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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/145

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THE PENYCUIK EXPERIMENTS.

experiments, as far as they have gone, afford no evidence in support of the telegony hypothesis." Nothing has occurred which is not explicable on the theory of reversion.

There is no factor in breeding of more importance than prepotency, and none which is more difficult to estimate. The term is necessarily a relative one, and, further, it may affect some characters and not others. Often it must go undetected, as in the case of the leader of a herd of wild cattle, who may be highly prepotent, but whose prepotency, unless he is mated with members of another herd displaying different characters, may pass unnoticed. Breeders claim to be able to produce cattle so prepotent that they will produce their like, however mated. A well-known dealer in highly-bred ponies used to boast that he had a filly so prepotent that, though she were sent to the best Clydesdale stallion in Scotland, she would throw a colt showing no cart-horse blood. Prepotency is usually obtained by inbreeding, which up to a certain point fixes the character of a race, and in all cases tends to check variation and reversion—the Jews, for instance, as a race are strongly prepotent—but there is no doubt that it may also arise as a sport, and this is probably its more usual origin in a state of Nature. Professor Ewart, however, believes that inbreeding is much commoner among wild animals than has usually been conceded, and he holds the opinion that the prepotency so induced has played a considerable part in the origin of species. This, if true, would to some extent take the place of Romanes' 'physiological selection'; for Romanes also thought that, though of great importance, variation and natural selection were insufficient to account for the origin of species without some factor which would help to mitigate the swamping effect of intercrossing—some such agency as the fences of modern farms and cattle ranches—without which the famous cattle breeds of the world would soon disappear in a general 'regression toward mediocrity.'

In inbreeding the great difficulty of the breeder is to know when to stop. Carried too far it undoubtedly leads to degeneracy. In the 'Domesticated Animals of Great Britain,' Low records the case of a gentleman who inbred foxhounds to such an extent that "the race actually became monstrous and perished." Hogs, if too closely inbred, grow hair instead of bristles; their legs become short and unable to support the body; and not only is their fertility diminished, but the mothers can not nourish the young.

So far as is known, no direct investigations have been made to test how far inbreeding may be carried in the Equidae; but, on the other hand, the breeding of race-horses may perhaps be looked upon as a gigantic experiment in this direction. Our English thoroughbreds can be traced back to a few imported sires—the Byerly Turk, imported in 1689; the Darley Arabian, in 1710; and the Godolphin