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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Robert Elliot to George Cupples   21 June 1869

Laighwood, Dunkeld

21st. June 1869

Dear Sir

I am in receipt of yours of the 11th. Inst. but absence from home in Dumfriesshire, & Kirkcudbrightshire prevented me from replying to it until now.—

We all know very well who Mr. Darwin is, although some of us do not think ourselves bound to agree with him in all his theories, if I could assist him however in his researches I would willingly do so; I cannot however give you any more correct statistics regarding the number of males and females among sheep and Cattle than I have done, as I keep no record, and when Mr. Darwin speaks of 104.5 male births to 100 female births in the human species,1 there may be some slight difference among sheep, but I do not think so, but without closer observation I cannot speak to the exact fact; when in Dumfriesshire I put the question to an extensive farmer, both on lowland and hills, and he said on the average he believed they were equal.—

As regards the point on which Mr. Darwin wishes more information as to whether more male lambs die than females, independently of castration, I have not found more male Lambs die, before weaning, than females excepting from Castration, but I have always found males, when Mogs, that is from the time they are weaned until they are one year old, more liable to die from Braxy and other diseases than females.— Afterwards when females begin to breed they are more liable to casualties than males, that is that more males die before they are one year old or one and a half than females and that independently of castration, and more females than males from one cause and another after they are two year old.—

The number of births of Horses 25,000 tabulated by Mr. Darwin2 seems a large number, but it is a small number in comparison to the Lambs I have had through my hands first and last.—

You ask the Breed of the sheep I speak of, my opinion is you have that information in my former Letter;— they are now Blackfaced, Mountain sheep, formerly Leicesters and Cheviot.

I am Dear Sir | Yours truly | Robert Elliot

George Cupples Esq | The Cottage

CD annotations

1.1 I am … equal.— 2.9] crossed pencil
4.1 The number … last.— 4.3] crossed pencil
5.2 they are … Cheviot. 5.3] scored pencil
Top of letter: ‘On Males | Lamb dying, when 1 year old’ pencil
End of letter: ‘Mr Aitchison says on death ♂ most likely to die after birth & before castration3 | Oliver says ♂ most apt to die4ink


CD gave this statistic in Descent 1: 300.
The tabulation was made by William Bernhard Tegetmeier (see Correspondence vol. 16, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 21 February [1868], and Descent 2: 303).


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

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


Proportion of sexes in lambs, before castration.

Letter details

Letter no.
Robert Elliot
George Cupples
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 86: A60–1
Physical description
3pp †(by CD)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6791,” accessed on 24 July 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17