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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Edward Blyth   24 August 1868

7 Princess Terrace, | Regent’s Pk,

Aug. 24/68.

My dear Sir,

Your note of Aug. 4th. has remained a long while unanswered, and my correspondence generally was getting inconscniently into arrears, which I am now fast getting down.1 The crested race of turkey, as you will have seen, has been described before the biological section of the British Association.2 I would have gone to Norwich, but have not been particularly well of late, and there is more of feasting than I like on all occasions of the kind.

Now for your suggestion about the development of horn in antelopes.3 A very striking instance of what you suspect is afforded by the young Koodoo and the young elands in the Zoological Gardens. In the former the female sex is hornless, in the latter horned. Now in the young male eland of about three months old the horns are very much more developed than in the young Koodoo which is probably at least ten months old!4 Indeed, considering the size to which they ultimately attain in the Koodoo, I think that the backward state of them in the young Koodoo in question is very remarkable.

At the same time I can think of no other good instance of the kind. In the gazelline series the true gazelles have mostly small horns in the female sex, but not in Gazella subgutturosa, Procapra gutturosa & P. picticaudata, Cervicapra bezoartica, the African pallah, & again the Saiga & the Tchiru.5 In all the forms allied to the Koodoo the females are hornless, with the exception of the two good species of eland; and of the latter the common one has narrow and pointed ears, like the humped cattle, while the great Oreas Derbianus 6 has broad ears as in the Koodoos. I think I have before called your attention to the very great diversity of size in the common red Deer (C. elaphus), according to the locality, e.g. the great Carpathian race, with horns attaining to 4 ft. long, the ordinary race of Western Europe, the horns of which very rarely exceed 3 ft., & the diminutive race of the island of Harris (& probably other islands) in the Hebrides, wherein 2 ft. is about the average length of a fully developed horn, with all the tines & crown complete.7 Something very like this is exhibited by Cervus mantchuricus of N. China, the very diminutive C. sika of Japan, and the intermediate C. pseudaxis of Formosa. The three animals are of the same peculiar type, but the large mantchuricus has a considerable nuchal ruff in winter, which is not seen in the others.8 By the way, the subfossil race of the British islands, Switzerland, &c. resembles the existing great Carpathian race. In the Sâmur (C. hippelaphus) there is considerable local variation, especially as shewn by the development & variation of form of the horns, but I consider the animal to be the same all over India (with Ceylon) & the Indo-Chinese countries, becoming darker-coloured in Malacca, Sumatra, & especially Borneo, where styled C. equinus, but an extreme variation only of C. hippelaphus in my opinion; while forms of sâmur, but much more diminutive, exist in C. Swinhoei of Formosa & C. philippinus of the Philippines.9 C. rusa of Java is quite distinct, & close to this but successively smaller are C. moluccensis of Celebes, &c, & C. timoriensis.10 C. rusa, however, has again the nuchal ruff, which its two proximate congeners have not. Now the horns of C. elaphus from different parks or forests in this island are very commonly distinguishable, as most Deer-stalkers know, & of equivalent importance are certain of the local variations of sâmur horns. I do not acknowledge a C. Aristotelis as distinct from C. hippelaphus,11 and hesitate not a little about recognising C. equinus. C. barbarus 12 of North Africa I consider to be a good species, & the Corsican (if not also the Sardinian) stag13 is either the same or comes very near it. I have examined several dozens of horns of C. barbarus, and never yet found the bez-antler or second basal tine,—the horn being akin to that of C. dama,14 which is still wild on the mainland of Greece.


The accompanying sketch represents the horn of C. barbarus, & the dotted lines convert it into that of C. dama. Now about other true stags, of the elaphine type. The most distinct are the American wapiti (C. canadensis)15 & the Mongolian shou (C. Hardwickii), which last is the C. affinis, Hodgson.16 Then we have two well marked races in the Z.G., viz. C. maral of Persia & Asia Minor, and C. Kashmiriensis,17 both of which are more distinct from C. elaphus than are the Carpathian and other races of the latter from each other. And it is probable that a large stag in the north of Japan that has been referred to C. elaphus will prove to be as different from it as are the Kashmirian and Persian stags— There is now a true wild Greek example of C. dama in the Z.G., remarkable for the shortness of its limbs, and the horns which it has put forth this season are remarkably like those of a wild Greek specimen of which I have photographs, while they would not be easy to match among those of English park deer. Perhaps some of the foregoing facts may be of some service to you—

Yours very Sincerely, | E. Blyth.

CD annotations

1.1 Your … the kind. 1.6] crossed pencil
2.3 former] ‘Koodoo’ added pencil
2.4 latter] ‘Eland’ added pencil
2.8 very remarkable.] followed by closing square bracket pencil
3.1 In the … bezoartica, 3.3] scored pencil
3.5 species of eland;] followed by closing square bracket pencil
3.5 and of the … C. dama, 3.34] crossed pencil
3.42 And it is … you— 3.49] crossed pencil


CD’s letter to Blyth of 4 August 1868 has not been found.
See letter from Edward Blyth, 3 August 1868 and n. 5. Abraham Dee Bartlett read a paper on the crested turkey at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Norwich on 22 August 1868 (The Times, 22 August 1868, p. 4).
CD was interested in whether the horns appeared earlier or later in mammal species in which only the males had horns (see letter to W. W. Reade, 21 May [1868]).
CD cited Blyth for this information in Descent 1: 289. An eland (Oreas canna; now Taurotragus oryx, the common eland) was born in the Zoological Gardens, Regent’s Park, London, on 25 May 1868; a koodoo (Strepsiceros kudu, now Tragelaphus strepsiceros, the greater kudu) was purchased on 16 July 1868 (Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (1868): 644, 648).
Cervicapra bezoartica is now Antilope cervicapra, the blackbuck. The ‘pallah’ is now known as the impala, Aepyceros melampus (OED). The saiga is Saiga tatarica. The chiru is the Tibetan antelope, Pantholops hodgsoni.
Oreas derbianus is now Taurotragus derbianus, the Derby or giant eland.
The west European red deer is now Cervus elaphus elaphus. No previous letter in which Blyth discussed the size of the antlers of C. elaphus elaphus has been found.
Cervus mantchuricus is now C. nippon mantchuricus (subgenus Sika), the Manchurian sika deer. Cervus sika is now C. nippon nippon, the sika deer. Cervus pseudaxis is now C. nippon pseudaxis, although its native region is now considered to be Vietnam, not Taiwan (Formosa; Whitehead 1993, p. 231). Both sexes of C. nippon have a neck mane in winter (Nowak 1999).
Cervus hippelaphus of Hainan (see Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (1870): 647) and C. equinus are now C. unicolor equinus, the Sumatran sambar (C. hippelaphus is also a synonym for C. unicolor niger: Whitehead 1993, p. 478); C. swinhoei is now C. unicolor swinhoei; C. philippinus is now C. unicolor philippinus (ibid.).
Cervus rusa of Java is now C. timorensis russa (subgenus Rusa); C. moluccensis is now C. timorensis moluccensis (Whitehead 1993, p. 478).
Cervus aristotelis (of Nepal) is now C. unicolor niger (Whitehead 1993, p. 478); the C. hippelephas mentioned here is presumably also C. unicolor niger (see n. 9, above).
Cervus barbarus is now C. elephas barbarus, the Barbary stag (Whitehead 1993, p. 473).
Cervus elaphus corsicanus is found on Corsica and Sardinia (Whitehead 1993, p. 473).
Cervus dama is now Dama dama, the fallow deer.
Cervus canadensis should according to some authorities now be designated C. elaphus canadensis (see Whitehead 1993, p. 473).
The name Cervus Hardwickii has not been found. Cervus affinis is now C. elaphus wallichi, the shou of Tibet and Bhutan (Whitehead 1993, p. 473).
Cervus maral is now C. elaphus maral, the east European red deer; C. kashmiriensis is now C. elaphus hanglu of Kashmir. Z.G.: the Zoological Gardens in Regent’s Park, London.


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

Nowak, Ronald M. 1999. Walker’s mammals of the world. 6th edition. 2 vols. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Whitehead, George Kenneth. 1993. The Whitehead encyclopedia of deer. Shrewsbury: Swan Hill Press.


Discusses the development of horns in antelopes. Remarks on the variation within and between the species of Cervus and on their relationship to each other.

Letter details

Letter no.
Edward Blyth
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Princess Terrace, 7
Source of text
DAR 86: A34–5, DAR 160: 220
Physical description
8pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6329,” accessed on 16 September 2021,

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