It is, also, remarkable that Himalayans, though produced so suddenly; breed true. But as, whilst young, they are albinoes, the case falls under a very general rule; albinism being well known to be strongly inherited, for instance with white mice and many other quadrupeds, and even white flowers. But why, it may be asked, do the ears, tail, nose, and feet, and no other part of the body, revert to a black colour? This apparently depends on a law, which generally holds good, namely, that characters common to many species of a genus--and this, in fact, implies long inheritance from the ancient progenitor of the genus--are found to resist variation, or to reappear if lost, more persistently than the characters which are confined to the separate species. Now, in the genus Lepus, a large majority of the species have their ears and the upper surface of the tail tinted black; but the persistence of these marks is best seen in those species which in winter become white: thus, in Scotland the L. variabilis (4/19. G.R. Waterhouse 'Natural History of Mammalia: Rodents' 1846 pages 52, 60, 105.) in its winter dress has a shade of colour on its nose, and the tips of its ears are black: in the L. tibetanus the ears are black, the upper surface of the tail greyish-black, and the soles of the feet brown: in L. glacialis the winter fur is pure white, except the soles of the feet and the points of the ears. Even in the variously-coloured fancy rabbits we may often observe a tendency in these same parts to be more darkly tinted than the rest of the body. Thus the several coloured marks on the Himalayan rabbits, as they grow old, are rendered intelligible. I may add a nearly analogous case: fancy rabbits very often have a white star on their foreheads; and the common English hare, whilst young, generally has, as I have myself observed, a similar white star on its forehead.

When variously coloured rabbits are set free in Europe, and are thus placed under their natural conditions, they generally revert to the aboriginal grey colour; this may be in part due to the tendency in all crossed animals, as lately observed, to revert to their primordial state. But this tendency does not always prevail; thus silver-grey rabbits are kept in warrens, and remain true though living almost in a state of nature; but a warren must not be stocked with both silver-greys and common rabbits; otherwise "in a few years there will be none but common greys surviving." (4/20. Delamer on 'Pigeons and Rabbits' page 114.) When rabbits run wild in foreign countries under new conditions of life, they by no means always revert to their aboriginal colour. In Jamaica the feral rabbits are described as having been "slate-coloured, deeply tinted with sprinklings of white on the neck, on the shoulders, and on the back; softening off to blue-white under the breast and belly." (4/21. Gosse 'Sojourn in Jamaica' 1851 page 441 as described by an excellent observer, Mr. R. Hill. This is the only known case in which rabbits have become feral in a hot country. They can be kept, however, at Loanda (see Livingstone 'Travels' page 407). In parts of India, as I am informed by Mr. Blyth, they breed well.) But in this tropical island the conditions were not favourable to their increase, and they never spread widely, and are now extinct, as I hear from Mr. R. Hill, owing to a great fire which occurred in the woods. Rabbits during many years have run wild in the Falkland Islands; they are abundant in certain parts, but do not spread extensively. Most of them are of the common grey colour; a few, as I am informed by Admiral Sulivan, are hare- coloured, and many are black, often with nearly symmetrical white marks on their faces. Hence, M. Lesson described the black variety as a distinct species, under the name of Lepus magellanicus, but this, as I have elsewhere shown, is an error. (4/22. Darwin 'Journal of Researches' page 193; and 'Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle: Mammalia' page 92.) Within recent times the sealers have stocked some of the small outlying islets in the Falkland group with rabbits; and on Pebble Islet, as I hear from Admiral Sulivan, a large proportion are hare-coloured, whereas on Rabbit Islet a large proportion are of a bluish colour, which is not elsewhere seen.

Charles Darwin

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