In Algiers the domestic cat has crossed with the wild cat (F. lybica) of that country. (1/91. Isid. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 'Hist. Nat. Gen.' tome 3 page 177.) In South Africa as Mr. E. Layard informs me, the domestic cat intermingles freely with the wild F. caffra; he has seen a pair of hybrids which were quite tame and particularly attached to the lady who brought them up; and Mr. Fry has found that these hybrids are fertile. In India the domestic cat, according to Mr. Blyth, has crossed with four Indian species. With respect to one of these species, F. chaus, an excellent observer, Sir W. Elliot, informs me that he once killed, near Madras, a wild brood, which were evidently hybrids from the domestic cat; these young animals had a thick lynx-like tail and the broad brown bar on the inside of the forearm characteristic of F. chaus. Sir W. Elliot adds that he has often observed this same mark on the forearms of domestic cats in India. Mr. Blyth states that domestic cats coloured nearly like F. chaus, but not resembling that species in shape, abound in Bengal; he adds, "such a colouration is utterly unknown in European cats, and the proper tabby markings (pale streaks on a black ground, peculiarly and symmetrically disposed), so common in English cats, are never seen in those of India." Dr. D. Short has assured Mr. Blyth (1/92. 'Proc. Zoolog. Soc.' 1863 page 184.) that, at Hansi, hybrids between the common cat and F. ornata (or torquata) occur, "and that many of the domestic cats of that part of India were undistinguishable from the wild F. ornata." Azara states, but only on the authority of the inhabitants, that in Paraguay the cat has crossed with two native species. From these several cases we see that in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, the common cat, which lives a freer life than most other domesticated animals, has crossed with various wild species; and that in some instances the crossing has been sufficiently frequent to affect the character of the breed.

Whether domestic cats have descended from several distinct species, or have only been modified by occasional crosses, their fertility, as far as is known, is unimpaired. The large Angora or Persian cat is the most distinct in structure and habits of all the domestic breeds; and is believed by Pallas, but on no distinct evidence, to be descended from the F. manul of middle Asia; and I am assured by Mr. Blyth that the Angora cat breeds freely with Indian cats, which, as we have already seen, have apparently been much crossed with F. chaus. In England half-bred Angora cats are perfectly fertile with one another.

Within the same country we do not meet with distinct races of the cat, as we do of dogs and of most other domestic animals; though the cats of the same country present a considerable amount of fluctuating variability. The explanation obviously is that, from their nocturnal and rambling habits, indiscriminate crossing cannot without much trouble be prevented. Selection cannot be brought into play to produce distinct breeds, or to keep those distinct which have been imported from foreign lands. On the other hand, in islands and in countries completely separated from each other, we meet with breeds more or less distinct; and these cases are worth giving, showing that the scarcity of distinct races in the same country is not caused by a deficiency of variability in the animal. The tailless cats of the Isle of Man are said to differ from common cats not only in the want of a tail, but in the greater length of their hind legs, in the size of their heads, and in habits. The Creole cat of Antigua, as I am informed by Mr. Nicholson, is smaller, and has a more elongated head, than the British cat. In Ceylon, as Mr. Thwaites writes to me, every one at first notices the different appearance of the native cat from the English animal; it is of small size, with closely lying hairs; its head is small, with a receding forehead; but the ears are large and sharp; altogether it has what is there called a "low-caste" appearance.

The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication V1 Page 32

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Charles Darwin

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