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Record number: WCP5120

Sent by:
John Wallace
Sent to:
Henry Rider Haggard
October 1870

Sent by John Wallace, Stockton, California, USA to Henry Rider Haggard, [Holly House, Tanner Street, Barking, E.] on October 1870.

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04 March 2013 by Catchpole, Caroline


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Wallace, John. (1871). [Letter extracts from John Wallace on horned toads and rattlesnakes]. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 39(1): 1-2. [p. 2]

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[[1]]1 [p. 2]

"October 1870.

"I have not got hold of a Phrynosoma lately, though they are common both in the mountains and the plains. It is only rarely that you can observe the squirting of the red liquid from the eye, as I have frequently tried to produce it and failed. I think it must come from the eye, as there appears to be no other place where it could come from."

"With regard to Rattlesnakes, I have caught and killed dozens of them when I was in the mountains. When first seen or disturbed they are generally coiled up, with the tail erected in the centre of the coil, vibrating rapidly, so that it scarcely appears to move at all, the head slightly erected towards the point of danger. If not immediately attacked they will work themselves backwards, without altering the relative position of the head and tail, still rattling. The sound, as near as I can recollect, is more like the singing of a cricket in the fields than any thing else--perhaps not so high a pitch, and a little more tremulous."

Mr. A. R. Wallace stated that a lady who had resided in the southern states of North America had also compared the sound of the rattle when heard in the woods to the chirping of an insect; and if this was the case, and the animal made the noise when coiled up and before being disturbed, it would go far to explain the use of the rattle, which would be simply a decoy to insectivorous animals, to enable the sluggish serpent to capture them.


1. Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: Extracts from letters from Wallace's brother John read and commented on by Wallace at the 3 January 1871 meeting of the Zoological Society of London, and later printed in their Proceedings series.


This transcript originates from Charles H. Smith’s The Alfred Russel Wallace Page website (http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/index1.htm): See http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S179A.htm

Please note that work on this transcript is not yet complete. Users are advised to study electronic image(s) of this document, if available.