He had a breed of chinchillas which had been crossed with the common black rabbit, and their offspring were either blacks or chinchillas. These latter were again crossed with other chinchillas (which had also been crossed with silver-greys), and from this complicated cross Himalayan rabbits were raised. From these and other similar statements, Mr. Bartlett (4/17. Mr. Bartlett in 'Proc. Zoolog Soc.' 1861 page 40.) was led to make a careful trial in the Zoological Gardens, and he found that by simply crossing silver-greys with chinchillas he could always produce some few Himalayans; and the latter, notwithstanding their sudden origin, if kept separate, bred perfectly true. But I have recently been assured the pure silver-greys of any sub-breed occasionally produce Himalayans.

The Himalayans, when first born, are quite white, and are then true albinoes; but in the course of a few months they gradually assume their dark ears, nose, feet, and tail. Occasionally, however, as I am informed by Mr. W.A. Wooler and the Rev. W.D. Fox, the young are born of a very pale grey colour, and specimens of such fur were sent me by the former gentleman. The grey tint, however, disappears as the animal comes to maturity. So that with these Himalayans there is a tendency, strictly confined to early youth, to revert to the colour of the adult silver-grey parent-stock. Silver-greys and chinchillas, on the other hand, present a remarkable contrast with the Himalayans in their colour whilst quite young, for they are born perfectly black, but soon assume their characteristic grey or silver tints. The same thing occurs with grey horses, which, as long as they are foals, are generally of a nearly black colour, but soon become grey, and get whiter and whiter as they grow older. Hence the usual rule is that Himalayans are born white and afterwards become in certain parts of their bodies dark-coloured; whilst silver-greys are born black and afterwards become sprinkled with white. Exceptions, however, and of a directly opposite nature, occasionally occur in both cases. For young silver-greys are sometimes born in warrens, as I hear from Mr. W. Birch, of a cream-colour, but these young animals ultimately become black. The Himalayans, on the other hand, sometimes produce, as is stated by an experienced amateur (4/18. 'Phenomenon in Himalayan Rabbits' in 'Journal of Horticulture' January 27, 1865 page 102.), a single black young one in a litter; and this, before two months elapse, becomes perfectly white.

To sum up the whole curious case: wild silver-greys may be considered as black rabbits which become grey at an early period of life. When they are crossed with common rabbits, the offspring are said not to have blended colours, but to take after either parent; and in this respect they resemble black and albino varieties of most quadrupeds, which often transmit their colours in this same manner. When they are crossed with chinchillas, that is, with a paler sub-variety, the young are at first pure albinoes, but soon become dark-coloured in certain parts of their bodies, and are then called Himalayans. The young Himalayans, however, are sometimes at first either pale grey or completely black, in either case changing after a time to white. In a future chapter I shall advance a large body of facts showing that, when two varieties are crossed both of which differ in colour from their parent-stock, there is a strong tendency in the young to revert to the aboriginal colour; and what is very remarkable, this reversion occasionally supervenes, not before birth, but during the growth of the animal. Hence, if it could be shown that silver-greys and chinchillas were the offspring of a cross between a black and albino variety with the colours intimately blended--a supposition in itself not improbable, and supported by the circumstance of silver-greys in warrens sometimes producing creamy-white young, which ultimately become black--then all the above given paradoxical facts on the changes of colour in silver-greys and in their descendants the Himalayans would come under the law of reversion, supervening at different periods of growth and in different degrees, either to the original black or to the original albino parent-variety.

Charles Darwin

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