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Charles Darwin

What dog did Charles Darwin have?


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August 13, 2008 7:55PM

Darwin’s son Francis writes in his recollections that the dog “most associated” with his father was Polly, a mostly white, rough-haired terrier who had first belonged to Darwin’s daughter Henrietta. Polly accompanied Darwin on his daily walks along the “thinking path” in his back yard in his later years, and he wrote in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals that she licked his hands with “an insatiable passion.” Polly’s pillowed, oval basket by the hearth may be seen in a often-reprinted picture of Darwin’s study. R. B. Freeman’s reference book on the details of Darwin’s life, Charles Darwin: A Companion, lists eight dogs in the large Darwin household: Bobby, Button, Dicky, Pepper, Polly, Pepper, Tony, Quiz, and Tyke. Darwin was a sentimental sap about dogs, and he taught Polly how to “catch biscuits off her nose,” according to his son. He had “the power of stealing away the affections” of dogs owned by others, and he had at one time a “surly dog who was devoted to him but unfriendly to every one else.” The Descent of Man and The Expression are laced with blatantly adorable stories about brave and brilliant dogs that demonstrate Darwin’s substantive points. In The Descent of Man, Darwin tells a story about a dog of his who barked at an open parasol lolling in a breeze, and Darwin connects this to the religious capacity in humans. A history of the role of dogs in Darwin’s daily affairs is given in the Fall, 2008 issue of the Southwest Review article, “It’s Dogged as Does It: A Biography of the Everpresent Canine in Charles Darwin’s Days.”