In various breeds of the fowl the males and females often differ greatly; and these differences are far from being the same with those which distinguish the two sexes of the parent-species, the Gallus bankiva; and consequently have originated under domestication. In certain sub-varieties of the Game race we have the unusual case of the hens differing from each other more than the cocks. In an Indian breed of a white colour shaded with black, the hens invariably have black skins, and their bones are covered by a black periosteum, whilst the cocks are never or most rarely thus characterised. Pigeons offer a more interesting case; for throughout the whole great family the two sexes do not often differ much; and the males and females of the parent-form, the C. livia, are undistinguishable: yet we have seen that with pouters the male has the characteristic quality of pouting more strongly developed than the female; and in certain sub-varieties the males alone are spotted or striated with black, or otherwise differ in colour. When male and female English carrier-pigeons are exhibited in separate pens, the difference in the development of the wattle over the beak and round the eyes is conspicuous. So that here we have instances of the appearance of secondary sexual characters in the domesticated races of a species in which such differences are naturally quite absent.]

On the other hand, secondary sexual characters which belong to the species in a state of nature are sometimes quite lost, or greatly diminished, under domestication. We see this in the small size of the tusks in our improved breeds of the pig, in comparison with those of the wild boar. There are sub- breeds of fowls, in which the males have lost the fine-flowing tail-feathers and hackles; and others in which there is no difference in colour between the two sexes. In some cases the barred plumage, which in gallinaceous birds is commonly the attribute of the hen, has been transferred to the cock, as in the cuckoo sub-breeds. In other cases masculine characters have been partly transferred to the female, as with the splendid plumage of the golden-spangled Hamburgh hen, the enlarged comb of the Spanish hen, the pugnacious disposition of the Game hen, and as in the well-developed spurs which occasionally appear in the hens of various breeds. In Polish fowls both sexes are ornamented with a topknot, that of the male being formed of hackle-like feathers, and this is a new male character in the genus Gallus. On the whole, as far as I can judge, new characters are more apt to appear in the males of our domesticated animals than in the females (14/29. I have given in my 'Descent of Man' 2nd edition page 223 sufficient evidence that male animals are usually more variable than the females.), and afterwards to be inherited exclusively or more strongly by the males. Finally, in accordance with the principle of inheritance as limited by sex, the preservation and augmentation of secondary sexual characters in natural species offers no especial difficulty, as this would follow through that form of selection which I have called sexual selection.


This is an important subject. Since the publication of my 'Origin of Species' I have seen no reason to doubt the truth of the explanation there given of one of the most remarkable facts in biology, namely, the difference between the embryo and the adult animal. The explanation is, that variations do not necessarily or generally occur at a very early period of embryonic growth, and that such variations are inherited at a corresponding age. As a consequence of this the embryo, even after the parent-form has undergone great modification, is left only slightly modified; and the embryos of widely-different animals which are descended from a common progenitor remain in many important respects like one another and probably like their common progenitor. We can thus understand why embryology throws a flood of light on the natural system of classification, as this ought to be as far as possible genealogical.

The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication V2 Page 36

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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