The Descent of Man – Day 134 of 151

Part III. Sexual Selection in Relation to Man, and Conclusion

Chapter XIX: Secondary Sexual Characters of Man

  • Differences between man and woman
  • Causes of such differences and of certain characters common to both sexes
  • Law of battle
  • Differences in mental powers, and voice
  • On the influence of beauty in determining the marriages of mankind
  • Attention paid by savages to ornaments
  • Their ideas of beauty in woman
  • The tendency to exaggerate each natural peculiarity

With mankind the differences between the sexes are greater than in most of the Quadrumana, but not so great as in some, for instance, the mandrill. Man on an average is considerably taller, heavier, and stronger than woman, with squarer shoulders and more plainly-pronounced muscles. Owing to the relation which exists between muscular development and the projection of the brows (1. Schaaffhausen, translation in ‘Anthropological Review,’ Oct. 1868, pp. 419, 420, 427.), the superciliary ridge is generally more marked in man than in woman. His body, and especially his face, is more hairy, and his voice has a different and more powerful tone. In certain races the women are said to differ slightly in tint from the men. For instance, Schweinfurth, in speaking of a negress belonging to the Monbuttoos, who inhabit the interior of Africa a few degrees north of the equator, says, “Like all her race, she had a skin several shades lighter than her husband’s, being something of the colour of half-roasted coffee.” (2. ‘The Heart of Africa,’ English transl. 1873, vol i. p. 544.) As the women labour in the fields and are quite unclothed, it is not likely that they differ in colour from the men owing to less exposure to the weather. European women are perhaps the brighter coloured of the two sexes, as may be seen when both have been equally exposed.

Man is more courageous, pugnacious and energetic than woman, and has a more inventive genius. His brain is absolutely larger, but whether or not proportionately to his larger body, has not, I believe, been fully ascertained. In woman the face is rounder; the jaws and the base of the skull smaller; the outlines of the body rounder, in parts more prominent; and her pelvis is broader than in man (3. Ecker, translation, in ‘Anthropological Review,’ Oct. 1868, pp. 351-356. The comparison of the form of the skull in men and women has been followed out with much care by Welcker.); but this latter character may perhaps be considered rather as a primary than a secondary sexual character. She comes to maturity at an earlier age than man.

As with animals of all classes, so with man, the distinctive characters of the male sex are not fully developed until he is nearly mature; and if emasculated they never appear. The beard, for instance, is a secondary sexual character, and male children are beardless, though at an early age they have abundant hair on the head. It is probably due to the rather late appearance in life of the successive variations whereby man has acquired his masculine characters, that they are transmitted to the male sex alone. Male and female children resemble each other closely, like the young of so many other animals in which the adult sexes differ widely; they likewise resemble the mature female much more closely than the mature male. The female, however, ultimately assumes certain distinctive characters, and in the formation of her skull, is said to be intermediate between the child and the man. (4. Ecker and Welcker, ibid. pp. 352, 355; Vogt, ‘Lectures on Man,’ Eng. translat. p. 81.) Again, as the young of closely allied though distinct species do not differ nearly so much from each other as do the adults, so it is with the children of the different races of man. Some have even maintained that race-differences cannot be detected in the infantile skull. (5. Schaaffhausen, ‘Anthropolog. Review,’ ibid. p. 429.) In regard to colour, the new-born negro child is reddish nut-brown, which soon becomes slaty-grey; the black colour being fully developed within a year in the Soudan, but not until three years in Egypt. The eyes of the negro are at first blue, and the hair chestnut-brown rather than black, being curled only at the ends. The children of the Australians immediately after birth are yellowish-brown, and become dark at a later age. Those of the Guaranys of Paraguay are whitish-yellow, but they acquire in the course of a few weeks the yellowish-brown tint of their parents. Similar observations have been made in other parts of America. (6. Pruner-Bey, on negro infants as quoted by Vogt, ‘Lectures on Man,’ Eng. translat. 1864, p. 189: for further facts on negro infants, as quoted from Winterbottom and Camper, see Lawrence, ‘Lectures on Physiology,’ etc. 1822, p. 451. For the infants of the Guaranys, see Rengger, ‘Saugethiere,’ etc. s. 3. See also Godron, ‘De l’Espece,’ tom. ii. 1859, p. 253. For the Australians, Waitz, ‘Introduction to Anthropology,’ Eng. translat. 1863, p. 99.)

I have specified the foregoing differences between the male and female sex in mankind, because they are curiously like those of the Quadrumana. With these animals the female is mature at an earlier age than the male; at least this is certainly the case in Cebus azarae. (7. Rengger, ‘Saugethiere,’ etc., 1830, s. 49.) The males of most species are larger and stronger than the females, of which fact the gorilla affords a well-known instance. Even in so trifling a character as the greater prominence of the superciliary ridge, the males of certain monkeys differ from the females (8. As in Macacus cynomolgus (Desmarest, ‘Mammalogie,’ p. 65), and in Hylobates agilis (Geoffroy St.-Hilaire and F. Cuvier, ‘Histoire Nat. des Mammiferes,’ 1824, tom. i. p. 2).), and agree in this respect with mankind. In the gorilla and certain other monkeys, the cranium of the adult male presents a strongly-marked sagittal crest, which is absent in the female; and Ecker found a trace of a similar difference between the two sexes in the Australians. (9. ‘Anthropological Review,’ Oct. 1868, p. 353.) With monkeys when there is any difference in the voice, that of the male is the more powerful. We have seen that certain male monkeys have a well-developed beard, which is quite deficient, or much less developed in the female. No instance is known of the beard, whiskers, or moustache being larger in the female than in the male monkey. Even in the colour of the beard there is a curious parallelism between man and the Quadrumana, for with man when the beard differs in colour from the hair of the head, as is commonly the case, it is, I believe, almost always of a lighter tint, being often reddish. I have repeatedly observed this fact in England; but two gentlemen have lately written to me, saying that they form an exception to the rule. One of these gentlemen accounts for the fact by the wide difference in colour of the hair on the paternal and maternal sides of his family. Both had been long aware of this peculiarity (one of them having often been accused of dyeing his beard), and had been thus led to observe other men, and were convinced that the exceptions were very rare. Dr. Hooker attended to this little point for me in Russia, and found no exception to the rule. In Calcutta, Mr. J. Scott, of the Botanic Gardens, was so kind as to observe the many races of men to be seen there, as well as in some other parts of India, namely, two races of Sikhim, the Bhoteas, Hindoos, Burmese, and Chinese, most of which races have very little hair on the face; and he always found that when there was any difference in colour between the hair of the head and the beard, the latter was invariably lighter. Now with monkeys, as has already been stated, the beard frequently differs strikingly in colour from the hair of the head, and in such cases it is always of a lighter hue, being often pure white, sometimes yellow or reddish. (10. Mr. Blyth informs me that he has only seen one instance of the beard, whiskers, etc., in a monkey becoming white with old age, as is so commonly the case with us. This, however, occurred in an aged Macacus cynomolgus, kept in confinement whose moustaches were “remarkably long and human-like.” Altogether this old monkey presented a ludicrous resemblance to one of the reigning monarchs of Europe, after whom he was universally nick-named. In certain races of man the hair on the head hardly ever becomes grey; thus Mr. D. Forbes has never, as he informs me, seen an instance with the Aymaras and Quichuas of South America.)

In regard to the general hairiness of the body, the women in all races are less hairy than the men; and in some few Quadrumana the under side of the body of the female is less hairy than that of the male. (11. This is the case with the females of several species of Hylobates; see Geoffroy St.-Hilaire and F. Cuvier, ‘Hist. Nat. des Mamm.’ tom. i. See also, on H. lar, ‘Penny Cyclopedia,’ vol. ii. pp. 149, 150.) Lastly, male monkeys, like men, are bolder and fiercer than the females. They lead the troop, and when there is danger, come to the front. We thus see how close is the parallelism between the sexual differences of man and the Quadrumana. With some few species, however, as with certain baboons, the orang and the gorilla, there is a considerably greater difference between the sexes, as in the size of the canine teeth, in the development and colour of the hair, and especially in the colour of the naked parts of the skin, than in mankind.

All the secondary sexual characters of man are highly variable, even within the limits of the same race; and they differ much in the several races. These two rules hold good generally throughout the animal kingdom. In the excellent observations made on board the Novara (12. The results were deduced by Dr. Weisbach from the measurements made by Drs. K. Scherzer and Schwarz, see ‘Reise der Novara: Anthropolog. Theil,’ 1867, ss. 216, 231, 234, 236, 239, 269.), the male Australians were found to exceed the females by only 65 millim. in height, whilst with the Javans the average excess was 218 millim.; so that in this latter race the difference in height between the sexes is more than thrice as great as with the Australians. Numerous measurements were carefully made of the stature, the circumference of the neck and chest, the length of the back-bone and of the arms, in various races; and nearly all these measurements shew that the males differ much more from one another than do the females. This fact indicates that, as far as these characters are concerned, it is the male which has been chiefly modified, since the several races diverged from their common stock.

The development of the beard and the hairiness of the body differ remarkably in the men of distinct races, and even in different tribes or families of the same race. We Europeans see this amongst ourselves. In the Island of St. Kilda, according to Martin (13. ‘Voyage to St. Kilda’ (3rd ed. 1753), p. 37.), the men do not acquire beards until the age of thirty or upwards, and even then the beards are very thin. On the Europaeo-Asiatic continent, beards prevail until we pass beyond India; though with the natives of Ceylon they are often absent, as was noticed in ancient times by Diodorus. (14. Sir J.E. Tennent, ‘Ceylon,’ vol. ii. 1859, p. 107.) Eastward of India beards disappear, as with the Siamese, Malays, Kalmucks, Chinese, and Japanese; nevertheless, the Ainos (15. Quatrefages, ‘Revue des Cours Scientifiques,’ Aug. 29, 1868, p. 630; Vogt, ‘Lectures on Man,’ Eng. trans. p. 127.), who inhabit the northernmost islands of the Japan Archipelago, are the hairiest men in the world. With negroes the beard is scanty or wanting, and they rarely have whiskers; in both sexes the body is frequently almost destitute of fine down. (16. On the beards of negroes, Vogt, ‘Lectures,’ etc. p. 127; Waitz, ‘Introduct. to Anthropology,’ Engl. translat. 1863, vol. i. p. 96. It is remarkable that in the United States (‘Investigations in Military and Anthropological Statistics of American Soldiers,’ 1869, p. 569) the pure negroes and their crossed offspring seem to have bodies almost as hairy as Europeans.) On the other hand, the Papuans of the Malay Archipelago, who are nearly as black as negroes, possess well-developed beards. (17. Wallace, ‘The Malay Arch.’ vol. ii. 1869, p. 178.) In the Pacific Ocean the inhabitants of the Fiji Archipelago have large bushy beards, whilst those of the not distant archipelagoes of Tonga and Samoa are beardless; but these men belong to distinct races. In the Ellice group all the inhabitants belong to the same race; yet on one island alone, namely Nunemaya, “the men have splendid beards”; whilst on the other islands “they have, as a rule, a dozen straggling hairs for a beard.” (18. Dr. J. Barnard Davis on Oceanic Races, in ‘Anthropological Review,’ April 1870, pp. 185, 191.)

Throughout the great American continent the men may be said to be beardless; but in almost all the tribes a few short hairs are apt to appear on the face, especially in old age. With the tribes of North America, Catlin estimates that eighteen out of twenty men are completely destitute by nature of a beard; but occasionally there may be seen a man, who has neglected to pluck out the hairs at puberty, with a soft beard an inch or two in length. The Guaranys of Paraguay differ from all the surrounding tribes in having a small beard, and even some hair on the body, but no whiskers. (19. Catlin, ‘North American Indians,’ 3rd. ed. 1842, vol. ii. p. 227. On the Guaranys, see Azara, ‘Voyages dans l’Amerique Merid.’ tom. ii. 1809, p. 85; also Rengger, ‘Saugethiere von Paraguay,’ s. 3.) I am informed by Mr. D. Forbes, who particularly attended to this point, that the Aymaras and Quichuas of the Cordillera are remarkably hairless, yet in old age a few straggling hairs occasionally appear on the chin. The men of these two tribes have very little hair on the various parts of the body where hair grows abundantly in Europeans, and the women have none on the corresponding parts. The hair on the head, however, attains an extraordinary length in both sexes, often reaching almost to the ground; and this is likewise the case with some of the N. American tribes. In the amount of hair, and in the general shape of the body, the sexes of the American aborigines do not differ so much from each other, as in most other races. (20. Prof. and Mrs. Agassiz (‘Journey in Brazil,’ p. 530) remark that the sexes of the American Indians differ less than those of the negroes and of the higher races. See also Rengger, ibid. p. 3, on the Guaranys.) This fact is analogous with what occurs with some closely allied monkeys; thus the sexes of the chimpanzee are not as different as those of the orang or gorilla. (21. Rutimeyer, ‘Die Grenzen der Thierwelt; eine Betrachtung zu Darwin’s Lehre,’ 1868, s. 54.)

In the previous chapters we have seen that with mammals, birds, fishes, insects, etc., many characters, which there is every reason to believe were primarily gained through sexual selection by one sex, have been transferred to the other. As this same form of transmission has apparently prevailed much with mankind, it will save useless repetition if we discuss the origin of characters peculiar to the male sex together with certain other characters common to both sexes.

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