Charles Darwin on another very Taboo topic: RACE-Mixing


When two distinct races are crossed, it is notorious that the tendency in the offspring to revert to one or both parent forms is strong, and endures for many generations.
The Earl of Powis formerly imported some thoroughly domesticated humped cattle from India, and crossed them with English breeds, which belong to a distinct species; and his agent remarked to me, without any question having been asked, how oddly wild the cross-bred animals were.
These latter facts remind us of the statements, so frequently made by travellers in all parts of the world, on the degraded state and savage disposition of crossed races of man. That many excellent and kind-hearted mulattos have existed no one will dispute; and a more mild and gentle set of men could hardly be found than the inhabitants of the island of Chilce, who consist of Indians commingled with Spaniards in various proportions. On the other hand, many years ago, long before I had thought of the present subject, I was struck with the fact that, in South America, men of complicated descent between Negroes, Indians, and Spaniards, seldom had, whatever the cause might be, a good expression.1 Livingstone,- and a more unimpeachable authority cannot be quoted,- after speaking of a half-caste man on the Zambesi, described by the Portuguese as a rare monster of inhumanity, remarks, “It is unaccountable why half-castes, such as he, are so much more cruel than the Portuguese, but such is undoubtedly the case.” An inhabitant remarked to Livingstone, “God made white men, and God made black men, but the Devil made half-castes.”2 When two races, both low in the scale, are crossed the progeny seems to be eminently bad. Thus the noble-hearted Humboldt, who felt no prejudice against the inferior races, speaks in strong terms of the bad and savage disposition of Zambos, or half-castes between Indians and Negroes; and this conclusion has been arrived at by various observers.3 From these facts we may perhaps infer that the degraded state of so many half-castes is in part due to reversion to a primitive and savage condition, induced by the act of crossing, even if mainly due to the unfavourable moral conditions under which they are generally reared.

  1. Journal of Researches, 1845, p. 71.
  2. Expedition to the Zambesi, 1865, pp. 25, 150.
  3. Dr. P. Broca, on ‘Hybridity in the Genus Homo,’ Eng. translat., 1864, p. 39.
No man in his senses would expect to improve or modify a breed in any particular manner, or keep an old breed true and distinct, unless he separated his animals.
It is a very surprising fact that characters should reappear after having been lost for many, perhaps for hundreds of generations. But when a breed has been crossed only once by some other breed, the offspring occasionally show a tendency to revert in character to the foreign breed for many generations – some say, for a dozen or even a score of generations. After twelve generations, the proportion of blood, to use a common expression, of any one ancestor, is only 1 in 2048; and yet, as we see, it is generally believed that a tendency to reversion is retained by this very small proportion of foreign blood.
How strongly these domestic instincts, habits, and dispositions are inherited, and how curiously they become mingled, is well shown when different breeds of dogs are crossed. Thus it is known that a cross with a bull-dog has affected for many generations the courage and obstinacy of greyhounds; and a cross with a greyhound has given to a whole family of shepherd-dogs a tendency to hunt hares.
Some species have a remarkable power of crossing with other species; other species of the same genus have a remarkable power of impressing their likeness on their hybrid offspring.
I think these authors are right, who maintain that the ass has a prepotent power over the horse, so that both the mule and the hinny more resemble the ass than the horse; but that the prepotency runs more strongly in the male-ass than in the female, so that the mule, which is the offspring of the male-ass and mare, is more like an ass, than is the hinny, which is the offspring of the female-ass and stallion.

5 thoughts on “Charles Darwin on another very Taboo topic: RACE-Mixing

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