There is reason to believe that sheep in their early domesticated condition were "brown or dingy black;" but even in the time of David certain flocks were spoken of as white as snow. During the classical period the sheep of Spain are described by several ancient authors as being black, red, or tawny. (13/3. 'Youatt on Sheep' 1838 pages 17, 145.) At the present day, notwithstanding the great care which is taken to prevent it, particoloured lambs and some entirely black are occasionally, or even frequently, dropped by our most highly improved and valued breeds, such as the Southdowns. Since the time of the famous Bakewell, during the last century, the Leicester sheep have been bred with the most scrupulous care; yet occasionally grey-faced, or black-spotted, or wholly black lambs appear. (13/4. I have been informed of this fact through the Rev. W.D. Fox on the excellent authority of Mr. Wilmot: see also remarks on this subject in an article in the 'Quarterly Review' 1849 page 395.) This occurs still more frequently with the less improved breeds, such as the Norfolks. (13/5. Youatt pages 19, 234.) As bearing on this tendency in sheep to revert to dark colours, I may state (though in doing so I trench on the reversion of crossed breeds, and likewise on the subject of prepotency) that the Rev. W.D. Fox was informed that seven white Southdown ewes were put to a so-called Spanish ram, which had two small black spots on his sides, and they produced thirteen lambs, all perfectly black. Mr. Fox believes that this ram belonged to a breed which he has himself kept, and which is always spotted with black and white; and he finds that Leicester sheep crossed by rams of this breed always produce black lambs: he has gone on recrossing these crossed sheep with pure white Leicesters during three successive generations, but always with the same result. Mr. Fox was also told by the friend from whom the spotted breed was procured, that he likewise had gone on for six or seven generations crossing with white sheep, but still black lambs were invariably produced.

Similar facts could be given with respect to tailless breeds of various animals. For instance, Mr. Hewitt (13/6. 'The Poultry Book' by Mr. Tegetmeier 1866 page 231.) states that chickens bred from some rumpless fowls, which were reckoned so good that they won a prize at an exhibition, "in a considerable number of instances were furnished with fully developed tail-feathers." On inquiry, the original breeder of these fowls stated that, from the time when he had first kept them, they had often produced fowls furnished with tails; but that these latter would again reproduce rumpless chickens.

Analogous cases of reversion occur in the vegetable kingdom; thus "from seeds gathered from the finest cultivated varieties of Heartsease (Viola tricolor), plants perfectly wild both in their foliage and their flowers are frequently produced;" (13/7.

The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication V2 Page 08

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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