By Charles Darwin, David Quammen
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Extra info for On the Origin of Species: The Illustrated Edition
In Saxony the importance of the principle of selection in regard to merino sheep is so fully recognised, that men follow it as a trade: the sheep are placed on a table and are studied, like a picture by a connoisseur; this is done three times at intervals of months, and the sheep are each time marked and classed, so that the very best may ultimately be selected for breeding. What English breeders have actually effected is proved by the enormous prices given for animals with a good pedigree; and these have now been ex- ported to almost every quarter of the world.
Watson, to whom I am much indebted for valuable advice and assistance on this subject, soon convinced me that there were many difficulties, as did subsequently Dr. Hooker, even in stronger terms. I shall reserve for my future work the discussion of these difficulties, and the tables themselves of the proportional numbers of the varying species. Dr. Hooker permits me to add, that after having carefully read my manuscript, and examined the tables, he thinks that the following statements are fairly well established.
I could give several references to the full acknowledgment of the importance of the principle in works of high antiquity. In rude and barbarous periods of English history choice animals were often imported, and laws were passed to prevent their exportation: the destruction of horses under a certain size was ordered, and this may be compared to the ‘roguing’ of plants by nurserymen. The principle of selection I find distinctly given in an ancient Chinese encyclopaedia. Explicit rules are laid down by some of the Roman classical writers.