Audubon ('Ornitholog. Biography' volume 3 page 168), speaking of these hybrids, says that, in North America, they "now and then wander off and become quite wild.") of hybrids from these two ducks having been shot in a completely wild state, although so few are reared in comparison with purely-bred birds of either species. It is improbable that any of these hybrids could have acquired their wildness from the musk-duck having paired with a truly wild duck; and this is known not to be the case in North America; hence we must infer that they have reacquired, through reversion, their wildness, as well as renewed powers of flight.

These latter facts remind us of the statements, so frequently made by travellers in all parts of the world, on the degraded state and savage disposition of crossed races of man. That many excellent and kind-hearted mulattos have existed no one will dispute; and a more mild and gentle set of men could hardly be found than the inhabitants of the island of Chiloe, who consist of Indians commingled with Spaniards in various proportions. On the other hand, many years ago, long before I had thought of the present subject, I was struck with the fact that, in South America, men of complicated descent between Negroes, Indians, and Spaniards, seldom had, whatever the cause might be, a good expression. (13/47. 'Journal of Researches' 1845 page 71.) Livingstone--and a more unimpeachable authority cannot be quoted,--after speaking of a half-caste man on the Zambesi, described by the Portuguese as a rare monster of inhumanity, remarks, "It is unaccountable why half-castes, such as he, are so much more cruel than the Portuguese, but such is undoubtedly the case." An inhabitant remarked to Livingstone, "God made white men, and God made black men, but the Devil made halfcastes." (13/48. 'Expedition to the Zambesi' 1865 pages 25, 150.) When two races, both low in the scale, are crossed the progeny seems to be eminently bad. Thus the noble- hearted Humboldt, who felt no prejudice against the inferior races, speaks in strong terms of the bad and savage disposition of Zambos, or half-castes between Indians and Negroes; and this conclusion has been arrived at by various observers. (13/49. Dr. P. Broca on 'Hybridity in the Genus Homo' English translation 1864 page 39.) From these facts we may perhaps infer that the degraded state of so many half-castes is in part due to reversion to a primitive and savage condition, induced by the act of crossing, even if mainly due to the unfavourable moral conditions under which they are generally reared.


When purely-bred animals or plants reassume long-lost characters,--when the common ass, for instance, is born with striped legs, when a pure race of black or white pigeons throws a slaty-blue bird, or when a cultivated heartsease with large and rounded flowers produces a seedling with small and elongated flowers,--we are quite unable to assign any proximate cause. When animals run wild, the tendency to reversion, which, though it has been greatly exaggerated, no doubt exists, is sometimes to a certain extent intelligible. Thus, with feral pigs, exposure to the weather will probably favour the growth of the bristles, as is known to be the case with the hair of other domesticated animals, and through correlation the tusks will tend to be redeveloped. But the reappearance of coloured longitudinal stripes on young feral pigs cannot be attributed to the direct action of external conditions. In this case, and in many others, we can only say that any change in the habits of life apparently favour a tendency, inherent or latent in the species, to return to the primitive state.

It will be shown in a future chapter that the position of flowers on the summit of the axis, and the position of seeds within the capsule, sometimes determine a tendency towards reversion; and this apparently depends on the amount of sap or nutriment which the flower-buds and seeds receive. The position, also, of buds, either on branches or on roots, sometimes determines, as was formerly shown, the transmission of the character proper to the variety, or its reversion to a former state.

The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication V2 Page 19

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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