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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Bush   29 February [1868]1

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

Feb. 29th

Dear Sir

Mr Buckland has told me that you would excuse the liberty which I take in writing to you.—2 I am anxious for any information in regard to the proportional numbers of males & females born to any animals; but this can hardly be told except with domestic or semi-domestic animals.— Mr. B. says that you have bred many rats, & if you have kept any Memoranda, or have a decided impression on the relative numbers of the two sexes, I shd be grateful for information.—

Perhaps you can also tell me whether male rats fight for the possession of the female, & whether an old & powerful rat is polygamous & will keep several wifes.—3

Hoping that you will excuse my troubling you, I remain | Dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin

My address for next 3 or 4 weeks will be

6. Queen Anne St

Cavendish Sqe

London W.4


The year is established by the relationsip between this letter and the letter from F. T. Buckland, 27 February 1868.
CD refers to Francis Trevelyan Buckland; see letter from F. T. Buckland, 27 February 1868.
CD noted that male rats were said by some rat-catchers to live with several females in Descent 1: 268.
This is the address of CD’s brother, Erasmus Alvey Darwin; CD stayed there from 3 to 11 March 1868. He then stayed with his sister-in-law, Sarah Elizabeth Wedgwood, at 4 Chester Place, until 1 April (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.


Writes at Frank Buckland’s suggestion. Can JB provide any information on the proportion of sexes in rats?

Do male rats fight for the possession of the female? Are they polygamous?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Bush
Sent from
Source of text
Private collection
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5961,” accessed on 24 September 2021,

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