The Descent of Man – Day 130 of 151

Development of the Hair

We have seen that male quadrupeds often have the hair on their necks and shoulders much more developed than the females; and many additional instances could be given. This sometimes serves as a defence to the male during his battles; but whether the hair in most cases has been specially developed for this purpose, is very doubtful. We may feel almost certain that this is not the case, when only a thin and narrow crest runs along the back; for a crest of this kind would afford scarcely any protection, and the ridge of the back is not a place likely to be injured; nevertheless such crests are sometimes confined to the males, or are much more developed in them than in the females. Two antelopes, the Tragelaphus scriptus (13. Dr. Gray, ‘Gleanings from the Menagerie at Knowsley,’ pl. 28.) (Fig. 70) and Portax picta may be given as instances. When stags, and the males of the wild goat, are enraged or terrified, these crests stand erect (14. Judge Caton on the Wapiti, ‘Transact. Ottawa Acad. Nat. Sciences,’ 1868, pp. 36, 40; Blyth, ‘Land and Water,’ on Capra aegagrus 1867, p. 37.); but it cannot be supposed that they have been developed merely for the sake of exciting fear in their enemies. One of the above-named antelopes, the Portax picta, has a large well-defined brush of black hair on the throat, and this is much larger in the male than in the female. In the Ammotragus tragelaphus of North Africa, a member of the sheep-family, the fore-legs are almost concealed by an extraordinary growth of hair, which depends from the neck and upper halves of the legs; but Mr. Bartlett does not believe that this mantle is of the least use to the male, in whom it is much more developed than in the female.

Pithecia satanas, male (from Brehm).

Figure 68: Pithecia satanas, male (from Brehm).

Male quadrupeds of many kinds differ from the females in having more hair, or hair of a different character, on certain parts of their faces. Thus the bull alone has curled hair on the forehead. (15. Hunter’s ‘Essays and Observations,’ edited by Owen, 1861. vol. i. p. 236.) In three closely-allied sub-genera of the goat family, only the males possess beards, sometimes of large size; in two other sub-genera both sexes have a beard, but it disappears in some of the domestic breeds of the common goat; and neither sex of the Hemitragus has a beard. In the ibex the beard is not developed during the summer, and is so small at other times that it may be called rudimentary. (16. See Dr. Gray’s ‘Catalogue of Mammalia in the British Museum,’ part iii. 1852, p. 144.) With some monkeys the beard is confined to the male, as in the orang; or is much larger in the male than in the female, as in the Mycetes caraya and Pithecia satanas (Fig. 68). So it is with the whiskers of some species of Macacus (17. Rengger, ‘Saugthiere,’ etc., s. 14; Desmarest, ‘Mammalogie,’ p. 86.), and, as we have seen, with the manes of some species of baboons. But with most kinds of monkeys the various tufts of hair about the face and head are alike in both sexes.

The males of various members of the ox family (Bovidae), and of certain antelopes, are furnished with a dewlap, or great fold of skin on the neck, which is much less developed in the female.

Now, what must we conclude with respect to such sexual differences as these? No one will pretend that the beards of certain male goats, or the dewlaps of the bull, or the crests of hair along the backs of certain male antelopes, are of any use to them in their ordinary habits. It is possible that the immense beard of the male Pithecia, and the large beard of the male orang, may protect their throats when fighting; for the keepers in the Zoological Gardens inform me that many monkeys attack each other by the throat; but it is not probable that the beard has been developed for a distinct purpose from that served by the whiskers, moustache, and other tufts of hair on the face; and no one will suppose that these are useful as a protection. Must we attribute all these appendages of hair or skin to mere purposeless variability in the male? It cannot be denied that this is possible; for in many domesticated quadrupeds, certain characters, apparently not derived through reversion from any wild parent form, are confined to the males, or are more developed in them than in the females– for instance, the hump on the male zebu-cattle of India, the tail of fat-tailed rams, the arched outline of the forehead in the males of several breeds of sheep, and lastly, the mane, the long hairs on the hind legs, and the dewlap of the male of the Berbura goat. (18. See the chapters on these several animals in vol. i. of my ‘Variation of Animals under Domestication;’ also vol. ii. p. 73; also chap. xx. on the practice of selection by semi-civilised people. For the Berbura goat, see Dr. Gray, ‘Catalogue,’ ibid. p. 157.) The mane, which occurs only in the rams of an African breed of sheep, is a true secondary sexual character, for, as I hear from Mr. Winwood Reade, it is not developed if the animal be castrated. Although we ought to be extremely cautious, as shewn in my work on ‘Variation under Domestication,’ in concluding that any character, even with animals kept by semi-civilised people, has not been subjected to selection by man, and thus augmented, yet in the cases just specified this is improbable; more especially as the characters are confined to the males, or are more strongly developed in them than in the females. If it were positively known that the above African ram is a descendant of the same primitive stock as the other breeds of sheep, and if the Berbura male-goat with his mane, dewlap, etc., is descended from the same stock as other goats, then, assuming that selection has not been applied to these characters, they must be due to simple variability, together with sexually-limited inheritance.

Hence it appears reasonable to extend this same view to all analogous cases with animals in a state of nature. Nevertheless I cannot persuade myself that it generally holds good, as in the case of the extraordinary development of hair on the throat and fore-legs of the male Ammotragus, or in that of the immense beard of the male Pithecia. Such study as I have been able to give to nature makes me believe that parts or organs which are highly developed, were acquired at some period for a special purpose. With those antelopes in which the adult male is more strongly-coloured than the female, and with those monkeys in which the hair on the face is elegantly arranged and coloured in a diversified manner, it seems probable that the crests and tufts of hair were gained as ornaments; and this I know is the opinion of some naturalists. If this be correct, there can be little doubt that they were gained or at least modified through sexual selection; but how far the same view may be extended to other mammals is doubtful.

Colour of the Hair and of the Naked Skin

I will first give briefly all the cases known to me of male quadrupeds differing in colour from the females. With Marsupials, as I am informed by Mr. Gould, the sexes rarely differ in this respect; but the great red kangaroo offers a striking exception, “delicate blue being the prevailing tint in those parts of the female which in the male are red.” (19. Osphranter rufus, Gould, ‘Mammals of Australia,’ 1863, vol. ii. On the Didelphis, Desmarest, ‘Mammalogie,’ p. 256.) In the Didelphis opossum of Cayenne the female is said to be a little more red than the male. Of the Rodents, Dr. Gray remarks: “African squirrels, especially those found in the tropical regions, have the fur much brighter and more vivid at some seasons of the year than at others, and the fur of the male is generally brighter than that of the female.” (20. ‘Annals and Magazine of Natural History,’ Nov. 1867, p. 325. On the Mus minutus, Desmarest, ‘Mammalogie,’ p. 304.) Dr. Gray informs me that he specified the African squirrels, because, from their unusually bright colours, they best exhibit this difference. The female of the Mus minutus of Russia is of a paler and dirtier tint than the male. In a large number of bats the fur of the male is lighter than in the female. (21. J.A. Allen, in ‘Bulletin of Mus. Comp. Zoolog. of Cambridge, United States,’ 1869, p. 207. Mr. Dobson on sexual characters in the Chiroptera, ‘Proceedings of the Zoological Society,’ 1873, p. 241. Dr. Gray on Sloths, ibid. 1871, p. 436.) Mr. Dobson also remarks, with respect to these animals: “Differences, depending partly or entirely on the possession by the male of fur of a much more brilliant hue, or distinguished by different markings or by the greater length of certain portions, are met only, to any appreciable extent, in the frugivorous bats in which the sense of sight is well developed.” This last remark deserves attention, as bearing on the question whether bright colours are serviceable to male animals from being ornamental. In one genus of sloths, it is now established, as Dr. Gray states, “that the males are ornamented differently from the females–that is to say, that they have a patch of soft short hair between the shoulders, which is generally of a more or less orange colour, and in one species pure white. The females, on the contrary, are destitute of this mark.”

The terrestrial Carnivora and Insectivora rarely exhibit sexual differences of any kind, including colour. The ocelot (Felis pardalis), however, is exceptional, for the colours of the female, compared with those of the male, are “moins apparentes, le fauve, etant plus terne, le blanc moins pur, les raies ayant moins de largeur et les taches moins de diametre.” (22. Desmarest, ‘Mammalogie,’ 1820, p. 220. On Felis mitis, Rengger, ibid. s. 194.) The sexes of the allied Felis mitis also differ, but in a less degree; the general hues of the female being rather paler than in the male, with the spots less black. The marine Carnivora or seals, on the other hand, sometimes differ considerably in colour, and they present, as we have already seen, other remarkable sexual differences. Thus the male of the Otaria nigrescens of the southern hemisphere is of a rich brown shade above; whilst the female, who acquires her adult tints earlier in life than the male, is dark-grey above, the young of both sexes being of a deep chocolate colour. The male of the northern Phoca groenlandica is tawny grey, with a curious saddle-shaped dark mark on the back; the female is much smaller, and has a very different appearance, being “dull white or yellowish straw-colour, with a tawny hue on the back”; the young at first are pure white, and can “hardly be distinguished among the icy hummocks and snow, their colour thus acting as a protection.” (23. Dr. Murie on the Otaria, ‘Proceedings Zoological Society,’ 1869, p. 108. Mr. R. Brown on the P. groenlandica, ibid. 1868, p. 417. See also on the colours of seals, Desmarest, ibid. pp. 243, 249.)

With Ruminants sexual differences of colour occur more commonly than in any other order. A difference of this kind is general in the Strepsicerene antelopes; thus the male nilghau (Portax picta) is bluish-grey and much darker than the female, with the square white patch on the throat, the white marks on the fetlocks, and the black spots on the ears all much more distinct. We have seen that in this species the crests and tufts of hair are likewise more developed in the male than in the hornless female. I am informed by Mr. Blyth that the male, without shedding his hair, periodically becomes darker during the breeding-season. Young males cannot be distinguished from young females until about twelve months old; and if the male is emasculated before this period, he never, according to the same authority, changes colour. The importance of this latter fact, as evidence that the colouring of the Portax is of sexual origin, becomes obvious, when we hear (24. Judge Caton, in ‘Transactions of the Ottawa Academy of Natural Sciences,’ 1868, p. 4.) that neither the red summer-coat nor the blue winter-coat of the Virginian deer is at all affected by emasculation. With most or all of the highly-ornamented species of Tragelaphus the males are darker than the hornless females, and their crests of hair are more fully developed. In the male of that magnificent antelope, the Derbyan eland, the body is redder, the whole neck much blacker, and the white band which separates these colours broader than in the female. In the Cape eland, also, the male is slightly darker than the female. (25. Dr. Gray, ‘Cat. of Mamm. in Brit. Mus.’ part iii. 1852, pp. 134-142; also Dr. Gray, ‘Gleanings from the Menagerie of Knowsley,’ in which there is a splendid drawing of the Oreas derbianus: see the text on Tragelaphus. For the Cape eland (Oreas canna), see Andrew Smith, ‘Zoology of S. Africa,’ pl. 41 and 42. There are also many of these Antelopes in the Zoological Gardens.)

In the Indian black-buck (A. bezoartica), which belongs to another tribe of antelopes, the male is very dark, almost black; whilst the hornless female is fawn-coloured. We meet in this species, as Mr. Blyth informs me, with an exactly similar series of facts, as in the Portax picta, namely, in the male periodically changing colour during the breeding-season, in the effects of emasculation on this change, and in the young of both sexes being indistinguishable from each other. In the Antilope niger the male is black, the female, as well as the young of both sexes, being brown; in A. sing-sing the male is much brighter coloured than the hornless female, and his chest and belly are blacker; in the male A. caama, the marks and lines which occur on various parts of the body are black, instead of brown as in the female; in the brindled gnu (A. gorgon) “the colours of the male are nearly the same as those of the female, only deeper and of a brighter hue.” (26. On the Ant. niger, see ‘Proc. Zool. Soc.’ 1850, p. 133. With respect to an allied species, in which there is an equal sexual difference in colour, see Sir S. Baker, ‘The Albert Nyanza,’ 1866, vol. ii. p. 627. For the A. sing-sing, Gray, ‘Cat. B. Mus.’ p. 100. Desmarest, ‘Mammalogie,’ p. 468, on the A. caama. Andrew Smith, ‘Zoology of S. Africa,’ on the Gnu.) Other analogous cases could be added.

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