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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Friedrich Rolle   31 May 1868

Down Bromley Kent

May 31 1868

Dear & Respected Sir

I thank you for your great kindness in sending me so many valuable references.1 I wish I was a better German scholar & had better health to profit by them; but of late years my strength has failed me much for reading, & no doubt I have overlooked many important memoirs.

I had forgotten that you had discussed the origin & range of the Torf schwein, & I dare say that I am in error on the subject. I procured Kerner’s work some time ago, but from the want of time, have read very little; all that I read seemed to me very good.2

I much wish I had known of E. V. Marten’s paper on the Peacock before the publication of my book.3

I am now employed on a different subject, in relation to sexual differences— I believe you will aid me on one point if in your power. In some parts of Germany a breed of fowls exists in which the females are furnished with spurs.4 Now will you enquire if such a breed exists in your neighbourhood? If so, what I want to know is whether the spurs are developed earlier or later in life in such a breed than in common fowls.

For instance would the chickens at about 4 months old have larger or smaller spurs than the chickens of any ordinary breed in which the Cocks alone have spurs?

Pray do not trouble yourself to answer this unless you can procure for me the desired information.

With very sincere thanks for your kindness & with much respect I remain dear Sir | yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin


See letter from Friedrich Rolle, 28 May 1868. CD refers to Anton Kerner von Marilaun and Kerner von Marilaun 1864; there is a lightly annotated copy in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 446).
See letter from Friedrich Rolle, 28 May 1868. CD refers to Eduard von Martens, Martens 1864a, and Variation.
See Variation 1: 256; CD’s information was from Bechstein 1789–95. See also Correspondence vol. 15, letter to A. R. Wallace, 5 May [1867], and Descent 1: 280, 284.


Bechstein, Johann Matthäus. 1789–95. Gemeinnützige Naturgeschichte Deutschlands nach allen drey Reichen. Ein Handbuch zur deutlichern und vollständigern Selbstbelehrung besonders für Forstmänner, Jugendlehrer und Oekonomen. 4 vols. Leipzig: Siegfried Lebrecht Crusius.

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

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

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

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


Thanks for references.

CD in error about Torfschwein.

Comments on German publications.

Asks about breed of fowl in which females have spurs.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Friedrich Rolle
Sent from
Source of text
Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseum, Frankfurt (SNG-Archiv: Malakol.: Nachlass Rolle)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6217,” accessed on 17 September 2021,

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