The Principles of Breeding
by S. L. Goodale
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- Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation and unusual spelling in the original document have been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. Note that 'neat cattle' does not refer to cattle that dress nicely, nor is it a typo. Neat cattle are domesticated straight-backed animals of the bovine genus. -

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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1861, BY STEPHEN L. GOODALE, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Maine.

Press of Stevens & Sayward, Augusta, Maine.


The writer has had frequent occasion to notice the want of some handy book embodying the principles necessary to be understood in order to secure improvement in Domestic Animals.

It has been his aim to supply this want.

In doing so he has availed himself freely of the knowledge supplied by others, the aim being to furnish a useful, rather than an original book.

If it serve in any measure to supply the need, and to awaken greater interest upon a matter of vital importance to the agricultural interests of the country, the writer's purpose will be accomplished.
















The object of the husbandman, like that of men engaged in other avocations, is profit; and like other men the farmer may expect success proportionate to the skill, care, judgment and perseverance with which his operations are conducted.

The better policy of farmers generally, is to make stock husbandry in some one or more of its departments a leading aim—that is to say, while they shape their operations according to the circumstances in which they are situated, these should steadily embrace the conversion of a large proportion of the crops grown into animal products,—and this because, by so doing, they may not only secure a present livelihood, but best maintain and increase the fertility of their lands.

The object of the stock grower is to obtain the most valuable returns from his vegetable products. He needs, as Bakewell happily expressed it, "the best machine for converting herbage and other animal food into money."

He will therefore do well to seek such animals as are most perfect of their kind—such as will pay best for the expense of procuring the machinery, for the care and attention bestowed, and for the consumption of raw material. The returns come in various forms. They may or may not be connected with the ultimate value of the animal. In the beef ox and the mutton sheep, they are so connected to a large extent; in the dairy cow and the fine wooled sheep, this is quite a secondary consideration;—in the horse, valued as he is for beauty, speed and draught, it is not thought of at all.

Not only is there a wide range of field for operations, from which the stock grower may select his own path of procedure, but there is a demand that his attention be directed with a definite aim, and towards an end clearly apprehended. The first question to be answered, is, what do we want? and the next, how shall we get it?

What we want, depends wholly upon our situation and surroundings, and each must answer it for himself. In England the problem to be solved by the breeder of neat cattle and sheep is how "to produce an animal or a living machine which with a certain quantity and quality of food, and under certain given circumstances, shall yield in the shortest time the largest quantity and best quality of beef, mutton or milk, with the largest profit to the producer and at least cost to the consumer." But this is not precisely the problem for American farmers to solve, because our circumstances are different. Few, if any, here grow oxen for beef alone, but for labor and beef, so that earliest possible maturity may be omitted and a year or more of labor profitably intervene before conversion to beef. Many cultivators of sheep, too, are so situated as to prefer fine wool, which is incompatible with the largest quantity and best quality of meat. Others differently situated in regard to a meat market would do well to follow the English practice and aim at the most profitable production of mutton. A great many farmers, not only of those in the vicinity of large towns, but of those at some distance, might, beyond doubt, cultivate dairy qualities in cows, to great advantage, and this too, even, if necessary, at the sacrifice, to considerable extent, of beef making qualities. As a general thing dairy qualities have been sadly neglected in years past.

Whatever may be the object in view, it should be clearly apprehended, and striven for with persistent and well directed efforts. To buy or breed common animals of mixed qualities and use them for any and for all purposes is too much like a manufacturer of cloth procuring some carding, spinning and weaving machinery, adapted to no particular purpose but which can somehow be used for any, and attempting to make fabrics of cotton, of wool, and of linen with it. I do not say that cloth would not be produced, but he would assuredly be slow in getting rich by it.

The stock grower needs not only to have a clear and definite aim in view, but also to understand the means by which it may best be accomplished. Among these means a knowledge of the principles of breeding holds a prominent place, and this is not of very easy acquisition by the mass of farmers. The experience of any one man would go but a little way towards acquiring it, and there has not been much published on the subject in any form within the reach of most. I have been able to find nothing like an extended systematic treatise on the subject, either among our own or the foreign agricultural literature which has come within my notice. Indeed, from the scantiness of what appears to have been written, coupled with the fact that much knowledge must exist somewhere, one is tempted to believe that not all which might have done so, has yet found its way to printers' ink. That a great deal has been acquired, we know, as we know a tree—by its fruits. That immense achievements have been accomplished is beyond doubt.

The improvement of the domestic animals of a country so as greatly to enhance their individual and aggregate value, and to render the rearing of them more profitable to all concerned, is surely one of the achievements of advanced civilization and enlightenment, and is as much a triumph of science and skill as the construction of a railroad, a steamship, an electric telegraph, or any work of architecture. If any doubt this, let them ponder the history of those breeds of animals which have made England the stock nursery of the world, the perfection of which enables her to export thousands of animals at prices almost fabulously beyond their value for any purpose but to propagate their kind; let them note the patient industry, the genius and application which have been put forth to bring them to the condition they have attained, and their doubts must cease.

Robert Bakewell of Dishley, was one of the first of these improvers. Let us stop for a moment's glance at him. Born in 1725, on the farm where his father and grandfather had been tenants, he began at the age of thirty to carry out the plans for the improvement of domestic animals upon which he had resolved as the result of long and patient study and reflection. He was a man of genius, energy and perseverance. With sagacity to conceive and fortitude to perfect his designs, he laid his plans and struggled against many disappointments, amid the ridicule and predictions of failure freely bestowed by his neighbors,—often against serious pecuniary embarrassments; and at last was crowned by a wonderful degree of success. When he commenced letting his rams, (a system first introduced by him and adhered to during his life, in place of selling,) they brought him 17s. 6d. each, for the season. This was ten years after he commenced his improvements. Soon the price came to a guinea, then to two or three guineas—rapidly increasing with the reputation of his stock, until in 1784, they brought him 100 guineas each! Five years later his lettings for one season amounted to $30,000!

With all his skill and success he seemed afraid lest others might profit by the knowledge he had so laboriously acquired. He put no pen to paper and at death left not even the slightest memorandum throwing light upon his operations, and it is chiefly through his cotemporaries, who gathered somewhat from verbal communications, that we know anything regarding them. From these we learn that he formed an ideal standard in his own mind and then endeavored, first by a wide selection and a judicious and discriminating coupling, to obtain the type desired, and then by close breeding, connected with rigorous weeding out, to perpetuate and fix it.

After him came a host of others, not all of whom concealed their light beneath a bushel. By long continued and extensive observation, resulting in the collection of numerous facts, and by the collation of these facts of nature, by scientific research and practical experiments, certain physiological laws have been discovered, and principles of breeding have been deduced and established. It is true that some of these laws are as yet hidden from us, and much regarding them is but imperfectly understood. What we do not know is a deal more than what we do know, but to ignore so much as has been discovered, and is well established, and can be learned by any who care to do so, and to go on regardless of it, would indicate a degree of wisdom in the breeder on a par with that of a builder who should fasten together wood and iron just as the pieces happened to come to his hand, regardless of the laws of architecture, and expect a convenient house or a fast sailing ship to be the result of his labors.

Is not the usual course of procedure among many farmers too nearly parallel to the case supposed? Let the ill-favored, chance-bred, mongrel beasts in their barn yards testify. The truth is, and it is of no use to deny or disguise the fact, the improvement of domestic animals is one of the most important and to a large extent, one of the most neglected branches of rural economy. The fault is not that farmers do not keep stock enough, much oftener they keep more than they can feed to the most profitable point, and when a short crop of hay comes, there is serious difficulty in supporting them, or in selling them at a paying price; but the great majority neither bestow proper care upon the selection of animals for breeding, nor do they appreciate the dollars and cents difference between such as are profitable and such as are profitless. How many will hesitate or refuse to pay a dollar for the services of a good bull when some sort of a calf can be begotten for a "quarter?" and this too when one by the good male would be worth a dollar more for veal and ten or twenty dollars more when grown to a cow or an ox? How few will hesitate or refuse to allow to a butcher the cull of his calves and lambs for a few extra shillings, and this when the butcher's difference in shillings would soon, were the best kept and the worst sold, grow into as many dollars and more? How many there are who esteem size to be of more consequence than symmetry, or adaptation to the use for which they are kept? How many ever sit down to calculate the difference in money value between an animal which barely pays for keeping, or perhaps not that, and one which pays a profit?

Let us reckon a little. Suppose a man wishes to buy a cow. Two are offered him, both four years old, and which might probably be serviceable for ten years to come. With the same food and attendance the first will yield for ten months in the year, an average of five quarts per day,—and the other for the same term will yield seven quarts and of equal quality. What is the comparative value of each? The difference in yield is six hundred quarts per annum. For the purpose of this calculation we will suppose it worth three cents per quart—amounting to eighteen dollars. Is not the second cow, while she holds out to give it, as good as the first, and three hundred dollars at interest besides? If the first just pays for her food and attendance, the second, yielding two-fifths more, pays forty per cent. profit annually; and yet how many farmers having two such cows for sale would make more than ten, or twenty, or at most, thirty dollars difference in the price? The profit from one is eighteen dollars a year—in ten years one hundred and eighty dollars, besides the annual accumulations of interest—the profit of the other is—nothing. If the seller has need to keep one, would he not be wiser to give away the first, than to part with the second for a hundred dollars?

Suppose again, that an acre of grass or a ton of hay costs five dollars, and that for its consumption by a given set of animals, the farmer gets a return of five dollars worth of labor, or meat, or wool, or milk. He is selling his crop at cost, and makes no profit. Suppose by employing other animals, better horses, better cows, oxen and sheep, he can get ten dollars per ton in returns. How much are the latter worth more than the former? Have they not doubled the value of the crops, and increased the profit of farming from nothing to a hundred per cent? Except that the manure is not doubled, and the animals would some day need to be replaced, could he not as well afford to give the price of his farm for one set as to accept the other as a gift?

Among many, who are in fact ignorant of what goes to constitute merit in a breeding animal, there is an inclination to treat as imaginary and unreal the higher values placed upon well-bred animals over those of mixed origin, unless they are larger and handsomer in proportion to the price demanded. The sums paid for qualities which are not at once apparent to the eye are stigmatized as fancy prices. It is not denied that fancy prices are sometimes, perhaps often paid, for there are probably few who are not willing occasionally to pay dearly for what merely pleases them, aside from any other merit commensurate to the price.

But, on the other hand, it is fully as true that great intrinsic value for breeding purposes may exist in an animal and yet make very little show. Such an one may not even look so well to a casual observer, as a grade, or cross-bred animal, which although valuable as an individual, is not, for breeding purposes, worth a tenth part as much.

Let us suppose two farmers to need a bull; they go to seek and two are offered, both two years old, of similar color, form and general appearance. One is offered for twenty dollars—for the other a hundred is demanded. Satisfactory evidence is offered that the latter is no better than any or all of its ancestors for many generations back on both sides, or than its kindred—that it is of a pure and distinct breed, that it possesses certain well known hereditary qualities, that it is suited for a definite purpose, it may be a Short-horn, noted for large size and early maturity, it may be a Devon, of fine color and symmetry, active and hardy, it may be an Ayrshire, noted for dairy qualities, or of some other definite breed, whose uses, excellencies and deficiencies are all well known.

The other is of no breed whatever, perhaps it is called a grade or a cross. The man who bred it had rather confused ideas, so far as he had any, about breeding, and thought to combine all sorts of good qualities in one animal, and so he worked in a little grade Durham, or Hereford to get size, and a little Ayrshire for milk, and a little Devon for color, and so on, using perhaps dams sired by a bull in the neighborhood which had also got some "Whitten"[1] or "Peter Waldo" calves, (though none of these showed it,) at any rate he wanted some of the "native" element in his stock, because it was tough, and some folks thought natives were the best after all. Among its ancestors and kindred were some good and some not good, some large and some small, some well favored and fat, some ill favored and lean, some profitable and some profitless. The animal now offered is a great deal better than the average of them. It looks for aught they can see, about as well as the one for which five times his price is asked. Perhaps he served forty cows last year and brought his owner as many quarters, while the other only served five and brought an income of but five dollars. The question arises, which is the better bargain? After pondering the matter, one buys the low-priced and the other the high-priced one, both being well satisfied in their own minds.

What did results show? The low-priced one served that season perhaps a hundred cows; more than ought to have done so, came a second time;—having been overtasked as a yearling, he lacked somewhat of vigor. The calves came of all sorts, some good, some poor, a few like the sire, more like the dams—all mongrels and showing mongrel origin more than he did. There seemed in many of them a tendency to combine the defects of the grades from which he sprung rather than their good points. In some, the quietness of the Short-horn degenerated into stupidity, and in others the activity of the Devon into nervous viciousness. Take them together they perhaps paid for rearing, or nearly so. After using him another year, he was killed, having been used long enough.

The other, we will say, served that same season a reasonable number, perhaps four to six in a week, or one every day, not more. Few came a second time and those for no fault of his. The calves bear a striking resemblance to the sire. Some from the better cows look even better in some points, than himself and few much worse. There is a remarkable uniformity among them; as they grow up they thrive better than those by the low priced one. They prove better adapted to the use intended. On the whole they are quite satisfactory and each pays annually in its growth, labor or milk a profit over the cost of food and attendance of five or ten dollars or more. If worked enough to furnish the exercise needful to insure vigorous health, he may be as serviceable and as manageable at eight or ten years old, as at two; meantime he has got, perhaps, five hundred calves, which in due time become worth ten or twenty dollars each more than those from the other. Which now seems the wiser purchase? Was the higher estimate placed on the well bred animal based upon fancy or upon intrinsic value?

The conviction that a better knowledge of the principles of breeding would render our system of agriculture more profitable, and the hope of contributing somewhat to this end, have induced the attempt to set forth some of the physiological principles involved in the reproduction of domestic animals, or in other words, the laws which govern hereditary transmission.


[1] Local names for lyery, or black fleshed cattle.



The first and most important of the laws to be considered in this connection is that of SIMILARITY. It is by virtue of this law that the peculiar characters, qualities and properties of the parents, whether external or internal, good or bad, healthy or diseased, are transmitted to their offspring. This is one of the plainest and most certain of the laws of nature. Children resemble their parents, and they do so because these are hereditary. The law is constant. Within certain limits progeny always and every where resemble their parents. If this were not so, there would be no constancy of species, and a horse might beget a calf or a sow have a litter of puppies, which is never the case,—for in all time we find repeated in the offspring the structure, the instincts and all the general characteristics of the parents, and never those of another species. Such is the law of nature and hence the axiom that "like produces like." But while experience teaches the constancy of hereditary transmission, it teaches just as plainly that the constancy is not absolute and perfect, and this introduces us to another law, viz: that of variation, which will be considered by and by; our present concern is to ascertain what we can of the law of similarity.

The lesson which this law teaches might be stated in five words, to wit: Breed only from the best—but the teaching may be more impressive, and will more likely be heeded, if we understand the extent and scope of the law.

Facts in abundance show the hereditary tendency of physical, mental and moral qualities in men, and very few would hesitate to admit that the external form and general characteristics of parents descend to children in both the human and brute races; but not all are aware that this law reaches to such minute particulars as facts show to be the case.

We see hereditary transmission of a peculiar type upon an extensive scale, in some of the distinct races, the Jews, and the Gypsies, for example. Although exposed for centuries to the modifying influences of diverse climates, to association with peoples of widely differing customs and habits, they never merge their peculiarities in those of any people with whom they dwell, but continue distinct. They retain the same features, the same figures, the same manners, customs and habits. The Jew in Poland, in Austria, in London, or in New York, is the same; and the money-changers of the Temple at Jerusalem in the time of our Lord may be seen to-day on change in any of the larger marts of trade. How is this? Just because the Jew is a "thorough-bred." There is with him no intermarriage with the Gentile—no crossing, no mingling of his organization with that of another. When this ensues "permanence of race" will cease and give place to variations of any or of all sorts.

Some families are remarkable during long periods for tall and handsome figures and striking regularity of features, while in others a less perfect form, or some peculiar deformity reappears with equal constancy. A family in Yorkshire is known for several generations to have been furnished with six fingers and toes. A family possessing the same peculiarity resides in the valley of the Kennebec, and the same has reappeared in one or more other families connected with it by marriage.

The thick upper lip of the imperial house of Austria, introduced by the marriage of the Emperor Maximillian with Mary of Burgundy, has been a marked feature in that family for hundreds of years, and is, visible in their descendants to this day. Equally noticeable is the "Bourbon nose" in the former reigning family of France. All the Barons de Vessins had a peculiar mark between their shoulders, and it is said that by means of it a posthumous son of a late Baron de Vessins was discovered in a London shoemaker's apprentice. Haller cites the case of a family where an external tumor was transmitted from father to son which always swelled when the atmosphere was moist.

A remarkable example of a singular organic peculiarity and of its transmission to descendants, is furnished in the case of the English family of "Porcupine men," so called from having all the body except the head and face, and the soles and palms, covered with hard dark-colored excrescences of a horny nature. The first of these was Edward Lambert, born in Suffolk in 1718, and exhibited before the Royal Society when fourteen years of age. The other children of his parents were naturally formed; and Edward, aside from this peculiarity, was good looking and enjoyed good health. He afterward had six children, all of whom inherited the same formation, as did also several grand-children.

Numerous instances are on record tending to show that even accidents do sometimes, although not usually, become hereditary. Blumenbach mentions the case of a man whose little finger was crushed and twisted by an accident to his right hand. His sons inherited right hands with the little finger distorted. A bitch had her hinder parts paralyzed for some days by a blow. Six of her seven pups were deformed, or so weak in their hinder parts that they were drowned as useless. A pregnant cat got her tail injured; in each of her five kittens the tail was distorted, and had an enlargement or knob near the end of each. Horses marked during successive generations with red-hot irons in the same place, transmit visible traces of such marks to their colts.

Very curious are the facts which go to show that acquired habits sometimes become hereditary. Pritchard, in his "Natural History of Man," says that the horses bred on the table lands of the Cordilleras "are carefully taught a peculiar pace which is a sort of running amble;" that after a few generations this pace becomes a natural one; young untrained horses adopting it without compulsion. But a still more curious fact is, that if these domesticated stallions breed with mares of the wild herd, which abound in the surrounding plains, they "become the sires of a race in which the ambling pace is natural and requires no teaching."

Mr. T.A. Knight, in a paper read before the Royal Society, says, "the hereditary propensities of the offspring of Norwegian ponies, whether full or half-bred, are very singular. Their ancestors have been in the habit of obeying the voice of their riders and not the bridle; and horse-breakers complain that it is impossible to produce this last habit in the young colts. They are, however, exceedingly docile and obedient when they understand the commands of their masters."

A late writer in one of the foreign journals, says that he had a "pup taken from its mother at six weeks old, who although never taught to 'beg' (an accomplishment his mother had been taught) spontaneously took to begging for every thing he wanted when about seven or eight months old; he would beg for food, beg to be let out of the room, and one day was found opposite a rabbit hutch apparently begging the rabbits to come and play."

If even in such minute particulars as these, hereditary transmission may be distinctly seen, it becomes the breeder to look closely to the "like" which he wishes to see reproduced. Judicious selection is indispensable to success in breeding, and this should have regard to every particular—general appearance, length of limb, shape of carcass, development of chest; if in cattle, the size, shape and position of udder, thickness of skin, "touch," length and texture of hair, docility, &c., &c.; if in horses, their adaptation to any special excellence depending on form, or temperament, or nervous energy.

Not only should care be taken to avoid structural defects, but especially to secure freedom from hereditary diseases, as both defects and diseases appear to be more easily transmissible than desirable qualities. There is often no obvious peculiarity of structure, or appearance, indicating the possession of diseases or defects which are transmissible, and so, special care and continued acquaintance are necessary in order to be assured of their absence in breeding animals; but such a tendency although invisible or inappreciable to cursory observation, must still, judging from its effects, have as real and certain an existence, as any peculiarity of form or color.

Every one who believes that a disease may be hereditary at all, must admit that certain individuals possess certain tendencies which render them especially liable to certain diseases, as consumption or scrofula; yet it is not easy to say precisely in what this predisposition consists. It seems probable, however, that it may be due either to some want of harmony between different organs, some faulty formation or combination of parts, or to some peculiar physical or chemical condition of the blood or tissues; and that this altered state, constituting the inherent congenital tendency to the disease, is duly transmitted from parent to offspring like any other quality more readily apparent to observation.

Hereditary diseases exhibit certain eminently characteristic phenomena, which a late writer[2] enumerates as follows:

1. "They are transmitted by the male as well as by the female parent, and are doubly severe in the offspring of parents both of which are affected by them.

2. They develop themselves not only in the immediate progeny of one affected by them, but also in many subsequent generations.

3. They do not, however, always appear in each generation in the same form; one disease is sometimes substituted for another, analogous to it, and this again after some generations becomes changed into that to which the breed was originally liable—as phthisis (consumption) and dysentery. Thus, a stock of cattle previously subject to phthisis, sometimes become affected for several generations with dysentery to the exclusion of phthisis, but by and by, dysentery disappears to give place to phthisis.

4. Hereditary diseases occur to a certain extent independently of external circumstances; appearing under all sorts of management, and being little affected by changes of locality, separation from diseased stock, or such causes as modify the production of non-hereditary diseases.

5. They are, however, most certainly and speedily developed in circumstances inimical to general good health, and often occur at certain, so called, critical periods of life, when unusual demands on the vital powers take place.

6. They show a striking tendency to modify and absorb into themselves all extraneous diseases; for example, in an animal of consumptive constitution, pneumonia seldom runs its ordinary course, and when arrested, often passes into consumption.

7. Hereditary diseases are less effectually treated by ordinary remedies than other diseases. Thus, although an attack of phthisis, rheumatism or opthalmia may be subdued, and the patient put out of pain and danger, the tendency to the disease will still remain and be greatly aggravated by each attack.

In horses and neat cattle, hereditary diseases do not usually show themselves at birth, and sometimes the tendency remains latent for many years, perhaps through one or two generations and afterwards breaks out with all its former severity."

The diseases which are found to be hereditary in horses are scrofula, rheumatism, rickets, chronic cough, roaring, ophthalmia or inflammation of the eye,—grease or scratches, bone spavin, curb, &c. Indeed, Youatt says, "there is scarcely a malady to which the horse is subject, that is not hereditary. Contracted feet, curb, spavin, roaring, thick wind, blindness, notoriously descend from the sire or dam to the foal."

The diseases which are found hereditary in neat cattle are scrofula, consumption, dysentery, diarrhea, rheumatism and malignant tumors. Neat cattle being less exposed to the exciting causes of disease, and less liable to be overtasked or exposed to violent changes of temperature, or otherwise put in jeopardy, their diseases are not so numerous, and what they have are less violent than in the horse, and generally of a chronic character.

Scrofula is not uncommon among sheep, and it presents itself in various forms. Sometimes it is connected with consumption; sometimes it affects the viscera of the abdomen, and particularly the mesenteric glands in a manner similar to consumption in the lungs. The scrofulous taint has been known to be so strong as to affect the foetus, and lambs have occasionally been born with it, but much oftener they show it at an early age, and any affected in this way are liable to fall an easy prey to any ordinary or prevailing disease which develops in such with unusual severity. Sheep are also liable to several diseases of the brain and of the respiratory and digestive organs. Epilepsy, or "fits," and rheumatism sometimes occur.

Swine are subject to nearly the same hereditary diseases as sheep. Epilepsy is more common with them than with the latter, and they are more liable to scrofula than any other domestic animals.

When properly and carefully managed, swine are not ordinarily very liable to disease, but when, as too often kept in small, damp, filthy styes, and obliged constantly to inhale noxious effluvia, and to eat unsuitable food, we cannot wonder either that they become victims of disease or transmit to their progeny a weak and sickly organization. Swine are not naturally the dirty beasts which many suppose. "Wallowing in the mire," so proverbial of them, is rather from a wish for protection from insects and for coolness, than from any inherent love of filth, and if well cared for they will be comparatively cleanly.

The practice of close breeding, which is probably carried to greater extent with swine than with any other domestic animal, undoubtedly contributes to their liability to hereditary diseases, and when those possessing any such diseases are coupled, the ruin of the stock is easily and quickly effected, for as already stated, they are propagated by either parent, and always most certainly and in most aggravated form, when occurring in both.

With regard to hereditary diseases, it is eminently true that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." As a general and almost invariable rule, animals possessing either defects or a tendency to disease should not be employed for breeding. If, however, for special reasons it seems desirable to breed from one which has some slight defect of symmetry, or a faint tendency to disease, although for the latter it is doubtful if the possession of any good qualities can fully compensate, it should be mated with one which excels in every respect in which the other is deficient, and on no account with one which is near of kin to it.

Notwithstanding the importance due to the subject of hereditary diseases, it is also true that few diseases invariably owe their development to hereditary causes. Even such as are usually hereditary are sometimes produced accidentally, (as of course there must be a beginning to everything,) and in such case, they may, or may not be, transmitted to their progeny. As before shown, it is certain that they sometimes are, which is sufficient reason to avoid such for breeding purposes. It is also well known that, in the horse, for instance, certain forms of limbs predispose to certain diseases, as bone spavin is most commonly seen where there is a disproportion in the size of the limb above and below the hock, and others might be named of similar character; in all such cases the disease may be caused by an agency which would be wholly inadequate in one of more perfect form, but once existing, it is liable to be reproduced in the offspring—all tending to show the great importance of giving due heed in selecting breeding animals to all qualities, both external and internal, so long as "like produces like."


[2] Finlay Dun, V.S., in Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society.



We come now to consider another law, by which that of similarity is greatly modified, to wit, the law of variation or divergence. All organic beings, whether plants or animals, possess a certain flexibility or pliancy of organization, rendering them capable of change to a greater or less extent. When in a state of nature variations are comparatively slow and infrequent, but when in a state of domestication they occur much oftener and to a much greater extent. The greater variability in the latter case is doubtless owing, in some measure, to our domestic productions being reared under conditions of life not so uniform, and different from, those to which the parent species was exposed in a state of nature.

Flexibility of organization in connexion with climate, is seen in a remarkable degree in Indian corn. The small Canada variety, growing only three feet high and ripening in seventy to ninety days when carried southward, gradually enlarges in the whole plant until it may be grown twelve feet high and upwards, and requires one hundred and fifty days to ripen its seed. A southern variety brought northward, gradually dwindles in size and ripens earlier until it reaches a type specially fitted to its latitude.

Variation, although the same in kind, is greater in degree, among domesticated plants than among animals. From the single wild variety of the potato as first discovered and taken to Europe, have sprung innumerable sorts. Kemp, in his work on Agricultural Physiology, tells us, that on the maritime cliffs of England, there exists a little plant with a fusiform root, smooth glaucous leaves, flowers similar to wild mustard and of a saline taste. It is called by botanists, Brassica oleracea. By cultivation there have been obtained from this insignificant and apparently useless plant—

1st, all borecoles or kails, 12 varieties or more. 2d, all cabbages having heart. 3d, the various kinds of Savoy cabbages. 4th, Brussels sprouts. 5th, all the broccolis and cauliflowers which do not heart. 6th, the rape plant. 7th, the ruta baga or Swedish turnip. 8th, yellow and white turnips. 9th, hybrid turnips. 10th, kohl rabbi.

Similar examples are numerous among our common useful plants, and among flowers the dahlia and verbena furnish an illustration of countless varieties, embracing numberless hues and combinations of color, from purest white through nearly all the tints of the rainbow to almost black, of divers hights too, and habits of growth, springing up under the hand of cultivation in a few years from plants which at first yielded only a comparatively unattractive and self-colored flower. In brief, it may be said, that nearly or quite all the choicest productions both of our kitchen and flower gardens are due to variations induced by cultivation in a course of years from plants which in their natural condition would scarcely attract a passing glance.

We cannot say what might have been the original type of many of our domestic animals, for the inquiry would carry us beyond any record of history or tradition regarding it, but few doubt that all our varieties of the horse, the ox, the sheep and the dog, sprang each originally from a single type, and that the countless variations are due to causes connected with their domestication. Of those reclaimed within the period of memory may be named the turkey. This was unknown to the inhabitants of the old continent until discovered here in a wild state. Since then, having been domesticated and widely disseminated, it now offers varieties of wide departure from the original type, and which have been nurtured into self-sustaining breeds, distinguished from each other by the possession of peculiar characteristics.

Among what are usually reckoned the more active causes of variation may be named climate, food and habit.

Animals in cold climates are provided with a thicker covering of hair than in warmer ones. Indeed, it is said that in some of the tropical provinces of South America, there are cattle which have an extremely rare and fine fur in place of the ordinary pile of hair. Various other instances could be cited, if necessary, going to show that a beneficent Creator has implanted in many animals, to a certain extent, a power of accommodation to the circumstances and conditions amid which they are reared.

The supply of food, whether abundant or scanty, is one of the most active cases of variation known to be within the control of man. For illustration of its effect, let us suppose two pairs of twin calves, as nearly alike as possible, and let a male and a female from each pair be suckled by their mothers until they wean themselves, and be fed always after with plenty of the most nourishing food; and the others to be fed with skimmed milk, hay tea and gruel at first, to be put to grass at two months old, and subsequently fed on coarse and innutritious fodder. Let these be bred from separately, and the same style of treatment kept up, and not many generations would elapse before we had distinct varieties, or breeds, differing materially in size, temperament and time of coming to maturity.

Suppose other similar pairs, and one from each to be placed in the richest blue-grass pastures of Kentucky, or in the fertile valley of the Tees; always supplied with abundance of rich food, these live luxuriously, grow rapidly, increase in hight, bulk, thickness, every way, they early reach the full size which they are capable of attaining; having nothing to induce exertion, they become inactive, lazy, lethargic and fat. Being bred from, the progeny resemble the parents, "only more so." Each generation acquiring more firmly and fixedly the characteristics induced by their situation, these become hereditary, and we by and by have a breed exhibiting somewhat of the traits of the Teeswater or Durhams from which the improved Short-horns of the present day have been reared.

The others we will suppose to have been placed on the hill-sides of New England, or on the barren Isle of Jersey, or on the highlands of Scotland, or in the pastures of Devonshire. These being obliged to roam longer for a scantier repast grow more slowly, develop their capabilities in regard to size not only more slowly, but, perhaps, not fully at all—they become more active in temperament and habit, thinner and flatter in muscle. Their young cannot so soon shift for themselves and require more milk, and the dams yield it. Each generation in its turn becomes more completely and fully adapted to the circumstances amid which they are reared, and if bred indiscriminately with any thing and every thing else, we by and by have the common mixed cattle of New England, miscalled natives; or if kept more distinct, we have something approaching the Devon, the Ayrshire, or the Jersey breeds.

A due consideration of the natural effect of climate and food is a point worthy the special attention of the stock-husbandman. If the breeds employed be well adapted to the situation, and the capacity of the soil is such as to feed them fully, profit may be safely calculated upon. Animals are to be looked upon as machines for converting herbage into money. Now it costs a certain amount to keep up the motive power of any machine, and also to make good the wear and tear incident to its working; and in the case of animals it is only so much as is digested and assimilated, in addition to the amount thus required, which is converted into meat, milk or wool; so that the greater the proportion which the latter bears to the former, the greater will be the profit to be realized from keeping them.

There has been in New England generally a tendency to choose animals of large size, as large as can be had from any where, and if they possess symmetry and all other good qualities commensurate with the size, and if plenty of nutritious food can be supplied, there is an advantage gained by keeping such, for it costs less, other things being equal, to shelter and care for one animal than for two. But our pastures and meadows are not the richest to be found any where, and if we select such as require, in order to give the profit which they are capable of yielding, more or richer food than our farms can supply, or than we have the means to purchase, we must necessarily fail to reap as much profit as we might by the selection of such as could be easily fed upon home resources to the point of highest profit.

Whether the selection be of such as are either larger or smaller than suit our situation, they will, and equally in both cases, vary by degrees towards the fitting size or type for the locality in which they are kept, but there is this noteworthy difference, that if larger ones be brought in, they will not only diminish, but deteriorate, while if smaller be brought in, they will enlarge and improve.

The bestowal of food sufficient both in amount and quality to enable animals to develop all the excellencies inherent in them, and to obtain all the profit to be derived from them, is something very distinct from undue forcing or pampering. This process may produce wonderful animals to look at, but neither useful nor profitable ones, and there is danger of thus producing a most undesirable variation, for, as in plants, we find that forcing, pampering, high culture or whatever else it may be called, may be carried so far as to result in the production of double flowers, (an unnatural development,) and these accompanied with greater or less inability to perfect seed, so in animals, the same process may be carried far enough to produce sterility. Instances are not wanting, and particularly among the more recent improved Short-horns, of impotency among the males and of barrenness in the females, and in some cases where they have borne calves they have failed to secrete milk for their nourishment.[3] Impotency in bulls of various breeds has not unfrequently occurred from too high feeding, and especially if connected with lack of sufficient exercise.[4]

Habit has a decided influence towards inducing variation. As the blacksmith's right arm becomes more muscular from the habit of exercise induced by his vocation, so we find in domestic animals that use, or the demand created by habit, is met by a development or change in the organization adapted to the requirement. For instance, with cows in a state of nature or where required only to suckle their young, the supply of milk is barely fitted to the requirement. If more is desired, and if the milk be drawn completely and regularly, the yield is increased and continued longer. By keeping up the demand there is induced in the next generation a greater development of the secreting organs, and more milk is given. By continuing the practice, by furnishing the needful conditions of suitable food, &c., and by selecting in each generation those animals showing the greatest tendency towards milk, a breed specially adapted for the dairy may be established. It is just by this mode that the Ayrshires have, in the past eighty or a hundred years, been brought to be what they are, a breed giving more good milk upon a given quantity of food than any other.

It is because the English breeders of modern Short-horns altogether prefer beef-making to milk-giving properties that they have constantly fostered variation in favor of the one at the expense of the other until the milking quality in many families is nearly bred out. It was not so formerly—thirty years ago the Short-horns (or as they were then usually called, the Durhams) were not deficient in dairy qualities, and some families were famous for large yield. By properly directed efforts they might, doubtless, be bred back to milk, but of this there is no probability, at least in England, for the tendency of modern practice is very strong toward having each breed specially fitted to its use—the dairy breeds for milk and the beef breeds for meat only. The requirements of the English breeder are in some respects quite unlike those of New England farmers—for instance, as they employ no oxen for labor there is no inducement to cultivate working qualities even, in connection with beef.

As an illustration of the effect of habit, Darwin[5] cites the domestic duck, of which he says, "I find that the bones of the wing weigh less, and the bones of the leg more, in proportion to the whole skeleton, than do the same bones in the wild duck; and I presume that this change may be safely attributed to the domestic duck flying much less and walking more than its wild parent." And again, "not a single domestic animal can be named which has not in some country drooping ears, and the view suggested by some authors, that the drooping is due to the disuse of the muscles of the ear, from the animals not being much alarmed by danger, seems probable."

Climate, food and habit are the principal causes of variation which are known to be in any marked degree under the control of man; and the effect of these is, doubtless, in some measure indirect and subservient to other laws, of reproduction, growth and inheritance, of which we have at present very imperfect knowledge. This is shown by the fact that the young of the same litter sometimes differ considerably from each other, though both the young and their parents have apparently been exposed to exactly the same conditions of life; for had the action of these conditions been specific or direct and independent of other laws, if any of the young had varied, the whole would probably have varied in the same manner.

Numberless hypotheses have been started to account for variation. Some hold that it is as much the function of the reproductive system to produce individual differences as it is to make the child like the parents. Darwin says "the reproductive system is eminently susceptible to changes in the conditions of life; and to this system being functionally disturbed in the parents I chiefly attribute the varying or plastic condition of the offspring. The male and female sexual elements seem to be affected before that union takes place which is to form a new being. But why, because the re-productive system is disturbed this or that part should vary more or less, we are profoundly ignorant. Nevertheless we can here and there dimly catch a faint ray of light, and we may feel sure that there must be some cause for each deviation of structure however slight."

It may be useless for us to speculate here upon the laws which govern variations. The fact that these exist is what the breeder has to deal with, and a most important one it is, for it is this chiefly, which makes hereditary transmission the problem which it is. His aim should ever be to grasp and render permanent and increase so far as practicable, every variation for the better, and to reject for breeding purposes such as show a downward tendency.

That this may be done, there is abundant proof in the success which has in many instances attended the well directed efforts of intelligent breeders. A remarkable instance is furnished in the new Mauchamp-Merino sheep of Mons. Graux, which originated in a single animal, a product of the law of variation, and which by skillful breeding and selection has become an established breed of a peculiar type and possessing valuable properties. Samples of the wool of these sheep were shown at the great exhibition in London, in 1851, and attracted much attention. It was also shown at the great recent Agricultural Exhibition at Paris. A correspondent of the Mark Lane Express, says:

"One of the most interesting portions of the sheep-show is that of the Mauchamp variety of Merinos, having a new kind of wool, glossy and silky, similar to mohair. This is an instance of an entirely new breed being as it were created from a mere sport of nature. It was originated by Mons. J.L. Graux. In the year 1828, a Merino ewe produced a peculiar ram lamb, having a different shape from the usual Merino, and possessing a long, straight, and silky character of wool. In 1830, M. Graux obtained by this ram one ram and one ewe, having the silky character of wool. In 1831, among the produce were four rams and one ewe with similar fleeces; and in 1833 there were rams enough of the new sort to serve the whole flock of ewes. In each subsequent year the lambs were of two kinds; one possessing the curled elastic wool of the old Merinos, only a little longer and finer; the other like the new breed. At last, the skillful breeder obtained a flock combining the fine silky fleece with a smaller head, broader flanks, and more capacious chest; and several flocks being crossed with the Mauchamp variety, have produced also the Mauchamp-Merino breed. The pure Mauchamp wool is remarkable for its qualities as a combing-wool, owing to the strength, as well as the length and fineness of the fibre. It is found of great value by the manufacturers of Cashmere shawls and similar goods, being second only to the true Cashmere fleece, in the fine flexible delicacy of the fibre; and when in combination with Cashmere wool, imparting strength and consistency. The quantity of the wool has now become as great or greater than from ordinary Merinos, while the quality commands for it twenty-five per cent. higher price in the French market. Surely breeders cannot watch too closely any accidental peculiarity of conformation or characteristic in their flocks or herds."

Mons. Vilmorin, the eminent horticulturist of Paris, has likened the law of similarity to the centripetal force, and the law of variation to the centrifugal force; and in truth their operations seem analogous, and possibly they may be the same in kind, though certainly unlike in this, that they are not reducible to arithmetical calculation and cannot be subjected to definite measurement. His thought is at least a highly suggestive one and may be pursued with profit.

Among the "faint rays" alluded to by Mr. Darwin as throwing light upon the changes dependent on the laws of reproduction, there is one, perhaps the brightest yet seen, which deserves our notice. It is the apparent influence of the male first having fruitful intercourse with a female upon her subsequent offspring by other males. Attention was first directed to this by the following circumstance, related by Sir Everard Home: A young chestnut mare, seven-eighths Arabian, belonging to the Earl of Morton, was covered in 1815 by a Quagga, which is a species of wild ass from Africa, and marked somewhat in the style of a Zebra. The mare was covered but once by the Quagga, and after a pregnancy of eleven months and four days gave birth to a hybrid, which had, as was expected, distinct marks of the Quagga, in the shape of its head, black bars on the legs and shoulders, &c. In 1817, 1818 and 1821, the same mare was covered by a very fine black Arabian horse, and produced successively three foals, and although she had not seen the Quagga since 1816, they all bore his curious and unequivocal markings.

Since the occurrence of this case numerous others of a similar character have been observed, a few of which may be mentioned. Mr. McGillivray says, that in several foals in the royal stud at Hampton Court, got by the horse "Actaeon," there were unmistakable marks of the horse "Colonel." The dams of these foals were bred from by Colonel the previous year.

A colt, the property of the Earl of Suffield, got by "Laurel," so resembled another horse, "Camel," that it was whispered and even asserted at Newmarket that he must have been got by "Camel." It was ascertained, however, that the mother of the colt bore a foal the previous year by "Camel."

Alex. Morrison, Esq., of Bognie, had a fine Clydesdale mare which in 1843 was served by a Spanish ass and produced a mule. She afterwards had a colt by a horse, which bore a very marked likeness to a mule—seen at a distance, every one sets it down at once as a mule. The ears are nine and one-half inches long,—the girth not quite six feet, stands above sixteen hands high. The hoofs are so long and narrow that there is a difficulty in shoeing them, and the tail is thin and scanty. He is a beast of indomitable energy and durability, and highly prized by his owner.

Numerous similar cases are on record,[6] and it appears to have been known among the Arabs for centuries, that a mare which has first borne a mule, is ever after unfit to breed pure horses;[7] and the fact seems now to be perfectly well understood in all the mule-breeding States of the Union.

A pure Aberdeenshire heifer, the property of a farmer in Forgue, was served with a pure Teeswater bull to which she had a first cross calf. The following season the same cow was served with a pure Aberdeenshire bull, the produce was in appearance a cross-bred calf, which at two years old had long horns; the parents were both hornless.

A small flock of ewes, belonging to Dr. W. Wells in the island of Grenada, were served by a ram procured for the purpose;—the ewes were all white and woolly; the ram was quite different,—of a chocolate color, and hairy like a goat. The progeny were of course crosses but bore a strong resemblance to the male parent. The next season, Dr. Wells obtained a ram of precisely the same breed as the ewes, but the progeny showed distinct marks of resemblance to the former ram, in color and covering. The same thing occurred on neighboring estates under like circumstances.

Six very superior pure-bred black-faced horned ewes, belonging to Mr. H. Shaw of Leochel-Cushnie, were served by a Leicester ram, (white-faced and hornless.) The lambs were crosses. The next year they were served by a ram of exactly the same breed as the ewes themselves. To Mr. Shaw's astonishment the lambs were without an exception hornless and brownish in the face, instead of being black and horned. The third year (1846) they were again served by a superior ram of their own breed, and again the lambs were mongrels, but showed less of the Leicester characteristics than before. Mr. Shaw at last parted from these fine ewes without obtaining a single pure-bred lamb.[8]

"It has been noticed that a well bred bitch, if she have been impregnated by a mongrel dog, will not although lined subsequently by a pure dog, bear thorough-bred puppies in the next two or three litters."[9]

The like occurrence has been noticed in respect of the sow. "A sow of the black and white breed became pregnant by a boar of the wild breed of a deep chestnut color. The pigs produced were duly mixed, the color of the boar being in some very predominant. The sow being afterwards put to a boar of the same breed as herself, some of the produce were still stained or marked with the chestnut color which prevailed in the first litter and the same occurred after a third impregnation, the boar being then of the same kind as herself. What adds to the force of this case is that in the course of many years' observation the breed in question was never known to produce progeny having the slightest tinge of chestnut color."[10]

The above are a few of the many instances on record tending to show the influence of a first impregnation upon subsequent progeny by other males. Not a few might also be given showing that the same rule holds in the human species, of which a single one will suffice here:—"A young woman residing in Edinburgh, and born of white parents, but whose mother previous to her marriage bore a mulatto child by a negro man servant, exhibits distinct traces of the negro. Dr. Simpson, whose patient at one time, the young woman was, recollects being struck with the resemblance, and noticed particularly that the hair had the qualities characteristic of the negro."

Dr. Carpenter, in the last edition of his work on physiology, says it is by no means an infrequent occurrence for a widow who has married again to bear children resembling her first husband.

Various explanations have been offered to account for the facts observed, among which the theory of Mr. McGillivray, V.S., which is endorsed by Dr. Harvey, and considered (as we shall presently see) as very probable at least by Dr. Carpenter, seems the most satisfactory. Dr. Harvey says:

"Instances are sufficiently common among the lower animals where the offspring exhibit more or less distinctly over and beyond the characters of the male by which they were begotten, the peculiarities also of a male by which their mother at some former period had been impregnated. * * * Great difficulty has been felt by physiological writers in regard to the proper explanation of this kind of phenomena. They have been ascribed by some to a permanent impression made somehow by the semen of the first male on the genitals and more particularly on the ova of the female:[11] and by others to an abiding influence exerted by him on the imagination and operating at the time of her connection subsequently with other males and perhaps during her pregnancy; but they seem to be regarded by most physiologists as inexplicable.

Very recently, in a paper published in the Aberdeen Journal, a Veterinary Surgeon, Mr. James McGillivray of Huntley, has offered an explanation which seems to me to be the true one. His theory is that "when a pure animal of any breed has been pregnant to an animal of a different breed, such pregnant animal is a cross ever after, the purity of her blood being lost in consequence of her connection with the foreign animal, herself BECOMING A CROSS FOREVER, incapable of producing a pure calf of any breed."

Dr. Harvey believes "that while as all allow, a portion of the mother's blood is continually passing by absorption and assimilation into the body of the foetus, in order to its nutrition and development, a portion of the blood of the foetus is as constantly passing in like manner into the body of the mother; that as this commingles there with the general mass of the mother's own blood, it inoculates her system with the constitutional qualities of the foetus, and that, as these qualities are in part derived to the foetus from the male progenitor, the peculiarities of the latter are thereby so ingrafted on the system of the female as to be communicable by her to any offspring she may subsequently have by other males."

In support of this view, Mr. McGillivray cites a case in which there was presented unmistakable evidence that the organization of the placenta admits the return of the venous blood to the mother; and Dr. Harvey, with much force, suggests that the effect produced is analogous to the known fact that constitutional syphilis has been communicated to a female who never had any of the primary symptoms. Regarding the occurrence of such phenomena, Dr. Harvey under a later date says: "since then I have learned that many among the agricultural body in this district are familiar to a degree that is annoying to them with the facts then adduced in illustration of it, finding that after breeding crosses, their cows though served with bulls of their own breed yield crosses still or rather mongrels; that they were already impressed with the idea of contamination of blood as the cause of the phenomenon; that the doctrine so intuitively commended itself to their minds as soon as stated, that they fancied they were told nothing but what they knew before, so just is the observation that truth proposed is much more easily perceived than without such proposal is it discovered."[12]

Dr. Carpenter, speaking of phenomena analogous to what are here alluded to, says:

"Some of these cases appear referable to the strong impression left by the first male parent upon the female; but there are others which seem to render it more likely that the blood of the female has imbibed from that of the foetus, through the placental circulation, some of the attributes which the latter has derived from its male parent, and that the female may communicate these, with those proper to herself, to the subsequent offspring of a different male parentage. This idea is borne out by a great number of important facts. * * As this is a point of great practical importance it may be hoped that those who have the opportunity of bringing observation to bear upon it, will not omit to do so."

In the absence of more general and accurate observations directed to this point, it is impossible to say to what extent the first male produces impression upon subsequent progeny by other males. There can be no doubt, however, but that such an impression is made. The instances where it is of so marked and obvious a character as in some of those just related may be comparatively few, yet there is abundant reason to believe, that although in a majority of cases the effect may be less noticeable, it is not less real, and demands the special attention of all breeders.

Whether this result is to be ascribed to inoculation of the system of the female with the characteristics of the male through the foetus, or to any other mode of operation, it is obviously of great advantage for every breeder to know it and thereby both avoid error and loss and secure profit. It is a matter which deserves thorough investigation and the observations should be minute and have regard not only to peculiarities of form, but also to qualities and characteristics not so obvious; for instance there may be greater or less hardiness, endurance or aptitude to fatten. These may be usually more dependent on the dam, but the male is never without a degree of influence upon them, and it is well established that aptitude to fatten is usually communicated by the Short-horn bull to crosses with cattle of mixed or mongrel origin which are often very deficient in this desirable property.

Mr. McGillivray says: "A knowledge of the fact must be of the greatest benefit to the breeder in two ways, positively and negatively. I have known very great disappointment and loss result from allowing an inferior male to serve a first rate female—the usefulness of such female being thereby forever destroyed. As for the positive benefits arising from the inoculation—they are obvious to any unbiased mind. The black polled and Aberdeenshire cattle common to this country (Scotland) may be, and often are, improved by the following plan: Select a good, well formed, and healthy heifer—put her, in proper season, to a pure Short-horn bull; after the calf to this Durham bull, breed from the cow with bulls of her own breed; occasionally, and most likely the first time, a red calf ultimately having horns will appear even from the polled bull and cow; but in general the calves will be of the same type with the polled parents but with many points improved, and an aptitude to fatten, to come earlier to maturity, &c., such as no one of the pure polled or Aberdeenshire breed ever exhibited in this country, or any other country, however well kept, previous to the introduction of the Short-horn breed. The offspring of these breeds thus improved, when bred from again, will exhibit many points and qualities of excellence similar to the best crosses but retaining much of the hardiness of the original stock, no mean consideration for this changeable and often severe climate. And, moreover, such crosses,—for they are crosses—will command high prices as improved polled or Aberdeenshire cattle. I happen to know of a case where a farmer, from a distance purchased a two year old heifer of the stamp referred to, for the purpose of improving his polled cattle, and for this heifer he paid fifty guineas."

The knowledge of this law[13] gives us a clue to the cause of many of the disappointments of which practical breeders often complain and to the cause of many variations otherwise unaccountable, and it suggests particular caution as to the first male employed in the coupling of animals, a matter which has often been deemed of little consequence in regard to cattle, inasmuch as fewer heifers' first calves are reared, than of such as are borne subsequently.

Another faint ray of light touching the causes of variation is afforded us by the fact that the qualities of offspring are not only dependent on the habitual conditions of the parents, but also upon any peculiar condition existing at the time of sexual congress. For instance, the offspring of parents ordinarily healthy and temperate, but begotten in a fit of intoxication, would be likely to suffer permanently, both physically and mentally, from the condition which the parents had temporarily brought upon themselves. On the other hand, offspring begotten of parents in an unusually healthy and active condition of body and mind, would likely be unusually endowed both mentally and physically. The Arabs in breeding horses take advantage of this fact, for before intercourse, both sire and dam are actively exercised, not to weariness, but sufficiently to induce the most vigorous condition possible. Of this, too, we have proof in the phenomenon sometimes observed by breeders, that a strong mental impression made upon the female by a particular male, will give the offspring a resemblance to him, even though she have no sexual intercourse with him. Of this, Mr. Boswell in his prize essay published in 1828, gives a remarkable instance. He says that Mr. Mustard of Angus, one of the most intelligent breeders he had ever met with, told him that one of his cows chanced to come into season while pasturing on a field bounded by that of one of his neighbors, out of which field an ox jumped and went with the cow until she was brought home to the bull. The ox was white, with black spots, and horned. Mr. Mustard had not a horned beast in his possession, nor one with any white on it. Nevertheless, the produce of the following spring was a black and white calf with horns.

The case of Jacob is often quoted in support of this view, and although many believe some miraculous agency to have been exerted in his case, and though he could say with truth, "God hath taken away the cattle of your father and given them to me," it seems, on the whole, more probable, inasmuch as supernatural agency may never be presumed, except where we know, or have good reason to believe, that natural causes are insufficient, that God "gave" them, as he now gives to some, riches or honors; that is to say, by virtue of the operation of natural laws. If all who keep cattle would exercise a tithe of the patriarch's shrewdness and sagacity in improving their stock, we should see fewer ill-favored kine than at present.

The possibility of some effect being produced by a strong impression at the time of conception, is not to be confounded with the popular error that "marks" upon an infant[14] are due to a transient, although strong impression upon the imagination of the mother at any period of gestation, which is unsupported by facts and absurd; but there are facts sufficient upon record to prove that habitual mental condition, and especially at an early stage of pregnancy, may have the effect to produce some bodily deformity, and should induce great caution.


[3] See Rowley's Prize Report on Farming in Derbyshire, in Journal of Royal Agricultural Society, Vol. 14.

[4] A working bull, though perhaps not so pleasing to the eye as a fat one, (for fat sometimes covers a multitude of defects,) is a surer stock-getter; and his progeny is more likely to inherit full health and vigor.

[5] In his Origin of Species.

[6] It was long ago stated by Haller, that when a mare had a foal by an ass and afterwards another by a horse, the second offspring begotten by the horse nevertheless approached in character to a mule.

[7] See Abd el Kader's letter.

[8] Journal of Medical Science, 1850.

[9] Kirke's Physiology.

[10] Philosophical Transactions for 1821.

[11] The late M.A. Cuming, V.S., of New Brunswick, once remarked to the writer, that it might be due to the fact that the nerves of the uterus, which before the first impregnation were in a rudimentary state, were developed under a specific influence from the semen of the first male, and that they might retain so much of a peculiar style of development as to impress upon future progeny by other males the likeness of the first.

[12] Edinburgh Journal Medical Science, 1849.

[13] A very striking fact may be related in this connection, which while it may or may not have a practical bearing on the breeding of domestic animals, shows forcibly how mysterious are some of the laws of reproduction. It is stated by the celebrated traveler, Count de Strzelecki, in his Physical Description of New South Wales and Van Dieman's Land. "Whenever," he says, "a fruitful intercourse has taken place between an aboriginal woman and an European male, that aboriginal woman is forever after incapable of being impregnated by a male of her own nation, although she may again be fertile with a European." The Count, whose means and powers of observation are of the highest possible order, affirms that "hundreds of instances of this extraordinary fact are on record in the writer's memoranda all recurring invariably under the same circumstances, all tending to prove that the sterility of the female, which is relative only to one and not to the other male is not accidental, but follows laws as cogent though as mysterious as the rest of those connected with generation." The Count's statement is endorsed by Dr. Maunsell of Dublin, Dr. Carmichael of Edinburgh, and the late Prof. Goodsir, who say they have learned from independent sources that as regards Australia, Strzelecki's statement is unquestionable and must be regarded as the expression of a law of nature. The law does not extend to the negro race, the fertility of the negro female not being apparently impaired by previous fruitful intercourse with a European male.

In reply to an inquiry made whether he had ever noticed exceptional cases, the Count says: "It has not come under my cognizance to see or hear of a native female which having a child with a European had afterwards any offspring with a male of her own race."

The Count's statement is suggestive as to the disappearance of the aborigines of some countries. This has often been the subject of severe comment and is generally ascribed to the rum and diseases introduced by the white man. It would now appear that other influences have also been operative.

[14] Carpenter's Physiology, new edition, page 783.



It may not be easy to say whether this phenomenon is more connected with the law of similarity, or with that of variation. Youatt, in his work on cattle published by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, inclines to the former. He speaks of it as showing the universality of the application of the axiom that "like produces like"—that when this "may not seem to hold good, it is often because the lost resemblance to generations gone by is strongly revived." The phenomenon, or law, as it is sometimes called, of atavism,[15] or ancestral influence, is one of considerable practical importance, and well deserves careful attention by the breeder of farm stock.

Every one is aware that it is nothing unusual for a child to resemble its grandfather or grandmother or some ancestor still farther back, more than it does either its own father or mother. The fact is too familiar to require the citing of examples. We find the same occurrence among our domestic animals, and oftener in proportion as the breeds are crossed or mixed up. Among our common stock of neat cattle, (natives, as they are often called,) originating as they have done from animals brought from England, Scotland, Denmark, France and Spain, each possessing different characteristics of form, color and use; and bred, as our common stock has usually been, indiscriminately together, with no special point in view, no attempt to obtain any particular type or form, or to secure adaptation for any particular purpose, we have very frequent opportunities of witnessing the results of the operation of this law of hereditary transmission. So common indeed is its occurrence, that the remark is often made, that however good a cow may be, there is no telling beforehand what sort of a calf she may have.

The fact is sufficiently obvious that certain peculiarities often lie dormant for a generation or two and then reappear in subsequent progeny. Stockmen often speak of it as "breeding back," or "crying back." The cause of this phenomenon we may not fully understand. A late writer says, "it is to be explained on the supposition that the qualities were transmitted by the grandfather to the father in whom they were masked by the presence of some antagonistic or controlling influence, and were thence transmitted to the son in whom the antagonistic influence being withdrawn they manifest themselves." A French writer on Physiology says, if there is not inheritance of paternal characteristics, there is at least an aptitude to inherit them, a disposition to reproduce them; and there is always a transmission of this aptitude to some new descendants, among whom these traits will manifest themselves sooner or later.[16] Mr. Singer, let us say, has a remarkable aptitude for music; but the influence of Mrs. Singer is such that their children inheriting her imperfect ear, manifest no musical talent whatever. These children however have inherited the disposition of the father in spite of its non-manifestation; and if, when they transmit what in them is latent, the influence of their wives is favorable, the grand-children may turn out musically gifted.

The lesson taught by the law of atavism is very plain. It shows the importance of seeking "thorough-bred" or "well-bred" animals; and by these terms are simply meant such as are descended from a line of ancestors in which for many generations the desirable forms, qualities and characteristics have been uniformly shown. In such a case, even if ancestral influence does come in play, no material difference appears in the offspring, the ancestors being all essentially alike. From this stand point we best perceive in what consists the money value of a good "pedigree." It is in the evidence which it brings that the animal is descended from a line all the individuals of which were alike, and excellent of their kind, and so is almost sure to transmit like excellencies to its progeny in turn;—not that every animal with a long pedigree full of high-sounding names is necessarily of great value as a breeder, for in every race or breed, as we have seen while speaking of the law of variation, there will be here and there some which are less perfect and symmetrical of their kind than others; and if such be bred from, they may likely enough transmit undesirable points; and if they be mated with others possessing similar failings, they are almost sure to deteriorate very considerably.

Pedigree is valuable in proportion as it shows an animal to be descended, not only from such as are purely of its own race or breed, but also from such individuals in that breed as were specially noted for the excellencies for which that particular breed is esteemed. Weeds are none the less worthless because they appear among a crop consisting chiefly of valuable plants, nor should deformed or degenerate plants, although they be true to their kind, ever be employed to produce seed. If we would have good cabbages or turnips, it is needful to select the most perfect and the soundest to grow seed from, and to continue such selection year after year. Precisely the same rule holds with regard to animals.

The pertinacity with which hereditary traits cling to the organization in a latent, masked or undeveloped condition for long after they might be supposed to be wholly "bred out" is sometimes very remarkable. What is known among breeders of Short-horns as the "Galloway alloy," although originating by the employment for only once of a single animal of a different breed, is said to be traceable even now, after many years, in the occasional development of a "smutty nose" in descendants of that family.

Many years ago there were in the Kennebec valley a few polled or hornless cattle. They were not particularly cherished, and gradually diminished in numbers. Mr. Payne Wingate shot the last animal of this breed, (a bull calf or a yearling,) mistaking it in the dark for a bear. During thirty-five years subsequently all the cattle upon his farm had horns, but at the end of that time one of his cows produced a calf which grew up without horns, and Mr. Wingate said it was, in all respects, the exact image of the first bull of the breed brought there.

Probably the most familiar exemplification of clearly marked ancestral influence among us, is to be found in the ill-begotten, round-breeched calves occasionally, and not very unfrequently, dropped by cows of the common mixed kind, and which, if killed early, make very blue veal, and if allowed to grow up, become exceedingly profitless and unsatisfactory beasts; the heifers being often sterile, the cows poor milkers, the oxen dull, mulish beasts, yielding flesh of very dark color, ill flavor and destitute of fat. They are known by various names in different localities, in Maine as the "Whitten" and "Peter Waldo" breed, in Massachusetts as "Yorkshire" and "Westminster," in New York as the "Pumpkin buttocks," in England as "Lyery" or "Lyery Dutch," &c., &c.

Those in northern New England are believed to be descended chiefly from a bull brought from Watervliet, near Albany, New York, more than forty years ago, (in 1818,) by the Shakers at Alfred, in York county, Maine, and afterwards transferred to their brethren in Cumberland county. No one who has proved the worthlessness of these cattle can readily believe that any bull of this sort would have been knowingly kept for service since the first one brought into the State, and yet it is by no means a rare occurrence to find calves dropped at the present time bearing unmistakable evidence of that origin.

It seems likely that this disagreeable peculiarity was first brought into the country by means of some of the early importations of Dutch or of the old Durham breed.

Culley, in speaking of the Short-horns, inclines to the opinion that they were originally from Holland, and himself recollected men who in the early part of their lives imported Dutch cattle into the county of Durham, and of one Mr. Dobinson he says, he was noted for having the best breed of Short-horns of any and sold at high prices. "But afterwards some other persons of less knowledge, going over, brought home some bulls that introduced the disagreeable kind of cattle called lyery or double lyered, that is, black-fleshed. These will feed to great weight, but though fed ever so long will not have a pound of fat about them, neither within or without, and the flesh (for it does not deserve to be called beef) is as black and coarse grained as horse flesh. No man will buy one of this kind if he knows any thing of the matter, and if he should be once taken in he will remember it well for the future; people conversant with cattle very readily find them out by their round form, particularly their buttocks, which are turned like a black coach horse, and the smallness of the tail; but they are best known to the graziers and dealers in cattle by the feel or touch of the fingers; indeed it is this nice touch or feel of the hand that in a great measure constitutes the judge of cattle."


[15] From the Latin Atavus—meaning any ancestor indefinitely, as a grandmother's great grandfather.

[16] "S'il n'y a pas heritage des caracteres paternels il y a donc au moins aptitude a en heriter, disposition a les reproduire, et toujours cette transmission de cette aptitude a des noveau descendants, chez lesquels ces memes caracteres se manifesteront tot ou tard."—Longet's "Traite de Physiologie," ii: 133.



The relative influence of the male and female parents upon the characteristics of progeny has long been a fertile subject of discussion among breeders. It is found in experience that progeny sometimes resembles one parent more than the other,—sometimes there is an apparent blending of the characteristics of both,—sometimes a noticeable dissimilarity to either, though always more or less resemblance somewhere, and sometimes, the impress of one may be seen upon a portion of the organization of the offspring and that of the other parent upon another portion; yet we are not authorized from such discrepancies to conclude that it is a matter of chance, for all of nature's operations are conducted by fixed laws, whether we be able fully to discover them or not. The same causes always produce the same results. In this case, not less than in others there are, beyond all doubt, fixed laws, and the varying results which we see are easily and sufficiently accounted for by the existence of conditions or modifying influences not fully patent to our observation.

In the year 1825, the Highland Society of Scotland, proposed as the subject of prize essays, the solution of the question, "whether the breed of live stock connected with agriculture be susceptible of the greatest improvement from the qualities conspicuous in the male or from those conspicuous in the female parent?" Four essays received premiums. Mr. Boswell, one of the prize writers, maintained that it is not only the male parent which is capable of most speedily improving the breed of live stock, "but that the male is the parent which we can alone look to for improvement."

His paper is of considerable length and ably written—abounding in argument and illustrations not easily condensed so as to be given here, and it is but justice to add that he also holds that "before the breed of a country can be improved, much more must be looked to than the answer to the question put by the Highland Society—such as crossing, selection of both parents, attention to pedigree, and to the food and care of offspring."

And of crossing, he says, "when I praise the advantage of crossing, I would have it clearly understood that it is only to bring together animals not nearly related but always of the same breed; never attempting to breed from a speed horse and a draught mare or vice versa." Crossing of breeds "may do well enough for once, but will end in vexation, if attempted to be prolonged into a line."

Mr. Christian, in his essay, supports the view, that the offspring bears the greatest resemblance to that parent whether male or female, which has exerted the greatest sway of generative influence in the formation of the foetus, "that any hypothesis which would assign a superiority, or set limits to the influence of either sex in the product of generation is unsound and inadmissible," and he thus concludes—"as therefore it is unsafe to trust to the qualities of any individual animal, male or female, in improving stock, the best bred and most perfect animals of both sexes should be selected and employed in propagation; there being, in short, no other certain or equally efficacious means of establishing or preserving an eligible breed."

Mr. Dallas, in his essay, starts with the idea that the seminal fluid of the male invests the ovum, the formation of which he ascribes to the female; and he supports the opinion, that where external appearance is concerned, the influence of the male will be discovered; but in what relates to internal qualities, the offspring will take most from the female. He concludes thus:—"When color, quality of fleece, or outward form is wanted, the male may be most depended on for these; but when milk is the object, when disposition, hardiness, and freedom from diseases of the viscera, and, in short, all internal qualities that may be desired, then the female may be most relied on."

One of the most valuable of these papers was written by the Rev. Henry Berry of Worcestershire, in which, after stating that the question proposed is one full of difficulty and that the discovery of an independent quality such as that alluded to, in either sex, would be attended with beneficial results, he proceeds to show, that it is not to sex, but to high blood, or in other words, to animals long and successfully selected, and bred with a view to particular qualifications, whether in the male or female parent, that the quality is to be ascribed, which the Highland Society has been desirous to assign correctly.

The origin of the prevalent opinion which assigns this power principally to the male, he explains by giving the probable history of the first efforts in improving stock. The greatest attention would naturally be paid to the male, both on account of his more extended services, and the more numerous produce of which he could become the parent; in consequence of which sires would be well-bred before dams. "The ideas entertained respecting the useful qualities of an animal would be very similar and lead to the adoption of a general standard of excellence, towards which it would be required that each male should approximate; and thus there would exist among what may be termed fashionable sires, a corresponding form and character different from, and superior to, those of the general stock of the country. This form and character would in most instances have been acquired by perseverance in breeding from animals which possessed the important or fancied requisites, and might therefore be said to be almost confirmed in such individuals. Under these circumstances, striking results would doubtless follow the introduction of these sires to a common stock; results which would lead superficial observers to remark, that individual sires possessed properties as males, which in fact were only assignable to them as improved animals."

The opinion entertained by some, that the female possesses the power generally ascribed to the male, he explains also by a reference to the history of breeding: "It is well known to persons conversant with the subject of improved breeding, that of late years numerous sales have taken place of the entire stocks of celebrated breeders of sires, and thus, the females, valuable for such a purpose, have passed into a great number of hands. Such persons have sometimes introduced a cow so acquired to a bull inferior in point of descent and general good qualities, and the offspring is known, in many instances, to have proved superior to the sire by virtue of the dam's excellence, and to have caused a suspicion in the minds of persons not habituated to compare causes with effects, that certain females also possess the property in question."

The writer gives various instances illustrative of his views, in some of which the male only, and in others the female only, was the high-bred animal, in all of which the progeny bore a remarkable resemblance to the well-bred parent. He says, that where both parents are equally well bred, and of nearly equal individual excellence, it is not probable that their progeny will give general proof of a preponderating power in either parent to impress peculiar characteristics upon the offspring;—yet in view of all the information we have upon the subject, he recommends a resort to the best males as the most simple and efficacious mode of improving such stocks as require improvement, and the only proceeding by which stock already good can be preserved in excellence.

Mon. Giron[17] expresses the opinion that the relative age and vigor of the parents exercises very considerable influence, and states as the results of his observation, that the offspring of an old male and a young female resembles the father less than the mother in proportion as the mother is more vigorous and the father more decrepit, and that the reverse occurs with the offspring of an old female and a young male.

Among the more recent theories or hypotheses which have been started regarding the relative influence of the male and female parents, those of Mr. Orton, presented in a paper read before the Farmers' Club at Newcastle upon Tyne, on the Physiology of Breeding, and of Mr. Walker in his work on Intermarriage, as they both arrived to a certain extent, at substantially the same conclusions by independent observations of their own and as these seem to agree most nearly with the majority of observed facts, are deemed worthy of favorable mention.

The conclusions of Mr. Orton, briefly stated,[18] are, that in the progeny there is no casual or haphazard blending of the parts or qualities of the two parents, but rather that organization is transmitted by halves, or that each parent contributes to the formation of certain structures, and to the development of certain qualities. Advancing a step further, he maintains, that the male parent chiefly determines the external characters, the general appearance, in fact, the outward structure and locomotive powers of the offspring, as the framework, or bones and muscles, more particularly those of the limbs, the organs of sense and skin; while the female parent chiefly determines the internal structures and the general quality, mainly furnishing the vital organs, i.e., the heart, lungs, glands and digestive organs, and giving tone and character to the vital functions of secretion, nutrition and growth. "Not however that the male is without influence on the internal organs and vital functions, or the female without influence on the external organs and locomotive powers of their offspring. The law holds only within certain restrictions, and these form as it were a secondary law, one of limitations, and scarcely less important to be understood than the fundamental law itself."

Mr. Orton relies chiefly on the evidence presented by hybrids, the progeny of distinct species, or by crosses between the most distinct varieties embraced within a single species, to establish his law. The examples adduced are chiefly from the former. The mule is the progeny of the male ass and the mare; the hinny that of the horse and the she ass. Both hybrids are the produce of the same set of animals. They differ widely, however, in their respective characters—the mule in all that relates to its external characters having the distinctive features of the ass,—the hinny, in the same respects having all the distinctive features of the horse; while in all that relates to the internal organs and vital qualities, the mule partakes of the character of the horse, and the hinny of those of the ass. Mr. Orton says—"The mule, the produce of the male ass and mare, is essentially a modified ass: the ears are those of an ass somewhat shortened; the mane is that of the ass, erect; the tail is that of an ass; the skin and color are those of an ass somewhat modified; the legs are slender and the hoofs high, narrow and contracted, like those of an ass. In fact, in all these respects it is an ass somewhat modified. The body and barrel, however, of the mule are round and full, in which it differs from the ass and resembles the mare.

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