Loudon's 'Gardener's Mag.' volume 10 1834 page 396: a nurseryman, with much experience on this subject, has likewise assured me that this sometimes occurs.) but the reversion in this instance is not to a very ancient period, for the best existing varieties of the heartsease are of comparatively modern origin. With most of our cultivated vegetables there is some tendency to reversion to what is known to be, or may be presumed to be, their aboriginal state; and this would be more evident if gardeners did not generally look over their beds of seedlings, and pull up the false plants or "rogues" as they are called. It has already been remarked, that some few seedling apples and pears generally resemble, but apparently are not identical with, the wild trees from which they are descended. In our turnip (13/8. 'Gardener's Chronicle' 1855 page 777.) and carrot-beds a few plants often "break "--that is, flower too soon; and their roots are generally hard and stringy, as in the parent-species. By the aid of a little selection, carried on during a few generations, most of our cultivated plants could probably be brought back, without any great change in their conditions of life, to a wild or nearly wild condition: Mr. Buckman has effected this with the parsnip (13/9. Ibid 1862 page 721.); and Mr. Hewett C. Watson, as he informs me, selected, during three generations, "the most diverging plants of Scotch kail, perhaps one of the least modified varieties of the cabbage; and in the third generation some of the plants came very close to the forms now established in England about old castle-walls, and called indigenous."


In the cases hitherto considered, the reverting animals and plants have not been exposed to any great or abrupt change in their conditions of life which could have induced this tendency; but it is very different with animals and plants which have become feral or run wild. It has been repeatedly asserted in the most positive manner by various authors, that feral animals and plants invariably return to their primitive specific type. It is curious on what little evidence this belief rests. Many of our domesticated animals could not subsist in a wild state; thus, the more highly improved breeds of the pigeon will not "field" or search for their own food. Sheep have never become feral, and would be destroyed by almost every beast of prey. (13/10. Mr. Boner speaks ('Chamois-hunting' 2nd edition 1860 page 92) of sheep often running wild in the Bavarian Alps; but, on making further inquiries at my request, he found that they are not able to establish themselves; they generally perish from the frozen snow clinging to their wool, and they have lost the skill necessary to pass over steep icy slopes. On one occasion two ewes survived the winter, but their lambs perished.) In several cases we do not know the aboriginal parent- species, and cannot possibly tell whether or not there has been any close degree of reversion. It is not known in any instance what variety was first turned out; several varieties have probably in some cases run wild, and their crossing alone would tend to obliterate their proper character. Our domesticated animals and plants, when they run wild, must always be exposed to new conditions of life, for, as Mr. Wallace (13/11. See some excellent remarks on this subject by Mr. Wallace 'Journal Proc. Linn. Soc.' 1858 volume 3 page 60.) has well remarked, they have to obtain their own food, and are exposed to competition with the native productions. Under these circumstances, if our domesticated animals did not undergo change of some kind, the result would be quite opposed to the conclusions arrived at in this work. Nevertheless, I do not doubt that the simple fact of animals and plants becoming feral, does cause some tendency to reversion to the primitive state; though this tendency has been much exaggerated by some authors.

[I will briefly run through the recorded cases. With neither horses nor cattle is the primitive stock known; and it has been shown in former chapters that they have assumed different colours in different countries.

The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication V2 Page 09

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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