Weismann, all the leading biologists had either subscribed to the telegony doctrine or admitted that "infection of the germ" was well within the bounds of possibilities.
The widespread belief, he admitted, "may be justifiable and founded on fact," but he was careful to add that "only the confirmation of the tradition by methodical investigation, in this case by experiment, could raise telegony to the rank of a fact."
The importance of determining whether there is such a thing as telegony is sufficiently evident.
If a mare or other female animal is liable to be "infected" by her first or by subsequent mates, telegony will rank as a cause of variation, and breeders will be justified in believing (1) that pure-bred females are liable to be "corrupted" when mated with sires of a different breed; and (2) that inferior or cross-bred females, if first mated with a high-class sire, will thereafter produce superior offspring, however inferior or cross-bred her subsequent mates.
If, on the other hand, "infection of the germ" is impossible, telegony will not count as a factor in variation, and breeders will no longer be either justified in regarding mares and other female animals as liable to be "corrupted" by ill-assorted unions, or benefited by first having offspring to a high-class, or it may be more vigorous, mate.
Though, according to breeders, evidence of telegony has been found in nearly all the different kinds of domestic mammals and birds, most stress has been laid on instances of "infection" in the horse and dog families.
Telegony in the Horse Family.
The prevalence of the belief in telegony at the present day is largely due to a case of supposed infection reported to the Royal Society in 1820 by Lord Morton.
It has been asserted by believers in telegony that evidence of infection may appear in the second though not present in the first generation.
- Breeders of dogs are, if possible, more thoroughly convinced of the fact of telegony than breeders of horses.
Many accidental experiments on telegony are made annually with dogs.
In considering telegony it should perhaps be mentioned that some breeders not only believe the dam is liable to be "infected" by the sire, but also that the sire may acquire some of the characteristics of his mates.
The better we understand the laws of heredity and variation, and the more we learn of the history of the germ cells, the less need will there be to seek for explanations from telegony and other like doctrines.