These sheep, though ranked by Fitzinger as a distinct aboriginal form, bear in their drooping ears the stamp of long domestication. This is likewise the case with those sheep which have two great masses of fat on the rump, with the tail in a rudimentary condition. The Angola variety of the long-tailed race has curious masses of fat on the back of the head and beneath the jaws. (3/77. 'Youatt on Sheep' page 120.) Mr. Hodgson in an admirable paper (3/78. 'Journal of the Asiatic Soc. of Bengal' volume 16 pages 1007, 1016.) on the sheep of the Himalaya infers from the distribution of the several races, "that this caudal augmentation in most of its phases is an instance of degeneracy in these pre-eminently Alpine animals." The horns present an endless diversity in character; being not rarely absent, especially in the female sex, or, on the other hand, amounting to four or even eight in number. The horns, when numerous, arise from a crest on the frontal bone, which is elevated in a peculiar manner. It is remarkable that multiplicity of horns "is generally accompanied by great length and coarseness of the fleece." (3/79. 'Youatt on Sheep' pages 142-169.) This correlation, however, is far from being general; for instance, I am informed by Mr. D. Forbes, that the Spanish sheep in Chile resemble, in fleece and in all other characters, their parent merino-race, except that instead of a pair they generally bear four horns. The existence of a pair of mammae is a generic character in the genus Ovis as well as in several allied forms; nevertheless, as Mr. Hodgson has remarked, "this character is not absolutely constant even among the true and proper sheep: for I have more than once met with Cagias (a sub-Himalayan domestic race) possessed of four teats." (3/80. 'Journal Asiat. Soc. of Bengal' volume 16 1847 page 1015.) This case is the more remarkable as, when any part or organ is present in reduced number in comparison with the same part in allied groups, it usually is subject to little variation. The presence of interdigital pits has likewise been considered as a generic distinction in sheep; but Isidore Geoffroy (3/81. 'Hist. Nat. Gen.' tome 3 page 435.) has shown that these pits or pouches are absent in some breeds.

In sheep there is a strong tendency for characters, which have apparently been acquired under domestication, to become attached either exclusively to the male sex, or to be more highly developed in this than in the other sex. Thus in many breeds the horns are deficient in the ewe, though this likewise occurs occasionally with the female of the wild musmon. In the rams of the Wallachian breed, "the horns spring almost perpendicularly from the frontal bone, and then take a beautiful spiral form; in the ewes they protrude nearly at right angles from the head, and then become twisted in a singular manner." (3/82. 'Youatt on Sheep' page 138.) Mr. Hodgson states that the extraordinarily arched nose or chaffron, which is so highly developed in several foreign breeds, is characteristic of the ram alone, and apparently is the result of domestication. (3/83. 'Journal Asiat. Soc. of Bengal' volume 16 1847 pages 1015, 1016.) I hear from Mr. Blyth that the accumulation of fat in the fat-tailed sheep of the plains of India is greater in the male than in the female; and Fitzinger (3/84. 'Racen des Zahmen Schafes' s. 77.) remarks that the mane in the African maned race is far more developed in the ram than in the ewe.

Different races of sheep, like cattle, present constitutional differences. Thus the improved breeds arrive at maturity at an early age, as has been well shown by Mr. Simonds through their early average period of dentition. The several races have become adapted to different kinds of pasture and climate: for instance, no one can rear Leicester sheep on mountainous regions, where Cheviots flourish. As Youatt has remarked, "In all the different districts of Great Britain we find various breeds of sheep beautifully adapted to the locality which they occupy. No one knows their origin; they are indigenous to the soil, climate, pasturage, and the locality on which they graze; they seem to have been formed for it and by it." (3/85.

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book