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Telegony

Abstract

THIS is a term which Prof. Weismann has recently coined to designate a class of phenomena which have thus far been pretty generally accepted as of unquestionable occurrence in mammals, if not also in birds. I refer to the alleged influence of a previous sire on the progeny of a subsequent one by the same mother. The most notorious instance of this alleged fact is that of Lord Morton's Arabian chestnut mare, which had her first foal to a quagga. Subsequently she produced two colts by a black Arabian horse. These were both partially dun-coloured, and striped on the legs more plainly than the real hybrid had been. One of the colts was also striped on the neck and some other parts of the body; lastly, the mane in both resembled that of the quagga, being short, stiff, and upright. Darwin, from whom this description is taken, records an almost exactly parallel case, on the authority of Mr. James Weir. He also gives a number of references to other cases, not only in horses, but likewise in sheep, swine, dogs, &c. Within the last twelvemonth another seemingly unmistakable case of the same thing took place in the Zoological Gardens, and is recorded by Mr. Tegetmeier in one of the December numbers of the Field. Here the first foal was a hybrid between two species of ass, and the second by a male of the same species as the mother. Not a few further apparently well-authenticated instances might be mentioned, but these are enough for present purposes. Indeed, most breeders and fanciers are so persuaded of the truth of “telegony” as to deem a pedigree animal seriously deteriorated in value if she has been covered by an inferior male, while in Darwin's opinion “there can be no doubt” as to the fact of this influence of a previous sire being occasionally exhibited in mammals, although he expresses himself as doubtful with regard to it in the case of birds.

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ROMANES, G. Telegony. Nature 48, 515–516 (1893). https://doi.org/10.1038/048515c0

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