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Darwin Correspondence Project

From George Hookham1   6 May [1873]2

Hall Green | Nr. Birmingham

May. 6.


I take the liberty of enclosing you some letters cut from the Bhm. ‘Morning News’: wh. may possibly have some interest for you. I send the whole correspondence, but I do not think it will be worth your while to read the first letter.3

I avail myself of this opportunity to furnish you with a fact of wh. you say you have no evidence—viz. that sheep strike with their feet in fighting.4 We have a small dog who teases the sheep in our orchard, by running quickly in front of them and barking— When he does this, they strike viciously at him with their fore feet—quite hard enough to disable him, if he was not much too sharp for them.

No doubt what you say is true, of their fighting with one another, but if they have antipathy to any small animals, this seems to be their mode of attack. As bearing on the point you are discussing the question is, whether this cd. become a mode of expressing pugnacity pure & simple, apart from the definite object exciting the feeling—

Hoping that you will not think this an unnecessary intrusion, I remain, | yr. obedt: servt: Geo: Hookham.

CD annotations

1.1 I take … letter. 1.3] crossed blue crayon


George Hookham has not been further identified.
The year is established by the date of Friedrich Max Müller’s lectures and the letters published in the Birmingham Morning News (see n. 3, below).
The letters concerned Max Müller’s two lectures on ‘Darwin’s philosophy of language’ delivered in Birmingham on 7 and 14 April 1873 (see Birmingham Daily Post, 11 April 1873, p. 6, and 15 April 1873, p. 8). Hookham wrote twice to the editor of the Birmingham Morning News to defend CD’s views on the animal origin of language (see Descent 1: 53–62). Max Müller believed that language originated in humans and not in animals, and he defended this position in his lectures by claiming that the animal mind was unknowable. The clippings of Hookham’s letters written between 8 and 19 April, and published in the Birmingham Morning News, are in DAR 87: 115–17; CD referred to them in Descent 2d ed., p. 83 and n. 44.
In Expression, p. 131, CD had stated that the wilder breeds of sheep stamped the ground when startled, but that he could not explain how this action arose because it did not appear that any sheep fought with their forelegs. Hookham’s information was included in Expression 2d ed., p. 138 n. 17.


Descent 2d ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1874.

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

Expression 2d ed.: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. Edited by Francis Darwin. London: John Murray. 1890.

Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.


A fact on expression: sheep do use hoofs in fighting.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Hookham
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 166: 266
Physical description
2pp †, encl †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7742,” accessed on 21 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21