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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. J. Weir   [before 30 May 1868]1

I am not quite certain whether in my letters to you any mention has been made of wild animals suddenly reacquiring their wildness after having been perfectly tamed.—2

A friend of mine had a Hare which he had reared from a tiny leverett but a few days old   this animal was as perfectly tame as a dog or cat and would gambol with him & his daughter like a kitten, it was however always kept indoors, it ran about the house & usually had its form in my friends bedroom under the grate.—

One day when I was present the drawing room door was left open   it darted out into the garden & at once made across the country like a wild hare & was no more seen.—

I had a blue bird so tame that it would come immediately it saw me & settle on my hand, and it has flown back to me even when liberated in the garden, one morning this bird watched when I opened the aviary door and at once flew straight away & never returned.— The species was Spiza Cyanea.—3

A Siskin quite as tame as the Spiza, served me exactly in the same manner.—

On the other hand I have liberated Crossbills Java Sparrows, Redpoles, & Goldfinches & easily capture〈d〉 them again.—

Cirl Buntings and Reed Buntings liberated would not leave the place but remained about the Garden coming regularly to be fed, but at last fell I fear a prey to the cats.—

Believe me | My Dear Sir | Yours very truly | J Jenner Weir

C Darwin Esqe.


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. J. Weir, 30 May [1868].
No other mention of this subject has been found in Weir’s extant letters to CD. Weir wrote to CD about the wildness of siskin hybrids in his letter of 16 April 1868.
Spiza cyanea: the indigo bunting, now Passerina cyanea.


Reversion of tamed animals to wild behaviour.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Jenner Weir
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 181: 73
Physical description
6pp inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5748,” accessed on 24 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16