skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Dean Caton   18 September 1868

Down. Bromley. Kent. S.E.

Sept 18th/ 68—

Dear Sir,

I beg leave to thank you very sincerely for your kindness in sending me through Mr Walsh your admirable paper on American Deer—1

It is quite full of most interesting observations, stated with the greatest clearness. I have seldom read a paper with more interest, for it abounds with facts of direct use for my work. Many of them consist of little points which hardly anyone besides yourself has observed, or perceived the importance of recording— I would instance the age at which the horns are developed (a point on which I have lately been in vain searching for information)2 the rudiment of horns in the female elk3—& especially the different nature of the plants devoured by the deer & elk4—& several other points—5

With cordial thanks for the pleasure & instruction which you have afforded me & with high respect for your powers of observation

I beg leave to remain Dear Sir | Yours faithfully & obliged | Charles Darwin


Benjamin Dann Walsh sent a copy of ‘American Cervus’ (Caton 1868) to CD (see letter from B. D. Walsh, 29 August 1868). There is an annotated offprint of Caton 1868 in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. The paper was also published in Caton 1880, pp. 146–75. Caton discussed the elk or wapiti (now Cervus canadensis) and the ‘Virginia deer’ (now usually called the white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus).
CD marked the passage where Caton wrote that horns first appeared when the animal was about one year old (Caton 1868, p. 13). In Descent 1: 288, CD discussed the age at which horns appeared in different deer species, citing Caton and others. For CD’s efforts to acquire information on horn development in deer, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 19 August 1868; see also letter from Edward Blyth, 24 August 1868.
CD marked the passage on the topic (Caton 1868, p. 9) in his offprint, and quoted Caton on the rudimentary horns of female wapiti in Descent 2: 245.
Caton discussed the feeding of the deer and elk in Caton 1868, pp. 29–31; CD marked the margins of some passages.
CD made other citations of Caton 1868, in addition to those in nn. 2–4, above, in Descent.


Caton, John Dean. 1868. American Cervus. Read before the Ottawa Academy of Natural Sciences, 21 May 1868. Ottawa, Illinois: Osman and Hapeman.

Caton, John Dean. 1880. Miscellanies. Boston: Houghton, Osgood.

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


Thanks JDC for paper ["American Cervus", Trans. Ottawa Acad. Nat. Sci. (1868); read 21 May 1868].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Dean Caton
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143: 253
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6377,” accessed on 25 September 2021,

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