Thus the horses which have run wild in South America are generally brownish-bay, and in the East dun-coloured; their heads have become larger and coarser, and this may be due to reversion. No careful description has been given of the feral goat. Dogs which have run wild in various countries have hardly anywhere assumed a uniform character; but they are probably descended from several domestic races, and aboriginally from several distinct species. Feral cats, both in Europe and La Plata, are regularly striped; in some cases they have grown to an unusually large size, but do not differ from the domestic animal in any other character. When variously-coloured tame rabbits are turned out in Europe, they generally reacquire the colouring of the wild animal; there can be no doubt that this does really occur, but we should remember that oddly- coloured and conspicuous animals would suffer much from beasts of prey and from being easily shot; this at least was the opinion of a gentleman who tried to stock his woods with a nearly white variety; if thus destroyed, they would be supplanted by, instead of being transformed into, the common rabbit. We have seen that the feral rabbits of Jamaica, and especially of Porto Santo, have assumed new colours and other new characters. The best known case of reversion, and that on which the widely spread belief in its universality apparently rests, is that of pigs. These animals have run wild in the West Indies, South America, and the Falkland Islands, and have everywhere acquired the dark colour, the thick bristles, and great tusks of the wild boar; and the young have reacquired longitudinal stripes. But even in the case of the pig, Roulin describes the half-wild animals in different parts of South America as differing in several respects. In Louisiana the pig (13/12. Dureau de la Malle 'Comptes Rendus' tome 41 1855 page 807. From the statements above given, the author concludes that the wild pigs of Louisiana are not descended from the European Sus scrofa.) has run wild, and is said to differ a little in form, and much in colour, from the domestic animal, yet does not closely resemble the wild boar of Europe. With pigeons and fowls (13/13. Capt. W. Allen, in his 'Expedition to the Niger' states that fowls have run wild on the island of Annobon, and have become modified in form and voice. The account is so meagre and vague that it did not appear to me worth copying; but I now find that Dureau de la Malle ('Comptes Rendus' tome 41 1855 page 690) advances this as a good instance of reversion to the primitive stock, and as confirmatory of a still more vague statement in classical times by Varro.), it is not known what variety was first turned out, nor what character the feral birds have assumed. The guinea-fowl in the West Indies, when feral, seems to vary more than in the domesticated state.

With respect to plants run wild, Dr. Hooker (13/14. 'Flora of Australia' 1859 Introduction page 9.) has strongly insisted on what slight evidence the common belief in their reversion to a primitive state rests. Godron (13/15. 'De l'Espece' tome 2 pages 54, 58, 60.) describes wild turnips, carrots, and celery; but these plants in their cultivated state hardly differ from their wild prototypes, except in the succulency and enlargement of certain parts,-- characters which would certainly be lost by plants growing in poor soil and struggling with other plants. No cultivated plant has run wild on so enormous a scale as the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) in La Plata. Every botanist who has seen it growing there, in vast beds, as high as a horse's back, has been struck with its peculiar appearance; but whether it differs in any important point from the cultivated Spanish form, which is said not to be prickly like its American descendant, or whether it differs from the wild Mediterranean species, which is said not to be social (though this may be due merely to the nature of the conditions), I do not know.]

REVERSION TO CHARACTERS DERIVED FROM A CROSS, IN THE CASE OF SUB-VARIETIES, RACES, AND SPECIES.

The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication V2 Page 10

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book