PRINCIPLES OF GEOLOGY -- VOLUME 2
Variability of a species compared to that of an individual – Species which are susceptible of modification may be altered greatly in a short time, and in a few generations; after which they remain stationary – The animals now subject to man had originally an aptitude to domesticity – Acquired peculiarities which become hereditary have a close connexion with the habits or instincts of the species in a wild state – Some qualities in certain animals have been conferred with a view of their relation to man – Wild elephant domesticated in a few years, but its faculties incapable of further development
WE endeavoured in the last chapter to show, that a belief in the reality of species is not inconsistent with the idea of a considerable degree of variability in the specific character. This opinion, indeed, is little more than an extension of the idea which we must entertain of the identity of an individual, throughout the changes which it is capable of undergoing.
If a quadruped, inhabiting a cold northern latitude, and covered with a warm coat of hair or wool, be transported to a southern climate, it will often, in the course of a few years, shed a considerable portion of its coat, which it gradually recovers on being again restored to its native country. Even there the same changes are, perhaps, superinduced to a certain extent by the returns of winter and summer. We know that the Alpine hare  and the ermine  become white during winter, and again obtain their full colour during the warmer season; that the plumage of the ptarmigan undergoes a like metamorphosis in colour and quantity, and that the change is equally temporary. We are aware that, if we reclaim some wild animal, and modify Its habits and instincts by domestication, it may, if it escapes, become in a few years nearly as wild and untractable as ever; and if the same individual be again retaken, it may be reduced to its former tame state. A plant is placed in a prepared soil in order that the petals of its flowers may multiply, and their colour be heightened or changed; if we then withhold our care, the flowers of this same individual become again single. In these, and innumerable other instances, we must suppose that the individual was produced with a certain number of qualities; and, in the case of animals, with a variety of instincts, some of which mayor may not be developed according to circumstances, or which, after having been called forth, may again become latent when the exciting causes are removed.
Now the formation of races seems the necessary consequence of such a capability in individuals to vary, if it be a general law that the offspring should very closely resemble the parent. But, before we can infer that there are no limits to the deviation from an original type which may be brought about in the course of an indefinite number of generations, we ought to have some proof that, in each successive generation, individuals may go on acquiring an equal amount of new peculiarities, under the influence of equal changes of circumstances. The balance of evidence, however, inclines most decidedly on the opposite side, for in all cases we find that the quantity of divergence diminishes from the first in a very rapid ratio.
It cannot be objected, that it is out of our power to go on varying the circumstances in the same manner as might happen in the natural course of events during some great geological cycle. For in the first place, where a capacity is given to individuals to adapt themselves to new circumstances, it does not generally require a very long period for its development; if, indeed, such were the case, it is not easy to see how the modification would answer the ends proposed, for all the individuals would die before new qualities, habits, or instincts, were conferred.
When we have succeeded in naturalizing some tropical plant in a temperate climate, nothing prevents us from attempting gradually to extend its distribution to higher latitudes, or to greater elevations above the level of the sea, allowing equal quantities of time, or an equal number of generations for habituating the species to successive increments of cold. But every husbandman and gardener is aware that such experiments will fail; and we are more likely to succeed in making some plants, in the course of the first two generations, support a considerable degree of difference of temperature than a very small difference afterwards, though we persevere for many centuries.
It is the same if we take any other cause instead of temperature; such as the quality of the food, or the kind of dangers to which an animal is exposed, or the soil in which a plant lives. The alteration in habits, form, or organization, is often rapid during a short period; but when the circumstances are made to vary further, though in ever so slight a degree, all modification ceases, and the individual perishes. Thus some herbivorous quadrupeds may be made to feed partially on fish or flesh, but even these can never be taught to live on some herbs which they reject, and which would even poison them, although the same may be very nutritious to other species of the same natural order. So when man uses force or stratagem against wild animals, the persecuted race soon becomes more cautious, watchful, and cunning; new instincts seem often to be developed, and to become hereditary in the first two or three generations; but let the skill and address of man increase, however gradually, no further variation can take place, no new qualities are elicited by the increasing dangers. The alteration of the habits of the species has reached a point beyond which no ulterior modification is possible, however indefinite the lapse of ages during which the new circumstances operate. Extirpation then follows, rather than such a transformation as could alone enable the species to perpetuate itself under the new state of things.
It has been well observed by M. F. Cuvier and M. Dureau de la Malle, that unless some animals had manifested in a wild state an aptitude to second the efforts of man, their domestication would never have been attempted. If they had all resembled the wolf, the fox, and the hyaena, the patience of the experimentalist would have been exhausted by innumerable failures before he at last succeeded in obtaining some imperfect results; so, if the first advantages derived from the cultivation of plants had been elicited by as tedious and costly a process as that by which we now make some slight additional improvement in certain races, we should have remained to this day in ignorance of the greater number of their useful qualities.
It is undoubtedly true, that many new habits and qualities have not only been acquired in recent times by certain races of dogs, but have been transmitted to their offspring. But in these cases it will be observed, that the new peculiarities have an intimate relation to the habits of the animal in a wild state, and therefore do not attest any tendency to departure to an indefinite extent from the original type of the species. A race of dogs employed for hunting deer in the platform of Santa Fe in Mexico, affords a beautiful illustration of a new hereditary instinct. The mode of attack, observes M. Roulin, which they employ, consists in seizing the animal by the belly and overturning it by a sudden effort, taking advantage of the moment when the body of the deer rests only upon the forelegs. The weight of the animal thus thrown over, is often six times that of its antagonist. The dog of pure breed inherits a disposition to this kind of chase, and never attacks a deer from before while running. Even should the latter, not perceiving him, come directly upon him, the dog steps aside and makes his assault on the Bank, whereas other hunting dogs, though of superior strength and general sagacity, which are brought from Europe, are destitute of this instinct. For want of similar precautions, they are often killed by the deer on the spot, the vertebrae of their neck being dislocated by the violence of the shock. 
A new instinct also has become hereditary in a mongrel race of dogs employed by the inhabitants of the banks of the Magdalena, almost exclusively in hunting the white-lipped pecari. The address of these dogs consists in restraining their ardour, and attaching themselves to no animal in particular, but keeping the whole herd in check. Now, among these dogs some are found, which, the very first time they are taken to the woods, are acquainted with this mode of attack; whereas, a dog of another breed starts forward at once, is surrounded by the pecari, and whatever may be his strength is destroyed in a moment.
Some of our countrymen, engaged of late in conducting the principal mining association in Mexico,  carried out with them some English greyhounds of the best breed, to hunt the hares which abound in that country. The great platform which is the scene of sport is at an elevation of about nine thousand feet above the level of the sea, and the mercury in the barometer stands habitually at the height of about nineteen inches. It was found that the greyhounds could not support the fatigues of a long chase in this attenuated atmosphere, and before they could come up with their prey, they lay down gasping for breath; but these same animals have produced whelps which have grown up, and are not in the least degree incommoded by the want of density in the air, but run down the hares with as much ease as the fleetest of their race in this country.
The fixed and deliberate stand of the pointer has with propriety been regarded as a mere modification of a habit, which may have been useful to a wild race accustomed to wind game, and steal upon it by surprise, first pausing for an instant in order to spring with unerring aim. The faculty of the Retriever, however, may justly be regarded as more inexplicable and less easily referrible to the instinctive passions of the species. M. Majendie, says a French writer in a recently-published memoir, having learnt that there was a race of dogs in England, which stopped and brought back game of their own accord, procured a pair, and having obtained a whelp from them kept it constantly under his eyes, until he had an opportunity of assuring himself that, without having received any instruction and on the very first day that it was carried to the chase, it brought back game with as much steadiness as dogs which had been schooled into the same manreuvre by means of the whip and collar.
Such attainments, as well as the habits and dispositions which the shepherd's dog and many others inherit, seem to be of a nature and extent which we can hardly explain by supposing them to be modifications of instincts necessary for the preservation of the species in a wild state. When such remarkable habits appear in races of this species, we may reasonably conjecture that they were given with no other view than for the use of man and the preservation of the dog which thus obtains protection.
As a general rule, we fully agree with M. F. Cuvier that, in studying the habits of animals, we must attempt, as far as possible, to refer their domestic qualities to modifications of instincts which are implanted in them in a state of nature j and that writer has successfully pointed out, in an admirable essay on the domestication of the mammalia, the true origin of many dispositions which are vulgarly attributed to the influence of education alone.  But we should go too far if we did not admit that some of the qualities of particular animals and plants may have been given solely with a view to the connexion which it was foreseen would exist between them and man- specially when we see that connexion to be in many cases so intimate, that the greater number, and sometimes all the individuals of the species which exist on the earth are in subjection to the human race.
We can perceive in a multitude of animals, especially in some of the parasitic tribes, that certain instincts and organs are conferred for the purpose of defence or attack against some other species. Now if we are reluctant to suppose the existence of similar relations between man and the instincts of many of the inferior animals, we adopt an hypothesis no less violent, though in the opposite extreme to that which has led some to imagine the whole animate and inanimate creation to have been made solely for the support, gratification, and instruction of mankind.
Many species most hostile to our persons or property multiply in spite of our efforts to repress them; others, on the contrary, are intentionally augmented many hundred-fold in number by our exertions. In such instances we must imagine the relative resources of man and of species, friendly or inimical to him, to have been prospectively calculated and adjusted. To withhold assent to this supposition would be to refuse what we must grant in respect to the economy of Nature in every other part of the organic creation; for the various species of contemporary plants and animals have obviously their relative forces nicely balanced, and their respective tastes, passions, and instincts, so contrived, that they are all in perfect harmony with each other. In no other manner could it happen, that each species surrounded as it is by countless dangers should be enabled to maintain its ground for periods of considerable duration.
The docility of the individuals of some of our domestic species extending, as it does, to attainments foreign to their natural habits and faculties, may perhaps have been conferred with a view to their association with man. But lest species should be thereby made to vary indefinitely, we find that such habits are never transmissible by generation.
A pig has been trained to hunt and point game with great activity and steadiness;  and other learned individuals, of the same species, have been taught to spell; but such fortuitous acquirements never become hereditary, for they have no relation whatever to the exigencies of the animal in a wild state, and cannot therefore be developments of any instinctive propensities.
An animal in domesticity, says M. F. Cuvier, is not essentially in a different situation in regard to the feeling of restraint from one left to itself. It lives in society without constraint, because without doubt it was a social animal, and it conforms itself to the will of man, because it had a chief to which in a wild state it would have yielded obedience. There is nothing in its new situation that is not conformable to its propensities; it is satisfying its wants by submission to a master, and makes no sacrifice of its natural inclinations. All the social animals when left to themselves form herds more or less numerous, and all the individuals of the same herd know each other) are mutually attached, and will not allow a strange individual to join them. In a wild state, moreover, they obey some individual, which by its superiority has become the chief of the herd. Our domestic species had originally this sociability of disposition, and no solitary species, however easy it may be to tame it, has yet afforded true domestic races. We merely, therefore, develope to our own advantage, propensities which propel the individuals of certain species to draw near to their fellows.
The sheep which we have reared is induced to follow us, as it would be led to follow the flock among which it was brought up; and when individuals of gregarious species have been accustomed to one master, it is he alone whom they acknowledge as their chief, he only whom they obey. -- "The elephant only allows himself to be led by the carnac whom he has adopted; the dog itself, reared in solitude with its master, manifests a hostile disposition towards all others; and everybody knows how dangerous it is to be in the midst of a herd of cows, in pasturages that are little frequented, when they have not at their head the keeper who takes care of them."
"Everything, therefore, tends to convince us, that formerly men were only, with regard to the domestic animals) what those who are particularly charged with the care of them still are, namely, members of the society, which these animals form among themselves; and that they are only distinguished in the general mass by the authority which they have been enabled to assume from their superiority of intellect. Thus, every social animal which recognizes man as a member, and as the chief of its herd~ is a domestic animal. It might even be said that from the moment when such an animal admits man as a member of its society, it is domesticated, as man could not enter into such a society without becoming the chief of it." 
But the ingenious author whose observations we have here cited, admits that the obedience which the individuals of many domestic species yield indifferently to every person is without analogy in any state of things which could exist previously to their subjugation by man. Each troop of wild horses, it is true, has some stallion for its chief, who draws after him all the individuals of which the herd is composed; but when a domesticated horse has passed from hand to hand, and has served several masters, he becomes equally docile towards any person, and is subjected to the whole human race. It seems fair to presume, that the capability in the instinct of the horse to be thus modified, was given to enable the species to render greater services to man; and, perhaps, the facility with which many other acquired characters become hereditary in various races of the horse, may be explicable only on a like supposition. The amble, for example~ a pace to which the domestic races in Spanish America are exclusively trained, has, in the course of several generations, become hereditary, and is assumed by all the young colts before they are broken in. 
It seems also reasonable to conclude, that the power bestowed on the horse, the dog, the ox, the sheep, the cat, and many species of domestic fowls, of supporting almost every climate, was given expressly to enable them to follow man throughout all parts of the globe-in order that we might obtain their services, and they our protection. If it be objected that the elephant, which, by the union of strength, intelligence, and docility, can render the greatest services to mankind, is incapable of living in any but the warmest latitudes, we may observe, that the quantity of vegetable food required by this quadruped would render its maintenance, in the temperate zone, too costly, and in the arctic impossible.
Among the changes superinduced by man, none appear, at first sight, more remarkable than the perfect tameness of certain domestic races. It is well known, that at however early an age we obtain possession of the young of many unreclaimed races, they will retain, throughout life, a considerable timidity and apprehensiveness of danger; whereas, after one or two generations, the descendants of the same will habitually place the most implicit confidence in man. There is good reason, however, to suspect that such changes are not without analogy in a state of nature, or, to speak more correctly, in situations where man has not interfered.
Thus Dr. Richardson informs us, in his able history of the habits of North American animals, that "in the retired parts of the mountains, where the hunters had seldom penetrated, there is no difficulty in approaching the Rocky Mountain sheep, which there exhibit the simplicity of character so remarkable in the domestic species,. but where they have been often fired at, they are exceedingly wild, alarm their companions, on the approach of danger, by a hissing noise, and scale the rocks with a speed and agility that baffles pursuit." 
It is probable, therefore, that as man, in diffusing himself over the globe, has tamed many wild races, so also he has made many tame races wild. Had some of the larger carnivorous beasts, capable of scaling the rocks, made their way into the North American mountains before our hunters, a similar alteration in the instincts of the sheep would doubtless have been brought about.
No animal affords a more striking illustration of the principal points we have been endeavouring to establish than the elephant. For in the first place, the, wonderful sagacity with which he accommodates himself to the society of. man, and the new habits which he contracts are not the result of time nor of modifications produced in the course of many generations. These animals will breed in captivity, as is now ascertained in opposition to the vulgar opinion of many modern naturalists, and in conformity to that of the ancients AElian and Columella.  Yet it has always been the custom, as the least expensive mode of obtaining them, to capture wild individuals in the forests, usually when full grown, and in a few years after they are taken, sometimes, it is said, in the space of a few months, their education is completed.
Had the whole species been domesticated from an early period in the history of man, like the camel, their superior intelligence would doubtless have been attributed to their long and familiar intercourse with the lord of the creation: but we know that a few years is sufficient to bring about this wonderful change of habits; and, although the same individual may continue to receive tuition for a century afterwards, yet it makes no further progress in the general development of its faculties. Were it otherwise, indeed, the animal would soon deserve more than the poet's epithet of "half-reasoning."
From the authority of our countrymen employed in the late Burmese war, it appears, in corroboration of older accounts, that when elephants are required to execute extraordinary tasks, they may be made to understand that they will receive unusual rewards. Some favourite dainty is shown to them, in the hope of acquiring which, the work is done. And so perfectly does the nature of the contract appear to be understood, that the breach of it, on the part of the master, is often attended with danger. In this case, a power has been given to the species to adapt their social instincts to new circumstances with surprising rapidity; but the extent of this change is defined by strict and arbitrary limits. There is no indication of a tendency to continued divergence from certain attributes with which the elephant was originally endued, no ground whatever for anticipating, that in thousands of centuries any material alteration could ever be effected. All that we can infer from analogy is, that some useful and peculiar races might probably be formed, if the experiment were fairly tried, and that some individual characteristic, now only casual and temporary, might be perpetuated by generation.
In all cases, therefore, where the domestic qualities exist in animals, they seem to require no lengthened process for their development, and they appear to have been wholly denied to some classes, which from their strength and social nature might have rendered great services to man; as, for example, the greater part of the quadrumana. The orang-outang, indeed, which for its resemblance in form to man, and apparently for no other good reason, has been assumed, by Lamarck, to be the most perfect of the inferior animals, has been tamed by the savages of Borneo, and made to climb lofty trees, and to bring down the fruit. But he is said to yield to his masters an unwilling obedience, and to be held in subjection only by severe discipline. We know nothing of the faculties of this animal which can suggest the idea that it rivals the elephant in intelligence, much less anything which can countenance the dreams of those who have fancied that it might have been transmuted into " the dominant race." One of the baboons of Sumatra (Simia carpolegus) appears to be more docile, and is frequently trained by the inhabitants to ascend trees for the purpose of gathering cocoa-nuts, a service in which the animal is very expert. He selects, says Sir Stamford Raffles, the ripe nuts with great judgment, and pulls no more than he is ordered.  The capuchin and cacajao monkeys are, according to Humboldt, taught to ascend trees in the same manner, and to throw down fruit on the banks of the lower Orinoco. 
We leave it to the Lamarckians to explain, how it happens that those same savages of Borneo have not themselves acquired, by dint of longing for many generations for the power of climbing trees, the elongated arms of the orang, or even the prehensile tails of some American monkeys. Instead of being reduced to the necessity of subjugating stubborn and untractable brutes, we should naturally have anticipated "that their wants would have excited them to efforts, and that continued efforts would have given rise to new organs;" or, rather, to the re-acquisition of organs which, in a manner irreconcileable with the principle of the progressive system, have grown obsolete in tribes of men which have such constant need of them.
It follows, then, from the different facts which we have considered in this chapter, that a short period of time is generally sufficient to effect nearly the whole change which an alteration of external circumstances can bring about in the habits of a species, and that such capacity of accommodation to new circumstances is enjoyed in very different degrees by different species.
Certain qualities appear to be bestowed exclusively with a view to the relations which are destined to exist between different species, and, among others, between certain species and man; but these latter are always so nearly connected with the original habits and propensities of each species in a wild state, that they imply no indefinite capacity of varying from the original type. The acquired habits, derived from human tuition, are rarely transmitted to the offspring; and when this happens, it is almost universally the case with those merely which have some obvious connexion with the attributes of the species when in a state of independence.
1. Lepus variabilis. -- Pallas.
2. Mustela erminea. -- Linn.
3. M. Roulin, Ann. des Sci. Nat., tom. xvi. p. 16, 1829.
4. The Real del Monte Company.
5. Mem. du Mus. d'Hist. Nat. -- Jameson, Ed. New Phil. Journ., Nos. 6, 7, 8.
6. In the New Forest, near Ringwood, Hants, by Mr. Toomer, keeper of Broomy Lodge.
7. Mem. du Mus. d' Hist. Nat.
8. Dureau de la Malle, Ann. des Sci. Nat., tom. xxi. p. 58.
9. Fauna Boreali-Americana, page 273.
10. Mr. Corse on the Habits, &e. of the Elephant, Phil. Trans. 1799.
11. Linn. Trans. vol. xiii. p. 244.
12. Pers. Narr. of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent, in the years 1799-1804.