Now the Himalayan, Moscow, and Angora rabbits (Nos. 11, 12, 13 of Table 3) are only a little larger in body and have skulls only a little longer, than the wild animal, and we see that the actual capacity of their skulls is less than in the wild animal, and considerably less by calculation (column 7), according to the difference in the length of their skulls. The narrowness of the brain-case in these three rabbits could be plainly seen and proved by external measurement. The Chinchilla rabbit (No. 14) is a considerably larger animal than the wild rabbit, yet the capacity of its skull only slightly exceeds that of the wild rabbit. The Angora rabbit, No. 13, offers the most remarkable case; this animal in its pure white colour and length of silky fur bears the stamp of long domesticity. It has a considerably longer head and body than the wild rabbit, but the actual capacity of its skull is less than that of even the little wild Porto Santo rabbits. By the standard of the length of skull the capacity (see column 7) is only half of what it ought to have been! I kept this individual animal alive, and it was not unhealthy nor idiotic. This case of the Angora rabbit so much surprised me, that I repeated all the measurements and found them correct. I have also compared the capacity of the skull of the Angora with that of the wild rabbit by other standards, namely, by the length and weight of the body, and by the weight of the limb-bones; but by all these standards the brain appears to be much too small, though in a less degree when the standard of the limb- bones was used; and this latter circumstance may probably be accounted for by the limbs of this anciently domesticated breed having become much reduced in weight, from its long-continued inactive life. Hence I infer that in the Angora breed, which is said to differ from other breeds in being quieter and more social, the capacity of the skull has really undergone a remarkable amount of reduction.]

From the several facts above given,--namely, firstly, that the actual capacity of the skull in the Himalayan, Moscow, and Angora breeds, is less than in the wild rabbit, though they are in all their dimensions rather larger animals; secondly, that the capacity of the skull of the large lop- eared rabbits has not been increased in nearly the same ratio as the capacity of the skull of the smaller wild rabbits has been decreased; and thirdly, that the capacity of the skull in these same large lop-eared rabbits is very inferior to that of the hare, an animal of nearly the same size,--I conclude, notwithstanding the remarkable differences in capacity in the skulls of the small Porto Santo rabbits, and likewise in the large lop-eared kinds, that in all long-domesticated rabbits the brain has either by no means increased in due proportion with the increased length of the head and increased size of the body, or that it has actually decreased in size, relatively to what would have occurred had these animals lived in a state of nature. When we remember that rabbits, from having been domesticated and closely confined during many generations, cannot have exerted their intellect, instincts, senses, and voluntary movements, either in escaping from various dangers or in searching for food, we may conclude that their brains will have been feebly exercised, and consequently have suffered in development. We thus see that the most important and complicated organ in the whole organisation is subject to the law of decrease in size from disuse.

Finally, let us sum up the more important modifications which domestic rabbits have undergone, together with their causes as far as we can obscurely see them. By the supply of abundant and nutritious food, together with little exercise, and by the continued selection of the heaviest individuals, the weight of the larger breeds has been more than doubled. The bones of the limbs taken together have increased in weight, in due proportion with the increased weight of body, but the hind legs have increased less than the front legs; but in length they have not increased in due proportion, and this may have been caused by the want of proper exercise.

Charles Darwin

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