In the two previous chapters, when discussing reversion and prepotency, I was necessarily led to give many facts on crossing. In the present chapter I shall consider the part which crossing plays in two opposed directions,--firstly, in obliterating characters, and consequently in preventing the formation of new races; and secondly, in the modification of old races, or in the formation of new and intermediate races, by a combination of characters. I shall also show that certain characters are incapable of fusion.

The effects of free or uncontrolled breeding between the members of the same variety or of closely allied varieties are important; but are so obvious that they need not be discussed at much length. It is free intercrossing which chiefly gives uniformity, both under nature and under domestication, to the individuals of the same species or variety, when they live mingled together and are not exposed to any cause inducing excessive variability. The prevention of free crossing, and the intentional matching of individual animals, are the corner-stones of the breeder's art. No man in his senses would expect to improve or modify a breed in any particular manner, or keep an old breed true and distinct, unless he separated his animals. The killing of inferior animals in each generation comes to the same thing as their separation. In savage and semi-civilised countries, where the inhabitants have not the means of separating their animals, more than a single breed of the same species rarely or never exists. In former times, even in the United States, there were no distinct races of sheep, for all had been mingled together. (15/1. 'Communications to the Board of Agriculture' volume 1 page 367.) The celebrated agriculturist Marshall (15/2. 'Review of Reports, North of England' 1808 page 200.) remarks that "sheep that are kept within fences, as well as shepherded flocks in open countries, have generally a similarity, if not a uniformity, of character in the individuals of each flock;" for they breed freely together, and are prevented from crossing with other kinds; whereas in the unenclosed parts of England the unshepherded sheep, even of the same flock, are far from true or uniform, owing to various breeds having mingled and crossed. We have seen that the half-wild cattle in each of the several British parks are nearly uniform in character; but in the different parks, from not having mingled and crossed during many generations, they differ to a certain small extent.

We cannot doubt that the extraordinary number of varieties and sub-varieties of the pigeon, amounting to at least one hundred and fifty, is partly due to their remaining, differently from other domesticated birds, paired for life once matched. On the other hand, breeds of cats imported into this country soon disappear, for their nocturnal and rambling habits render it hardly possible to prevent free crossing. Rengger (15/3. 'Saugethiere von Paraguay' 1830 s. 212.) gives an interesting case with respect to the cat in Paraguay: in all the distant parts of the kingdom it has assumed, apparently from the effects of the climate, a peculiar character, but near the capital this change has been prevented, owing, as he asserts, to the native animal frequently crossing with cats imported from Europe. In all cases like the foregoing, the effects of an occasional cross will be augmented by the increased vigour and fertility of the crossed offspring, of which fact evidence will hereafter be given; for this will lead to the mongrels increasing more rapidly than the pure parent-breeds.

When distinct breeds are allowed to cross freely, the result will be a heterogeneous body; for instance, the dogs in Paraguay are far from uniform, and can no longer be affiliated to their parent-races. (15/4. Rengger 'Saugethiere' etc. s. 154.) The character which a crossed body of animals will ultimately assume must depend on several contingencies,--namely, on the relative members of the individuals belonging to the two or more races which are allowed to mingle; on the prepotency of one race over the other in the transmission of character; and on the conditions of life to which they are exposed.

The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication V2 Page 43

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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