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From Charles Wade Crump to Edward Blyth   [before 8 January 1856]


Reports upon a breed of wild cattle found in southern India. The herd is reputedly descended from a wild, red bull that mated with tame cows.

[This memorandum was forwarded to CD enclosed with 1817.]

Author:  Charles Crump
Addressee:  Edward Blyth
Date:  [before 8 Jan 1856]
Classmark:  DAR 98: A114–A116
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1819

From Edward Blyth   21 April 1855


Indigenous domestic animals of the New World.

Relationship of Newfoundland and Esquimo dogs to the wolf. Dogs like the Esquimo occur in Tibet and Siberia. Indian pariah dogs and jackals occasionally interbreed.

Describes domestic cats of India; reports cases of their interbreeding with wild cats. Wild cats are tamed for hunting.

Races of silkworm in India are crossed [see 1690].

Domesticated plants, fish, and birds of India.

Comments on local races and species of crows; it is impossible to trace a line of demarcation between races and species.

Variation in the ability of hybrids to propagate.

Indian cattle breeds; differences between Bos indicus and Bos taurus.

Is not satisfied that aboriginally wild species of horse and ass exist.

Believes all fancy breeds of pigeon originated in the East. Wild ancestors of pigeons, ducks, geese, and fowls. Interbreeding of wild species of pheasant.

[CD’s notes are an abstract of this letter.]

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  21 Apr 1855
Classmark:  DAR 98: A57–A68
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1670

From Edward Blyth   4 August 1855


Sends a skeleton of a Bengal jungle cock.

Has never heard of trained otters breeding in captivity.

Introduced domestic rabbits are confined to the ports of India.

Canaries and other tame finches and thrushes brought into India do not breed well.

Origin of the domestic canary. Tendency of domesticated birds to produce "top-knot" varieties.

The tame geese of lower Bengal are hybrids; those of upper Bengal are said to be pure Anser cygnoides.

Wild Anser cinereus occur in flocks in the cold season.

Discusses at length different breeds of domestic cats and possible wild progenitors. Wild and domestic cats occasionally interbreed. The Angora variety breeds freely with the common Bengal cat and all stages of intermediates can be found.

Believes pigeons have been bred in India since remote antiquity.

Discusses whether mankind is divided into races or distinct species.

[CD’s notes are an abstract of this letter.]

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  4 Aug 1855
Classmark:  DAR 98: A69–A78
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1735

From Edward Blyth   22–3 August 1855


Gives extracts from a letter by Thomas Hutton.

Rabbits are kept (generally by Europeans) in the NW. provinces and breed freely. Canaries are not well adapted to the climate. Reports on domestic cats and pigeons of the area. EB gives references to further information on cats, pigeons, and silkworms.

[CD’s notes are an abstract of this letter.]

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  22–3 Aug 1855
Classmark:  DAR 98: A79–A84
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1746

From Edward Blyth   7 September [1855]


Comments on the ease with which different species of Felis can be tamed.

Asian species of wild cattle.

Variation in colour of jackals.

Discusses the difficulties of differentiating between varieties and species. EB recommends Herman Schlegel’s definition of species [in Essay on the physiognomy of serpents, trans. T. S. Traill (1843)]. Problems of defining species of wolves and squirrels. Pigeons and doves afford an illustration of "clusters of species, varieties, or races". Various pigeons have local species in different parts of India and Burma, some of which interbreed where their ranges cross; as do the local species of Coracias [see Natural selection, p. 259].

[CD’s notes are an abstract of this memorandum.]

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  7 Sept [1855]
Classmark:  DAR 98: A51–5
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1752

From Edward Blyth   [22 September 1855]


Gives extract from a letter from Capt. R. Tickell: rabbits are not bred by the Burmese; common European and Chinese geese are bred but have probably only recently been introduced.

EB gives references to works illustrating the dog-like instinct of N. American wolves.

Discusses reason and instinct; ascribes both to man and animals. Comments on various instincts, e. g. homing, migratory, parental, constructive, and defensive. Reasoning in animals; cattle learning to overcome fear of passing trains.

Hybrid sterility as an indication of distinct species. Interbreeding as an indication of common parentage.

Enlarges upon details given by J. C. Prichard [in The natural history of man (1843)].

Adaptation of the two-humped camel to cold climates. Camel hybrids.

Doubts that domestic fowl or fancy pigeons have ever reverted to the wild.

Feral horses and cattle of S. America.

Believes the "creole pullets" to be a case of inaccurate description.

Variations in skulls between species of wild boar.

Pigs are so prolific that the species might be expected to cross.

Milk production of cows and goats.

Sheep and goats of lower Bengal.

Indian breeds of horses.

Variation in Asiatic elephants.

Spread of American tropical and subtropical plants in the East.

EB distinguishes between races and artificially-produced breeds.

[CD’s notes are an abstract of this memorandum.]

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  [22 Sept 1855]
Classmark:  DAR 98: A85–A92
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1755

From Edward Blyth   8 October 1855


Encloses two sets of notes [see 1761 and 1762]. EB believes that as a general rule species do not inter-mix in nature whereas varieties, descendants of a common stock, do. Origin of varieties. Geographically separated species are sometimes obviously distinct and sometimes apparently identical. EB does not believe that species or races of independent origin need necessarily differ. Local distribution of species of black cockatoo contrasts with the widespread white cockatoo. The occurrence of distinct but related species in different regions of a zoological province, preserved because of geographical barriers. Instances of interspecific hybrids and intraspecific sterility. Local varieties of species. Varieties are subdivisions of the main branches of the tree of organisms, dividing irregularly but remaining independent of the twigs from another branch.

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  8 Oct 1855
Classmark:  DAR 98: A99–A103
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1760

From Edward Blyth   [30 September or 7 October 1855]


Origin of domestic varieties. EB ascribes "abnormal" variations to man’s propagation of casual monstrosities; believes "normal" variations, e.g. European races of cattle, are a consequence of man’s selecting the choicest specimens. Gives examples of "abnormal" variations; they give rise to features that have no counterpart among possible wild progenitors. Divides domestic animals into those whose origin is known and those whose origin is unknown. Considers that the wild progenitors of nearly all domestic birds are known. Fowls and pigeons show many varieties but if propagated abnormalities are ignored each group can be seen to be variations of a single species, the ancestors of which can be recognised without difficulty. Discusses varieties and ancestry of the domestic fowl. Variation in the wild; the ruff shows exceptional variability; other species of birds show variability in size of individuals. Remarks that markings sometimes vary on different sides of the same animal. Comments on the want of regularity in leaf and petal patterns of some plants. Discusses domestic varieties of reindeer and camels. Origin of humped cattle. Reports the rapid spread of a snail in lower Bengal that was introduced as a single pair five or six years previously.

[CD’s notes are an abstract of part of this memorandum. Memorandum originally enclosed with 1760.]

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  [30 Sept or 7 Oct] 1855
Classmark:  DAR 98: A25–A36
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1761

From Edward Blyth   [1–8 October 1855]


Notes on Lyell’s Principles, vol. 2.

EB does not believe in connecting links between genera; there is no tendency to gradation between groups of animals.

Does not believe shortage of food can directly produce any heritable effect on size.

Comments on significance of variations discussed by Lyell. Variation in dentition and coloration.

Behaviour of elephants and monkeys.

When varieties are crossed EB considers that the form of the offspring, whether intermediate or like one or other of the parents, depends upon how nearly related the parents are.

Thinks that in the struggle for existence hybrids, and varieties generally, must be expected to give way to the "beautiful & minute adaptation" of the pure types.

Colours of Indian birds.

Vitality of seeds.

Variation among palms.

Fauna of Malaysia and New Zealand. Ranges of bird species.

[Memorandum originally enclosed with 1760.]

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  [1–8 Oct 1855]
Classmark:  DAR 98: A37–A50
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1762

From Edward Blyth   [8 November 1855]


History of the rose in India.

Looks forward to reading what Hooker and Thompson say on species and varieties in their Flora Indica [1855].

Domestication of the turkey in America. The Peruvians had domestic dogs. W. W. Robinson of Assam reports that otters are extensively trained for fishing but cormorants never are. Gives Robinson’s comments on local domestic geese, rabbits, and cats.

EB has skins of jungle fowl from different localities to send.

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  [8 Nov 1855]
Classmark:  DAR 98: A108–A109
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1776

From Edward Blyth   8 December 1855


What does CD think of A. R. Wallace’s paper in the Annals & Magazine of Natural History ["On the law which has regulated the introduction of new species", n.s. 16 (1855): 184–96]? EB considers it good on the whole.

Japanned variety of peacock.

Regional variations in bird species.

EB has little faith in the aboriginal wildness of the Chillingham cattle.

Races of humped cattle of India, China, and Africa.

Indian and Malayan gigantic squirrels, with various races remaining true to their colour, would afford capital data for Wallace, as would the local varieties of certain molluscs. Has Wallace’s lucid collation of facts unsettled CD’s ideas regarding the persistence of species?

Bengal hybrid race of geese is very uniform in colour and as prolific as the European tame goose [see Natural selection, p. 439].

Will see what he can do for CD with regard to domestic pigeons.

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  8 Dec 1855
Classmark:  DAR 98: A104–A107
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1792

From Edward Blyth   [22 October 1855]


Gives references to William Allen’s narrative of the Niger expedition [William Allen and T. R. H. Thompson , A narrative of the expedition sent by Her Majesty’s Government to the river Niger in 1841 (1848)]: common fowl returning to wildness, details of domestic sheep, ducks, and white fowl.

Range of the fallow deer; its affinity to the Barbary stag.

Natural propensity of donkeys for arid desert.

Indian donkeys often have zebra markings on the legs.

Believes the common domestic cat of India is indigenous.

Occurrence of cultivated plants from Europe in India; success of cultivation. Ancient history of cultivated plants.

[CD’s notes are an abstract of this memorandum and indicate that it was originally 20 pages long.]

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  [22 Oct 1855]
Classmark:  DAR 98: A93–A98
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1811

From Edward Blyth   8 January [1856]


Encloses "notes for Mr. D" [see 1818] and a memorandum on the wild cattle of southern India [see 1819].

Breeds of silky fowl of China and Malaya. Black-skinned fowl.

Doubts any breed of canary has siskin blood; all remain true to their type.

Wild canary and finch hybrids.

Hybrids between one- and two-humped camels.

Does not regard zebra markings on asses as an indication of interbreeding but as one of the many instances of markings in the young which more or less disappear in the adult.

Crossing of Coracias species at the edges of their ranges.

Regional variations and intergrading between species of pigeons.

Regards the differences in Treron as specific [see Natural selection, p. 115 n. 1].

Gives other instances of representative species or races differing only in certain details of colouring.

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  8 Jan [1856]
Classmark:  DAR 98: A110–13, A117–21
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1817

From Edward Blyth   23 January 1856


Believes the goldfish originates from a wild, gold variety of Chinese carp.

Gallinaceous birds.

Crested turkeys.

EB divides the gallinaceous birds into five families on anatomical distinctions.

Wild dog species of India and Asia; ranges of some species, specific identity of others.

The fauna of the Seychelles.

Breeding of fowls in India and Africa.

Occurrence of turkeys in Africa.

Refers to some of his own papers giving fuller details of points raised previously.

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  23 Jan 1856
Classmark:  DAR 98: A122–A125
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1825

From Edward Blyth   23 February 1856


Opposition to EB within the Asiatic Society.

Possibility of establishment of a zoological garden at Calcutta.

Has seen Gallus varius alive for the first time.

Will procure domestic pigeons for CD; could CD pay for them by returning hardy creatures, such as macaws and marmosets, which EB can sell for a high price in India?

Does not recall his authority for genealogy of the asses of Oman. If a genuine wild ass exists EB believes it will be in south Arabia.

Infertility of Irish and Devon red deer.

Details of an unusual species of wild dog.

Fertility of canine hybrids. General tendency toward hybrid sterility.

Has skins of hybrid Coracias and the parent species.

Wide-ranging species; skua found in Europe and Australia, but not in the tropics.

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  23 Feb 1856
Classmark:  DAR 98: A128–A132
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1832

From Edward Blyth   26 February 1856


There is a possibility of establishment of a Government Museum at Calcutta, with which the Asiatic Society Museum would be merged. EB would like the curatorship but fears other possible applicants. Asks CD to represent him to W. H. Sykes.

Discusses the ancients’ awareness of various cats as deduced from the etymology of their names.

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  26 Feb 1856
Classmark:  DAR 98: A126–A127
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1833

From Edward Blyth   [c. 22 March 1856]


Gives references to works on fowls and pigeons.

Observations on Gallinaceae.

Musk ox skull from southern England is additional evidence for Agassiz’s glacial period. Owen is mistaken in calling it a buffalo.

EB describes the buffalo proper.

Will send domestic pigeon specimens.

Believes pigeons were not bred in India before the Mohammedan conquest. Describes Indian breeds.

Believes the ass is an African rather than an Asian production. Discusses various species of ass and their distribution.

Wild horned cattle on borders of Pilibhit and Shahjahanpur.

[Notes received by CD on 6 May 1856.]

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  [c. 22 Mar 1856]
Classmark:  DAR 98: 133–9
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1845

From Edward Blyth   [3 April 1856]


Reports observations on Indian pigeons from David Scott at Hansi. EB adds remarks on Indian breeds he has encountered. Suggests Egypt, Turkey, and Syria would be good places from which to obtain specimens. Believes domestic races are all descended from Columba livia; their calls are all similar and they pair indiscriminately.


Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  [3 Apr 1856]
Classmark:  DAR 98: A140–A143
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1849



[CD’s abstract of Blyth’s letter of [21 Apr 1857], original of which is missing.] EB does not know whether hybrids of humped and common cattle are fertile inter se.

Species of Coracias cross in Bengal where they mix.

Crossing between Indian cat species.

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Classmark:  Smithsonian Libraries and Archives (Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-2080

From Edward Blyth   [8 January 1858]


Zebra-striped asses.

Markings of a Bengal jungle cock.

Refers to some of his own articles on birds in India.

Reports the arrival of the "glorious garrison of Lucknow". The "wonderful superiority of the European to the Asiatic" made the success of the insurrection inconceivable.

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  [8 Jan 1858]
Classmark:  DAR 98: A144–5
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-2200
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