The cases of reversion may be divided into two main classes which, however, in some instances, blend into one another; namely, first, those occurring in a variety or race which has not been crossed, but has lost by variation some character that it formerly possessed, and which afterwards reappears. The second class includes all cases in which an individual with some distinguishable character, a race, or species, has at some former period been crossed, and a character derived from this cross, after having disappeared during one or several generations, suddenly reappears. A third class, differing only in the manner of reproduction, might be formed to include all cases of reversion effected by means of buds, and therefore independent of true or seminal generation. Perhaps even a fourth class might be instituted, to include reversions by segments in the same individual flower or fruit, and in different parts of the body in the same individual animal as it grows old. But the two first main classes will be sufficient for our purpose.


Striking instances of this first class of cases were given in the sixth chapter, namely, of the occasional reappearance, in variously-coloured breeds of the pigeon, of blue birds with all the marks characteristic of the wild Columba livia. Similar cases were given in the case of the fowl.

With the common ass, as the legs of the wild progenitor are almost always striped, we may feel assured that the occasional appearance of such stripes in the domestic animal is a case of simple reversion. But I shall be compelled to refer again to these cases, and therefore here pass them over.

The aboriginal species from which our domesticated cattle and sheep are descended, no doubt possessed horns; but several hornless breeds are now well established. Yet in these--for instance, in Southdown sheep--"it is not unusual to find among the male lambs some with small horns." The horns, which thus occasionally reappear in other polled breeds, either "grow to the full size," or are curiously attached to the skin alone and hang "loosely down, or drop off." (13/1. 'Youatt on Sheep' pages 20, 234. The same fact of loose horns occasionally appearing in hornless breeds has been observed in Germany; Bechstein 'Naturgesch. Deutschlands.' b. 1 s. 362.) The Galloways and Suffolk cattle have been hornless for the last 100 or 150 years, but a horned calf, with the horn often loosely attached, is occasionally produced. (13/2. 'Youatt on Cattle' pages 155, 174.)

The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication V2 Page 07

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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