Page:Origin of Species 1872.djvu/414

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These two principles, namely, that slight variations generally appear at a not very early period of life, and are inherited at a corresponding not early period, explain, as I believe, all the above specified leading facts in embryology. But first let us look to a few analogous cases in our domestic varieties. Some authors who have written on Dogs maintain that the greyhound and bull-dog, though so different, are really closely allied varieties, descended from the same wild stock, hence I was curious to see how far their puppies differed from each other. I was told by breeders that they differed just as much as their parents, and this, judging by the eye, seemed almost to be the case; but on actually measuring the old dogs and their six-days-old puppies, I found that the puppies had not acquired nearly their full amount of proportional difference. So, again, I was told that the foals of cart and race-horses — breeds which have been almost wholly formed by selection under domestication — differed as much as the full-grown animals; but having had careful measurements made of the dams and of three-days-old colts of race and heavy cart-horses, I find that this is by no means the case.

As we have conclusive evidence that the breeds of the Pigeon are descended from a single wild species, I compared the young pigeons within twelve hours after being hatched. I carefully measured the proportions (but will not here give the details) of the beak, width of mouth, length of nostril and of eyelid, size of feet and length of leg, in the wild parent species, in pouters, fantails, runts, barbs, dragons, carriers, and tumblers. Now, some of these birds, when mature, differ in so extraordinary a manner in the length and form of beak, and in other characters, that they would certainly have been ranked as distinct genera if found in a state of nature. But when the nestling birds of these several breeds were placed in a row, though most of them could just be distinguished, the proportional differences in the above specified points were incomparably less than in the full-grown birds. Some characteristic points of difference — for instance, that of the width of mouth — could hardly be detected in the young. But there was one remarkable exception to this rule, for the young of the short-faced tumbler differed from the young of the wild rock-pigeon, and of the other breeds, in almost exactly the same proportions as in the adult stage.

These facts are explained by the above two principles. Fanciers select their dogs, horses, pigeons, &c., for breeding, when nearly grown up. They are indifferent whether the desired qualities are acquired earlier or later in life, if the full-grown animal possesses them. And the cases just given, more especially that of the