeed; and when present generally associated with yellow dun-colour.

This latter marking is so extremely uncommon that I find many persons, associated with horses all their lives, deny that it ever occurs. I have however seen some twenty examples in the last ten years.

I feel sure you will excuse my troubling you about this question.

Believe me, | My dear Sir, | Yours sincerely, | James Salter.


CD had requested information about the colour of horses in letters published in the Field on 27 April, 25 May, and 15 June 1861 (Correspondence vol. 9, letters to the Field, [before 27 April 1861], [before 25 May 1861], and [before 15 June 1861]).
CD summarised his findings on this topic in Variation 1: 55–61, acknowledging information from several sources, including respondents to his queries in the Field in 1861 (see n. 1, above).
Salter did not publish on the subject, and CD did not add his observations to the section on the markings of horses in later editions of Origin.


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.


Has read CD’s queries in the Field regarding the markings of dun-coloured horses. JS has for some years been working on and observing the occurrence of ass-like striped markings in horses and wonders whether CD received any response to his queries.

Letter details

Letter no.
Samuel James Augustus Salter
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, New Broad St, 17
Source of text
DAR 177: 15
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5686,” accessed on 20 January 2022,

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