COLOURS OF DOMESTIC ANIMALS.
WHEN cat-breeding was first taken up in earnest, and the "fancy," led by Mr. Harrison Weir, began to distinguish classes and develop distinct and beautiful varieties, the admirers of the domestic cat found that in two points Nature seemed against them. It was most diffi- cult to produce a male tortoiseshell cat or a female sandy cat, and though their efforts to achieve these results have not altogether been baffled, a tortoiseshell " torn " is still uncommon, and the winner of the prize in this class usually ranks among the precious gems of a cat show.
Instances of sex coloration, or rather of colour favoured by one sex more than by another, are rare among quadrupeds in general, and still rarer among domesticated animals, in which variations of colour are far more common and striking than in wild species. Horses, cattle, and some breeds of dogs, such as setters and pointers, which show the widest range of coloration, assume these differences quite independently of sex. No one, for instance, could guess sex by colour among any number of setter puppies, which may be black, black and white, lemon-yellow, liver-colour, black and tan, or almost pure white; or make a probable choice of bull and heifer calves among a number running loose in a field merely from their tints and markings. If these striking varieties of colour, and also the acquisition of new tints, never seen in the wild species of cattle, horse, or dog, were ornaments of sex developed in the favourable con- dition of life in domestication, just as plumes, wattles, and additionally brilliant colours have been gained by the males of some domesticated birds, the result would correspond with the observed course of evolution in other species. But as these new colours and tints are independent of sex, their origin must be sought in some other direction.
As the most brightly coloured domesticated races of cattle correspond more closely in other respects than those of tint
with their wild connections, than do our sheep, dogs, and horses, their case seems to offer a better chance of tracing the origin of their present coloration. But even cattle have been so carefully developed by human care, and the natural laws of breeding for colour have been so well known for upwards of three thousand years, that the history of the past can only be inferred from what takes place to-day. The extreme variations of colour seem at first inexplicable. The wild oxen and buffaloes are all " whole-coloured animals." The buffaloes have dark slate-coloured or black hair, black skins, and black horns and hoofs. This uniform black colouring is, however, very slightly modi- fied in some species. The gaur, or so-called "bison" of the Indian forests, has white fetlocks. The skin of the gayal, the wild ox of Assam, is of a lighter tint than that of the buffalo, and has less of that appearance of solid india-rubber blackness which the bare skin of the buffalo shows. There is a difference, like that between the ebony skin of the Nubian and the less deeply pigmented races of the East Coast of Africa. Contrasted with this slight modification of the black wild breeds we have the brilliant coloration of the domestic races, bright chestnut, deep, rich red in the Devon, Sussex, and Suffolk cattle, golden red in some of the Jerseys, black shot with brown, in patches on white, strawberry and blue roans, blacks, whites, and all the beautiful varieties of mealy-grey and silver-grey seen in Indian and some Jersey cattle, and lastly, the dun.
Though it seems scarcely credible that these various tints were derived from an original almost black stock, there is reason to think that the " elements " of the colours of modern cattle were very simple, and were developed from very slight natural differences. In wild quadrupeds the natural variation of colouring seems generally limited to three hues. The normal and usual tint seems fixed, as in the case of the lion, leopard, rabbit, or fallow deer. Concurrently with this there are two variations, always liable to occur,—tnelanism, or the tendency to develop darker colour, and in extreme cases black ; and albinism, or partial cr total whiteness. Fallow deer, a species both wild and domesticated, show this perhaps best of all quadrupeds, for the black, white, and normal breeds are to be seen in most parks in England. These three shades, black, white, and tawny, or sandy, may be taken to be the normal colouring of quadrupeds. It remains to be shown how from these three not only many other tints have been developed, but also colours far more brilliant and rich in tone than the "sandy " or normal line. If, as we believe, it is on the subsequent " mixture" of these three hues that all the variety of subsequent colouring in domesticated species depends, we must find a wild ox or buffalo which is sandy, or tawny; for experiments in crossing these and tame bov;die show that so many of the hybrids are fertile that we cannot draw a hard-and-fast line between them. Though black is the normal colour of nearly all the wild cattle and buffaloes, there is one species which is tawny. This is the small short-horned baffalo of the West Coast of Africa. Though confined now to that region, the existence of one wild breed of this colour is presumptive evidence that there may have been others elsewhere. It is a very beautiful species, fawn coloured, with a tinge of dark chestnut, and about the size of a Jersey bull.
The ears are long and tipped with a long tuft of hair, the eyes large, and the coat as smooth as that of an English cow in summer. Given the tawny and the black wild cattle, the white variety is almost certain to appear occasionally, either as a pure albino or as a black beast spotted with white. The wild gaur of India, which is coal-black, has white rings above its hoofs and a white star on its forehead. The gayal has white on the legs and a little on the under parts. Any such black wild cattle kept in captivity would be likely to throw occasional calves with white patches, and these by selection would gradually develop into a broken-coloured breed.
This gives a possible origin for white, black and white, iron-grey, and sandy or dun cattle. The production of the chestnut hue seems far more difficult. As a fact, it is not ; but is partly a natural, though quite inexplicable, result of a cross between black animals and the tawny or dun variety. The tendency of this cross is to produce the fine chestnut hue, though the reason is unknown. Evidence is available not only in the case of isolated progeny of such cattle, but in the history of the established breeds. The old Suffolk cattle were not of the deep red now general, bat duns. These were, it is believed, crossed with black bulls, and the famous dark-reds obtained. The writer used to see thirty years ago pure black Suffolk polled cattle, like the present breed in everything but colour, and has always surmised that these were the descendants of the black variety which crossed with the dun produced the dark-chestnut breed.
Soil also aids in deepening colour. Jersey cattle kept in Devonshire tend to become dark-red, like the native breed. South Somersetshire cattle, though; red also, are several shades lighter than the Devon, in proportion to their distance from the red sandstone. The peculiar rich red-chestnut hair, usually accompanied by dark-brown eyes, seen in human beings, is certainly analogous to that of the chestnut or dark-red cattle; and in a very large proportion of cases it will be found that one of the parents has black hair, and that the other has sandy or reddish hair. Brown- haired and blonde parents seldom have these chestnut-haired children. It is noticeable that in all the wild breeds of cattle (except perhaps the West African) the skin itself is black. If the hair were shaved off the creature would be like black vulcanite. The same holds good of the dun horse, and of most other horses. But in the domesti- cated races, together with the assumption of brighter coloration, the skin-colour often changes from black to white. In horses this is generally seen only in patches on parts of the body, one hoof and fetlock being pink- skinned, or a part of the muzzle. In cows all the skin is frequently pink, while in others there are pink patches on the black, or black on the pink, especially on the udder. This seems part of a change as complete as the differentiation between black men and white men, and, like that distinction, is not traceable to any differing climatic conditions whatever. In one breed of cattle the skin is richly tinted neither with black nor pink, but with golden-yellow. These are the cattle of Jersey, whose skin, especially the interior of the ears, seems covered with a:kind of golden bloom, imparting a tint like gold stone to the coat when this happens itself to be of a warm reddish hue. Perhaps the most remarkable sequel to these variations is the fact that man, after successfully breaking down the persistent types of the wild creature, and rendering them plastic, has, when he pleased, almost recon- structed them and recast them on lines tending to become permanent. Many breeds of cattle now established are so "true to type" that the calves are born almost as uniform in colour and shape as the young of wild animals. The original wild horse was probably a dun, and the "fettered cat" of Egypt, one of the ancestors of our domestic breeds, and the wild dog of Asia are both sandy. Their melanistic and albino "sports," with subsequent crossings with the original race, would in a measure account for much of the colour- variation in the horse, cat, and dog.