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Darwin Correspondence Project

From P. C. Sutherland   17 January 1872

Natal South Africa

Jan 17 1872

Dear Mr Darwin

I am just going to have another hunt through all your works with the view of finding something that will throw light upon a Curious bird we have just got down from the interior. They are a pair of creatures said by the Dutchman who brought them down to Natal to be a cross between the common fowl and the guinea fowl (Numida Mitrata)1

They enjoy the peculiarity as regards voice and gait of the latter but they have few of their feathers and alas! the spur of the former. I am getting Mr Baines who is here now to make good likenesses of them which I will send to you when ready2

And if you really attach value to the objects themselves I dare say it will be possible to find means of sending them dead or alive. They are only one year old. One of them has laid eggs which are spotted and so far as I can credit the description given of them not unsymmetrical like that of the common fowl but pointed at both ends. They do not fraternize for breeding purposes with the domestic fowl although on friendly enough terms in the yard and the roost. I will take the liberty to trouble you again about this3

yours truly | P. C. Sutherland


CD had once asked Sutherland amongst others for skins of locally bred domestic animals (Correspondence vol. 5, CD memorandum, [December 1855]). Numida mitrata is now Numida meleagris mitratus, a subspecies of the helmeted guineafowl. By the common fowl, Sutherland presumably means Gallus gallus domesticus.
Sutherland probably refers to Thomas Baines, an artist and African explorer. No drawings of the birds have been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
No further correspondence from Sutherland on this subject has been found.


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


Has some birds which are allegedly the result of a cross between a common fowl and a guinea-fowl; describes their appearance, and will provide CD with likenesses.

Letter details

Letter no.
Peter Cormack Sutherland
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 321
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8163,” accessed on 19 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20