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An island in the Indian Ocean, and after New Guinea and Borneo the largest island in the world, about 260 m. distant, at the nearest point, from the S.E. coast of Africa, from which it is separated by the Mozambique Channel. Since 5896 Madagascar has been a French colony. It is 995 m. in length from N. to S., and about 250 m. in average breadth, although near the centre it is nearly 360 m. across; its area is about 228,000 sq. m., or not quite four times the extent of England and Wales. It lies mainly between 44° and 50° E. Its northernmost point, Cape Ambro, in 12° S., inclines 16° to the E. from the longitude of Cape St Mary, the southernmost point, in 25° 35' S., so that the main axis of the island runs from N.N.E. to S.S.W. In its broad structure Madagascar consists of an elevated mountainous region, from 3000 to 5000 ft. in altitude, occupying from two-fifths to a half of the centre and the eastern side of the island, around which are extensive plains at a much less elevation above the sea, and most developed on the western and north-west sides. But this lower region is broken up by masses of hills, with several elevated plateaus, especially in the south-west and south.

Physical Features. - Madagascar has a very regular and compact form, with few indentations considering its great extent of shore-line. In general outline it has a strong resemblance to the impression of a human foot - the left side. Along two-thirds of its eastern side the coast is almost a straight line, without any inlet, Tamatave, the chief port on this side of the island, being only protected by coral reefs. North of this line, however, is Antongil Bay, a deep and wide inlet running northwards for about 50 m.; farther north is Port Louquez, and at almost the extreme point of the island is Diego-Suarez Bay, one of the finest harbours in the world. But the north-western side of Madagascar is broken up by a number of inlets, some of them land-locked and of considerable size. South of Cape St Andrew, the north-west angle of the island, the coast-line is unbroken until the estuary of the river Onilahy, or St Augustine's Bay, is reached. Rounding the southern end of the island, there is no other inlet save the small bay north of Fort Dauphin, at the southern end of the straight line of coast already mentioned.

The islands around Madagascar are few and unimportant. The largest are Ste Marie, near the eastern coast, a narrow island about 35 m. long, and Nossi-be, larger and more compact in form, opposite Ampasindava Bay on the N.W. coast. Except the Minnow group, north of Nossi-be, the rest are merely rocky islets, chiefly of coral.

The shores of the greater portion of the southern half of the island are low and flat, but in the northern half the coast is often bold and precipitous, the high land occasionally approaching the sea. On the eastern side the plains vary from to to 50 m. in breadth, but on the western side they exceed in some localities too m. From these coast-plains the ground rises by successive ranges of hills to the high interior land. This elevated region is broken in all directions by mountains, from which the crystalline rocks show most frequently as huge bosses, and in certain regions present very varied and picturesque outlines, resembling Titanic castles,cathedrals,domes, pyramids and spires. The highest mountain mass is centrally situated as regards the length of the island, but more to the eastern side. This is the ancient extinct volcano Ankaratra, three of the highest points varying in elevation from 7284 to 8635 ft. above the sea, and from 4000 to 5000 ft. above the general level of the surrounding country. The loftiest of these is named Tsi-afa-javona, i.e. " That which the mists cannot climb." It had been supposed that Ankaratra was the highest point in the island, but in 1903 it was found that Ambero, in the northern province of Antankarana, is about 9490 ft. in altitude. Besides these highest points there are a considerable number of mountains in the central provinces of Imerina and Betsileo and the intervening and surrounding districts; and in the Bara country the Isalo range has been compared to the "Church Buttes" and other striking features of the scenery of Utah. One of the finest of the Madagascar mountains is an isolated mass near the northern point of the island called Ambohitra. This is 4460 ft. high, and rising from land little above the sea-level, is well seen far out to sea.

In the elevated region of Madagascar are many fertile plains and valleys, the former being the dried-up beds of ancient lakes. Among these are Betsimitatatra in Imerina, and Tsienimparihy in Betsileo, supplying a large proportion of the rice required for the capitals of these two provinces. Still more spacious valleys are the Antsihanaka country and the Ankay district, between the two eastern lines of forest. The extensive coast plains on the western side of the island are chiefly in Iboina (N.W.) and in Menabe (S. of the Tsiribihina River); those on the east are widest in the Taifasy country (S.E.). The water-parting for six-sevenths of the whole length of the island is much nearer the eastern than the western side, averaging from 80 to 90 m. from the sea. There are no arid districts, except in the extreme south-west and towards the southern point of the island. The general surface of the interior highland consists of bare rolling moor-like country, with a great amount of red claylike soil, while the valleys have a rich humus of bluish-black alluvium.

The chief rivers flow to the west and north-west sides of the island. The eastern streams are all less in size, except the Mangoro, which flows parallel with the coast. Few of them therefore are of much service for navigation, except for the light-draught native canoes; and all of them are more or less closed at their outlets by sand-bars. Beginning at the south-eastern point and going northwards, the principal rivers are the Mananara, Manampatrana, Matitanana, Mananjary, Mangoro, with its great affluent Onive, Vohitra, 1Vlaningory, and the Antanambalana at the head of Antongil Bay. On the N.W. coast, going southwards, are the Sofia and Mahajamba, falling into Mahajamba Bay, the Betsiboka with the Ikopa - the great drains of the northern central provinces, forming unitedly the second largest river of the island and falling into Bembatoka Bay - the Mahavary, Manambolo, Tsiribihina or Onimainty, the third largest river, with its tributaries the Kitsamby, Mahajilo and Mania, the Morondava, Mangoky, probably the largest river in the country, with its important tributaries the Matsiatra, Manantanana and Ranomaitso, the Fiherenana and Onilahy. On the south coast are four considerable streams, the largest of which is the Menarandra. Of the western rivers the Betsiboka can be ascended by small steamers for about 100 m., and the Tsiribihina is also navigable for a considerable distance. The former is about 300 m. long; the latter somewhat less, but by its affluents spreads over a greater extent of country, as also does the Mangoky. The rivers are all crossed frequently by rocky bars, which often form grand waterfalls. The eastern rivers cut their way through the ramparts of the high land by magnificent gorges amidst dense forest, and descend by a succession of rapids and cataracts. The Matitanana, whose falls were first seen by the writer in 1876, descends at one plunge some 400 ft.; and on the Vohitra River, whose valley is followed by the railway, there are also many fine waterfalls.

On the eastern side of Madagascar the contest between the fresh water of the rivers and the sea has caused the formation of a chain of lagoons for nearly 300 m. In many places these look like a river following the coast-line, but frequently they spread out into extensive sheets of water. By cutting about 30 m. of canal to connect them, a continuous waterway could be formed for 270 m. along the coast. This has already been done for about 55 m. between Ivendrona and Andevoranto, a service of small steamers forming part of the communication between the coast and the capital. Besides these lagoons, there are few lakes of any size in Madagascar, although there were some very extensive lakes in a recent geological epoch. Of the largest of these, the Alaotra Lake in the Antsihanaka plain is the relic; it is about 25 m. long. Next comes Kinkony, near Maroambitsy Bay (N.W. coast), about 16 m. long, and then Itasy, in western Imerina, about half as large. There is also a salt lake, Tsimanampetsotsa (S.W. coast), about as large as Alaotra.

There is now no active volcano in Madagascar, but a large number of extinct cones are found, some apparently of very recent formation. Some miles south of Diego-Suarez is a huge volcanic mountain, Ambohitra, with scores of subsidiary cones on its slopes and around its base. About 40 m. south-west of Antananarivo there is a still larger extinct volcano, Ankaratra, with an extensive lava field surrounding it; while near Lake Itasy are some 200 volcanic cones. Another group of extinct volcanoes is in the Vakinankaratra district, S.W. of Ankaratra. Many others exist in other parts of the island (see § Geology). Slight shocks of earthquake are felt every year, and hot springs occur at many places. Several of these are sulphurous and medicinal, and have been found efficacious in skin diseases and in internal complaints.

1 Geology

2 Palaeontology

3 Climate

4 Fauna

5 Flora

6 Provinces and Towns

7 Inhabitants

8 Industries and Commerce

9 Gold-mining

10 Communications

11 Hisbory

12 Christian Missions and Education


Madagascar may be divided into two very distinct geological regions, viz. (I.) the Archean Region, which extends over the central and eastern portions of the island and occupies about two-thirds of its whole area, and is composed of crystalline schists; and (II.) the Western Region, of sedimentary rocks, including the remaining third of the island, in the centre of which, however, is an isolated patch of Archean rocks, near Cape St Andrew. There are also found in both regions numerous masses of igneous rocks, both plutonic and volcanic, in some places of considerable extent, which pierce through and overflow the earlier formations.


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frequently granitite - occurs in several places, as well as pyroxenegranulite, serpentine, argillate, &c.; and gold is found widely disseminated, as well as other metals, but these latter, as far as at present known, except iron, are not abundant. The general strike of the rocks is the same as that of the trend of the island itself (N.N.E.

In the apparent absence of any Cambrian formation above them, there is little doubt that these rocks are Archean, although this cannot be absolutely proved.

I. The Archean Region.' - This region, nearly coincident with the mountainous upper portion of the island, is chiefly composed of the following crystalline rocks: gneiss, which is the most common of them all, quartzite and quartz-schist, with occasional beds of crystalline limestone and mica-schist, although this latter rock is very rare. The gneiss is mostly grey, but occasionally pinkish, its essential constituents (felspar and quartz) being almost always associated with dark mica (biotite) and hornblende in variable quantity. The rock is therefore a hornblende-granitite-gneiss. Granite - more to S.S.W.), but in its western portion the strike is frequently from N.N.W. to S.S.E. In both cases the strike of the rocks is coincident with the direction of several large valleys, which mark huge faults in the crystalline rocks. Almost the whole of this region is covered by a red soil, often of great thickness, which resembles and is often described as " clay," but is really decomposed rock, chiefly gneiss, reddened with oxidized magnetite.

II. The Sedimentary Region. - The sedimentary rocks extend continuously along the western side of Madagascar, following the coastline; in the north these series of strata are only from 20 to 30 m. across, but farther south they reach a breadth of nearly loo m., while opposite the Betsileo province they extend nearly half across the island. A narrow band, of Cretaceous age, occurs also on the east coast, for about 120 m., between Vatomandry and Mananjary. The following formations are represented i. Primary. It is thought that certain beds of slaty rocks, which have been recognized at different places, may belong to some of the Primary strata. Some siliceous schists of the Permian age were discovered in 1908 in the valley of the Sakameira, south of the Onilahy, or Augustine river. (S.W. coast). These contain reptilian remains, and also clear imprints of leaves of the Glossopteris indica, as well as other indications of an ancient vegetation. In the same region conglomerates have been found containing enormous blocks, apparently brought by glacial action, and said to be identical in character with those described as existing in the Transvaal. True coal has also been obtained in the same district, the deposits varying from a third to half a metre in thickness.

2. Secondary. The lowest members of these rest directly upon the central mass of crystalline rocks, and consist of sandstones, conglomerates and shales, which have been supposed by some to belong to the Trias, without, however, the discovery of any fossil necessary to confirm this supposition, except some silicified trunks of trees. These beds are most probably lower members of the Jurassic series. Westward of and above these strata, the Middle and Upper Jurassic formations are found (Lias, Lower Oolite, Oxfordian, &c.), with well-marked and numerous fossils ( Ammonites, Nerinaea, Natica, Astarte, Rhynchonella, Echinodermata, &c.); then the Cretaceous rocks, both these and the Jurassic series being largely developed, the Cretaceous fossils including Nautilus, Belemnites, Ostrea, Gryphaea, &c., and some very large Ammonites ( Pachydiscus). The Secondary strata show generally a very slight dip westwards and are consequently almost horizontal. They do not seem to have been greatly disturbed, although faults occur here and there.

3. Tertiary. A small strip of coast of Eocene age is known near Tullear (S.W. coast), and rocks of the same period occur in Nossi-be, at Mahajamba Bay, and at Diego-Suarez, with Nummulites and other foraminifers. Near the latter locality, beds of Oligocene age have been noticed, consisting of coarse limestones.

4. Quaternary and Recent. A narrow band of these deposits extends along the west coast, from north of Cape St Andrew nearly to the extreme southern point of the island. But the most noticeable of these are those in the ancient bed of the Alaotra Lake, which formerly extended far southwards along the valley of the Mangoro; also those in the marshes of Antsirabe and of Ifanja, in the Ikopa valley (the great rice plain west of the capital), and also in the plain of Tsienimparihy in Betsileo, and especially the recent deposits of Ampasambazimba, north-west of Lake Itasy, discovered in 1902. These beds, rich in sub-fossil remains, have yielded important additions to our knowledge of the extinct fauna of the island. (See § Palaeontology.) Igneous Rocks. (I) Plutonic rocks. - The ancient or plutonic igneous rocks (including granite, syenite, diorite, gabbro, porphyry, porphyrite, norite retinite) appear at various points of the two previously described regions. In the Archean region the gneiss is very often found passing into granite, but certain granitic masses have a sufficiently distinct character. In the midst of the sedimentary region are two well-recognized masses of plutonic rocks, belonging to the syenites, sometimes quartziferous in structure. (2) Volcanic rocks. - Recent volcanic eruptive rocks (including rhyolite, trachyte, phonolite, andesite and basalt) have been examined at a number of points throughout both the geological regions of the island. In the Archean region these are very noticeable near Lake Itasy, in the massif of Ankaratra (an ancient volcano) and in Vakinankaratra (at Betafo, Antsirabe, &c.); while there are numerous outflows of doleritic rocks, probably from faults, along the eastern side of the island and almost parallel with the coast line. In the sedimentary region volcanic rocks are very numerous; the most extensive of these is a tract of country, more than 80 m. long, on the west coast, where the basalt has overflowed the Cretaceous strata. It must be remembered that the geology of Madagascar is still only known in its broad features.' Minerals and Metals. - The country has considerable mineral wealth. Gold is found almost all over the region of crystalline rocks, except in and around the Antsihanaka province, the richest auriferous districts being a band of country parallel with the east coast and spreading at its southern end into the interior; and another tract, whose centre is about 100 m. N. of the capital (see § Industries, &c.). Silver has been detected in certain galenas, and also platinum; copper has been found in various localities, as well as zinc, lead, nickel, antimony and manganese, but none of these metals has yet been discovered in sufficient quantities for profitable working. Iron, on the contrary, especially magnetite, is found abundantly and has for long been worked by the Malagasy with the simple appliances brought by their ancestors from their original home in the Far East. The principal seats of the native industry are on the edge of the upper forest, where charcoal is easily procured. The following precious stones are reported: corundum (rubies and sapphires), beryl, topaz, zircon, garnet, amazon-stone, tourmaline, often in large crystals, and variously coloured quartz, also often found in crystals of great size. Bitumen and petroleum have been found; graphite is plentiful, and sulphur, salt, saltpetre and lime are also procured. On the north-west coast thin beds of lignite occur, and coal has been found in the valley of the Sakameira.


Researches in various parts of the island have revealed the existence, in a subfossil state, of the bones of numerous birds of the family Struthidae. These have been arranged in twelve species, belonging to two genera, Aepyornis and Mullerornis, which varied in size from that of a bustard to birds much exceeding an ostrich, and rivalling the recently extinct moa of New Zealand, the largest species being about to ft. in height. One species of these great wingless birds laid an egg which is the largest known, being 122 in. by 92 in. Associated with these remains there have been found those of many other birds, including a hawk, a duck, a darter, a spoonbill, a heron, a rail and a wild-goose, some of these being much larger than any now inhabiting Madagascar. In the same beds the remains of two, if not three, species of hippopotamus have been found, about two-thirds the size of the living South African species; also the bones and carapace, &c., of gigantic tortoises, and the bones of a crocodile, now extinct on the coast and rivers, but still living in the two chief lakes; also the remains of a river-hog, of a species of swine, and of a slender-legged form of zebu-ox. Near the south-west coast the skull of a large lemuroid animal was discovered in 1893, much longer than that of any living lemur, the animal being probably three times the size of any previously known Madagascar lemuroid. Later still, in 1899 and subsequently, the bones of two other creatures of the same suborder have been discovered, one of them indicating an animal much larger than a man. Many of these birds and animals were probably contemporaneous with the earliest human inhabitants of Madagascar. The remains of two species of Edentata have been found, as well as those of several species of small Rodents, also of a Carni v ore ( Cryptoprocta ), a larger variety of the species still living in the island.

In the deposits of a much more remote era than those already spoken of - the Jurassic - the bones of some enormous terrestrial lizards have been brought to light, belonging to Sauropodous Dinosaurs of the genera Bothriospondylus and Titanosaurus, and to a Theropod of the genus Megalosaurus. In the beds of the Lower Oolite portions of the skull of a reptile resembling the gavial of the Ganges had been previously discovered, from which a new genus called Steneosaurus has been founded. Since the French occupation (1895) considerable additions have been made to our knowledge of the fossil fauna of Madagascar from researches made both on the west and south-west coast (at Belo and Ambolisatrana) and in the interior (at Antsirabe), especially in the rich deposits near Tsarazaza (Ampasambazimba), to the north-west of Lake Itasy. From these various localities the subfossil remains of thirteen or fourteen extinct species of lemuroid animals (including the gigantic species already mentioned) have been obtained, and have been classified under five new genera: viz. Megaladapis (3 sp.), Palaeopropithecus (3 sp.), Archaeolemur (2 sp.), Bradylemur (1 sp.) and Hadropithecus (1 sp.), together with three new species of lemur. Of these, the Archaeolemurs seem to have combined the characteristics of lemuroid animals with those of the monkeys, while Hadropithecus is pronounced to be the nearest known link with them. A list of all the fossils of the island known in 1895, but omitting the vertebrates above mentioned, included 1 For most of the information here given on the geology the writer is indebted ' to Captain Mouneyres, chef de services des mines, and the Rev. R. Baron, F.G.S., F.L.S.

140 species,' belonging to the Mollusca, Foraminifera, Echinodermata, Actinozoa and Plantae; but the researches of French geologists made the total number of Madagascar fossils known in 1907 to be not fewer than 280 species.


In the high interior the climate resembles that of the temperate zones, although six-sevenths of the island are within the tropics; there is no intense heat, and it is quite cold, occasionally touching freezing point, during the nights of the cool season. These parts of the country are tolerably healthy for Europeans. But the coasts are much hotter, especially on the western side, as is also the interior west of the highland region; and from the large amount of marsh and lagoon on the coasts, malarial fever is common and frequently fatal, both to Europeans and to natives from the interior. Epidemics of influenza and fever have been very prevalent of late years in the central provinces. The seasons are two - the hot and rainy season from November to April, and the cool and dry season during the rest of the year; this remark applies chiefly to the interior, for rain falls throughout the year on the eastern coast, which is exposed to the vapour-laden south-east trade winds. The rainfall diminishes as one goes westward and especially south-westward, there being very little rain in the south-west corner of the island. No snow is known, even on the loftiest mountains, but thin ice is occasionally seen; and hail-showers, often very destructive, are frequent in the rainy season. Terrific thunderstorms are also common at that period; waterspouts are sometimes seen; and as the Indian Ocean cyclone region touches the eastern coast, hurricanes occur every few years, at rare intervals ascending into the interior highland. The yearly rainfall of the Imerina province (Antananarivo) averages about 542 in.; accurate statistics as to that of other parts of the island are not available; but on the east coast it appears to be about double that of the interior; in the south-east considerably more than that amount; while at Morondava (west coast) it is given as about 21 in. annually, and at Tullear (south-west coast) as only ro in. At Tamatave (east coast) the mean annual temperature is given as 76.5°, while at the capital it is about 66°; the temperature of Antananarivo resembles that of Naples or Palermo.' The following table gives the mean of two different sets of government returns of mean rainfall: Antananarivo, 1369 mm.; Tamatave, E. coast, 1863 mm.; Farafangana, S.E. coast, 2803 mm.; Diego - Suarez, N. end of island, 1196 mm.; Morondava, W. coast, 543 mm.; Tullear, S.W. coast, 273 mm.; Marovoay, W. interior, 1413 mm.


The fauna of Madagascar, while deficient in most of the characteristic tropical forms of life, is one of great interest to the naturalist from its remote affinities, much of its animal life having Asiatic rather than African relationships. The central portions of the island, from their generally bare and treeless character, are poor in living creatures; but the lower country, and especially the forests and coast plains, are fairly well stocked. But it is noticeable that many species have a very limited range. Although a continental island, it possesses no large quadrupeds - none of the larger carnivorous, ungulate, proboscoid or quadrumanous animals; but it is the headquarters of the Lemuroidea, no fewer than thirty-nine species of which are found in its forests and wooded plains. Some of these creatures are highly specialized, while the curious aye-aye ( Chirornys madagascariensis ), an allied form, is one of the most remarkable animals known, forming a genus and family by itself. Its whole structure is strangely modified to enable it to procure the woodboring larvae which form its food. Other peculiar animals are twenty-three species of the Centetidae, a family of the Insectivora almost confined to Madagascar; while of the Carnivora there are several small creatures belonging to the civets ( Viverridae). The largest of these ferocious animals, also forming a genus and family by itself, is the Cryptoprocta ferox; it is a plantigrade animal, 3 ft. long, but very like an enormous weasel, and attacks other animals with the greatest ferocity. The island contains twenty-five species of bats, mostly of African, but some of Indian, affinities. African humped cattle were introduced several hundred years ago and now exist in large herds all over the country. The fat-tailed sheep, goats and swine have also been naturalized, as well as all kinds of domestic poultry.

The avi-fauna is much richer than the mammalian, and, although wanting the 'largest birds as well as the most brilliantly coloured, comprises two hundred and sixty species, half of which are endemic. Many of the birds are remarkable not so much for their shape or colouring as for their distant relationships; many belong to peculiar genera, and some are so isolated that new families have had to be formed for their reception. There is a large variety of perching birds, including several species of brilliant plumage - sun-birds, kingfishers, rollers and flycatchers, &c.; kites, hawks and owls are numerous, and the lakes and marshes abound with water-fowl and herons, ibises, &c.

The island is free from deadly serpents, but contains two or three 2 See " On a Collection of Fossils from Madagascar," by R. B. Newton, Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc. (Feb. 18 95) .

3 The following are figures of mean temperature, kindly supplied by the 'Rev. E. Colin, S. J., director of the observatory: DiegoSuarez, N., 79°; Farafangana, S.E. coast, 75°; Marovoa a y, W. intr., 8r°; Morondava,. W. coast, 77'; Tullear, S. W. coast, 78'.

small species of boa; crocodiles abound in the rivers and lakes; and numerous species of lizard, chameleon and tree-frog inhabit the woods. Madagascar may be considered as one of the headquarters of the Chamaeleonidae, for of the fifty known species no fewer than twenty-five have already been described from the island. Many of these are of curious form, with remarkable developments of the plates of the head and projecting horns and spines. There are several peculiar tortoises, but the gigantic species are now found alive only on the little island of Aldabra, to the north. The insect life comprises many brilliantly-coloured beetles, butterflies (about eight hundred species of which are known), moths, locusts, spiders and flies, and also noxious spiders, with scorpions and centipedes. The river fishes belong chiefly to the family Chromididae; many of them are of brilliant and bizarre appearance, with strongly contrasted colours in bands and spots. Those found in the coast waters do not differ materially from the widely spread Indian Ocean species.

As a whole, the Madagascar fauna is marked by a strong individuality, which would appear to be the result of long isolation from the other zoological " regions." The Asiatic and Malayan affinities of many of its animals, as well as the physical conditions of the bed of the Indian Ocean, make it highly probable that Madagascar, while once forming part of Africa, is the chief relic of a considerable archipelago formerly connecting that continent with Asia, its other portions being shown by groups of small islands, and by coral atolls and shoals, which are gradually disappearing beneath the waves. These questions have been fully treated by Dr A. R. Wallace in his Geographical Distribution of Animals (vol. i. ch. ix., 1876) and Island Life, ch. xix. `(1880).


The flora of Madagascar is one of great interest. One of its most prominent features is the belt of forest round a large part of the island at no great distance from the sea, and generally following the coast-line. This forest is densest on the east side, and for about 120 m. forms a double line, the lower one being much the broader and averaging 30 m. across, but attaining a breadth of 60 or 70 m. on the north-east, near Antongil Bay. The vegetation on the western side of the island is much less dense, often appearing as scattered clumps of trees on savannah-like plains rather than continuous forest; while in the south-west, where the rainfall is very scanty, the vegetation is largely of fleshy-leaved and spiny plants - aloes and cacti (the latter introduced), with several species of Euphorbia, as well as numerous lianas, one of which (Intisy ) yields india-rubber. It is estimated that there are about 30,000 sq. m. of forest-covered country in Madagascar, or about one-eighth of its whole surface. The vegetation of the forests, the abundant epiphytes, the treemosses, the filmy ferns and the viviparous character of many of the ferns, show clearly how abundant the rainfall is in the eastern forest region. This contains a large variety of hard-wooded and valuable timber trees, including species of Weinmannia (Lalona 1), Elaeocarpus (Voanana), Dalbergia (Vbambbana), Nuxia (Valanirana), Podocarpus, a pine, the sole species in the island ( Hetatra),Tambourissa (Amhara), Neobaronia (Harah¢ra), Ocotea (Varongy ) and probably ebony, Diospyros sp., &c. The following trees are characteristic of Madagascar vegetation, some of them being endemic, and others very prominent features in the landscape: the traveller's-tree ( Urania speciosa ), with its graceful crown of plantain-like leaves growing like an enormous fan at the top of a tall trunk, and affording a supply of pure cool water, every part of the tree being of some service in building; the Raphia (rofia) palm (Sagus ruffia); the tall fir-like Casuarina equisetifolia or beef wood tree, very prominent on the eastern coast, as well as several species of screw-pine ( Pandanus); the Madagascar spice ( Ravintsara madagascariensis ), a large forest tree, with fragrant fruit, leaves and bark; a beautiful-leaved species of Calophyllum; and the Tangena ( Tanghinia veneniflua ), formerly employed as a poison ordeal. On the lagoons and lower reaches of the rivers the Viha (Typhonodorum lindleyanum ), an arum endemic to Madagascar, grows in great profusion to a height of 12 or 13 ft. and has a white spathe more than a foot in length; and on the western coast dense thickets of mangrove line the creeks and rivers. In the interior rivers is found the curious and beautiful lace-leaf plant (Ouvirandra fenestralis ), with an edible tuberous root. On the western side of the island the baobab, the tamarind, the rotra (Eugenia sp.), the rofia palm, and several species of fan-palm ( Hyphaene ) and of Ficus are prominent; and the mango (introduced) grows to a large tree. In the generally bare interior highlands, large trees, species of Ficus (Amontana, Aviavy, Nonoka, Adabo, &c.), often mark the position of the old towns; and some of these, as Ambohimanga, Vohilena, &c., are surrounded by remnants of the original forest, which formerly covered large portions of the interior. The most prominent tree in the central province is now the Capelilac ( Melia azederach ) introduced about 1825; and since the French conquest several species of eucalyptus have been planted in vast numbers by the road sides. These have given quite a new aspect to the vegetation, while bright colour is imparted by species of Bougainvillea and Poinsettia. In the eastern forests palms, bamboos, lianas and tree-ferns, as well as species of Dracaena, are found.

Although flowers growing on the ground or on shrubs are not conspicuous for number or beauty, there arc many fine flowering trees, such as Poinciana regia, presenting a mass of scarlet flowers; 1 The words in parentheses are the native Malagasy names.

Colvillia racemosa, with yellow flowers; Astrapaea Wallichii, striking attention from its abundant flowers; and species of Cryptostegia, a purple-flowered creeper, and Strongylodon, another creeper with cream-coloured blossoms. Among attractive plants are species of Hibiscus, Euphorbia, Buddleia, Ixora, Kitchingia, Clematis, &c. On the east coast two orchids, species of Angraecum, with large white waxy flowers, one with an extraordinarily long spur or nectary, attract the attention of every traveller during June and July by their abundance and beauty. Some 320 species of fern have been collected, and there are large numbers of spiny and prickly plants, as well as numerous grasses, reeds and rushes, many of them of great service in the native manufactures of mats, hats, baskets, &c.

The Rev R. Baron divides the flora into three distinctly marked " regions," which run in a longitudinal direction, following approximately the longer axis of the island, and are termed respectively eastern, western and central. The central includes the elevated highland of the interior, while the eastern and western include the forest belts and most of the wooded country and coast plains. Of the 4100 known plants - of which about three-fourths are endemic - composing the Madagascar flora, there are 3492 Dicotyledons, 248 Monocotyledons and 360 Acotyledons. Of these, the orders most largely represented (together with their species) are: Leguminosae, 34 6; Filices, 318; Compositae, 281; Euphorbiaceae, 228; Orchideae, 170; Cyperaceae, 160; Rubiaceae, 1 47; Acanthaceae, 131; Gramineae, 130. The number of endemic genera now known is 148. Of the 3178 species of plants whose localities have been determined, 35% are peculiar to the eastern region, 27.5% to the central, and 22% to the western. One natural order, Chlaenaceae, is strictly confined to Madagascar. " A small proportion of the species are Asian, but not African; and the flora of the mountains corresponds closely with that of the great ranges of the tropical zone of Africa." " The general plan of the flora follows thoroughly the same lines as that of the tropical regions of the Old World." Among the food-giving plants are rice - the staff of life to the majority of the Malagasy - in many varieties, maize, millet, manioc, yams,;sweet-potatoes, arrowroot, which is largely used by the western tribes - as well as numerous vegetables, many of them of foreign introduction. The fruits - the majority of which are introduced - are the banana, peach, loquat, pineapple, .mango, melon, grape, quince, plum, apple, mulberry, orange, lemon, citron, guava, Chineseguava, Cape-gooseberry, fig, raspberry, tomato, &c. Several spices are grown, including ginger, capsicum, &c.; sugar-cane, coffee, indigo, vanilla, tobacco, cotton, hemp, gourds, dye-woods, gums, mulberry and other trees and plants for silk-culture, are also among the vegetable productions; gum-copal was formerly, and india-rubber is still, an important article of export.

Provinces and Towns

The island may be divided into districts or provinces, which in the main indicate tribal divisions. Of these tribal territories the following may be distinguished, taking them in three main divisions, from north to south: (1) Eastern: Antankarana, occupying the northern peninsula; the country of the Betsimisaraka, who inhabit a long extent of the coast plains, about Soo m. in length; parallel with this for about a third of it, and between the two lines of forest, is the Bezanozano country. South again are the districts of the Taimbahoaka, the Taimoro, the Taifasy and the Taisaka; and at the south-eastern corner are the Tanosy. (2) Central: the districts of Tsimihety and the Sihanaka; Imerina, the Hova province; the Betsileo; the Tanala or foresters; the Bara; and the emigrant Tanosy. ( 3) Western: the people from almost the northern to the southern extremities of the island are known as Sakalava, but consist of a number of distinct tribes - the Tiboina, the Mailaka, the Tamenabe, and the Fiherenana, &c. South of these last are the Mahafaly, with the Tandroy at the extreme south. There are no distinctly marked boundaries between any of these tribal territories; and west of Imerina and Betsileo there is a considerable extent of country with hardly any population, a kind of " no-man'sland." There are numerous subdivisions of most of the tribes.

The capital, Antananarivo (pop. 69,000), in the highlands of Imerina, and Tamatave (pop. 4600), on the east coast and the chief seaport, are separately described. Majunga (properly Mojanga, pop. 5300) on the north-west coast, just north of 16° S., and Diego-Suarez, are important ports for foreign trade, the latter being also a fortified naval and military station. Other ports and towns are Mahanoro, Mananjary (S.E. coast, pop. 4500), Tullear (S.W. coast), and Fianarantsoa (pop. 6200), the chief town of the Betsileo. There are very few places besides these with as many as 2000 people.


The population is somewhat under two and three-quarter millions, 1 including some 10,000 or i 1,000 Europeans, and a smaller number of Indian, Arab, and other Asiatics, mostly small traders found in the seaports, the Chinese being found in every town of any size. The island, it will be seen, is very sparsely inhabited; the most densely peopled province is that of Imerina with (1905) 388,000 inhabitants. The natives, collectively known as Malagasy, are divided into a considerable number of tribes, each having its distinct customs. Although geographically an African island, the majority of its inhabitants are derived, the lighter portion of them from the MalayoPolynesian stock, and the darker races from the Melanesian. This is inferred from their similarity to the peoples of the Indian and Pacific archipelagoes in their physical appearance, mental habits, customs, and, above all, in their language. Their traditions also point in the same direction. There is, however, an undoubted African mixture in the western and some other tribes. There is also an Arab element both on the north-west and south-east coasts; and it appears that most of the families of the ruling classes in all parts of the island are descended from Arabs, who married native women. It is believed that there are traces of an aboriginal people (the Vazimba), who occupied portions of the interior before the advent of the present inhabitants, and these appear to have been a somewhat dwarfish race, and lighter-coloured than the Malagasy generally. The Hova became the dominant tribe from the beginning of the 19th century; they appear to be the latest immigrants, and are the lightest in colour; and they are also the most intelligent and civilized of all the peoples inhabiting the island.

The most striking proof of the virtual unity of the inhabitants of Madagascar is that substantially but one language is spoken over the whole country. The Malay affinities of Malagasy were noted in the 16th century; indeed, the second and fifth books published upon the country (in 1603 and 1613) were comparative vocabularies of these two languages. Later investigations have confirmed the conclusions thus early arrived at; and Van der Tuuk, Marre de Marin and W. E. Cousins have shown conclusively the close relationships between the language of the Malagasy and those of the Malayo-Polynesian regions; similar connexions exist, especially in grammatical construction, between the Malagasy and Melanesian languages. The Malagasy had never invented for themselves a written character, and had consequently no manuscripts, inscriptions or books, until their language was reduced to writing, and its orthography settled by English missionaries. Their speech nevertheless is very full in many of its verbal and other forms, while it also exhibits some curious deficiencies. It is very soft and musical, full of vowels and liquids, and free from all harsh gutturals. Native oratory abounds in figures, metaphors and parables; and a large number of folk-tales, songs and legends, together with the very numerous proverbs, give ample evidence of the mental ability and imaginative powers of the Malagasy.

Native society in Imerina among the Hova was formerly divided into three great classes: the Andriana, or nobles; the Hova, freemen or commoners; and the Andevo, or slaves; but these last became free by a proclamation issued in 1896. The Andriana are, strictly speaking, royal clans, being descendants of petty kings who were conquered or otherwise lost their authority through the increasing power of the ancestors of the reigning family. Their descendants retained certain honours in virtue of their royal origin, such as special terms of salutation, the use of the smaller scarlet umbrella (the larger one was the mark of royal rank), the right to build a particular kind of tomb, &c.; they also enjoyed exemption from certain government service, and from some punishments for crime. The Hova 2 or commoners form the mass of the population of Imerina. They are composed of a large number of tribes, who usually intermarry strictly among themselves, as indeed do families, so that property and land may be kept together. The third great division was the slave population, which since 1896 has become merged in the mass of the people. The 1 The census taken in 1905 gives 2,664,000 as the total population, but it is probably a little over that amount, as some localities are still imperfectly known.

2 This is a special and restricted use of the word, Hova in its widest sense being a tribal name, including all ranks of people in Imerina.

Mozambiques or African slaves, who had been brought from the African coast by Arab dhows, were in 1877 formally set free by an agreement with the British government.

Royalty and chieftainship in Madagascar had many peculiar customs. It had a semi-sacred character; the chief was, in heathen tribes, while living, the high priest for his people, and after death, was worshipped as a god; in its modern development among the Hova sovereigns it gathered round it much state and ceremony. There were many curious examples of the taboo with regard to actions connected with royalty, and also in the words used which relate to Malagasy sovereigns and their surroundings. These were particularly seen in everything having to do with the burial of a monarch. While the foregoing description of native society applied chiefly to the people of the central province of Imerina, it is applicable, with local modifications, to most of the Malagasy tribes. But on the island becoming a French colony, in 1896, royalty was formally abolished; and little regard is paid to native rank by French officials.

The chief employment of the Malagasy is agriculture. In the cultivation of rice they show very great ingenuity, the ketsa grounds, where the rice is sown before transplanting, being formed either on the margins of the streams or in the hollows of the hills in a series of terraces, to which water is often conducted from a considerable distance. In this agricultural engineering no people surpass the Betsileo. No plough is used, all work being done by a long-handled spade; and oxen are only employed to tread out the soft mud preparatory to transplanting. The rice is threshed by being beaten in bundles on stones set upright on the threshing-floor; and when beaten out the grain is stored by the Hova in rice-pits dug in the hard red soil, but by the coast tribes in small timber houses raised on posts. In preparing the rice for use it is pounded in a wooden mortar to remove the husk, this work being almost always done by the women. The manioc root is also largely consumed, together with several other roots and vegetables; but little animal foods (save fish and freshwater Crustacea ) is taken by the mass of the people except at festival times. Rice is used less by the western tribes than by those of the central and eastern provinces, and the former people are more nomadic in their habits than are the others. Large herds of fine humped cattle are found almost all over the island.

The central and eastern peoples have considerable manual dexterity. The women spin and weave, and with the rudest appliances manufacture a variety of strong and durable cloths of silk,cotton and hemp, and of rofia palm, aloe and banana fibre, of elegant patterns, and often with much taste in colour. They also make from straw and papyrus peel strong and beautiful mats and baskets in great variety, some of much fineness and delicacy, and also hats resembling those of Panama. The people of the south and south-east make large use of soft rush matting for covering, and they also prepare a rough cloth of bark. Their non-employment of skins for clothing is a marked distinction between the Malagasy and the South African races, and their use of vegetable fibres an equally strong link between them and the Polynesian peoples. The men wear a loincloth or salaka, the women a kitamby or apron folded round the body from waist to heel, to which a jacket or dress is usually added; both sexes use over these the lamba, a large square of cloth folded round the body something like the Roman toga, and which is the characteristic native dress. The Malagasy are skilful in metal-working; with a few rude-looking tools they manufacture silver chains of great fineness, and filagree ornaments both of gold and silver. Their iron-work is of excellent quality, and in copper and brass they can produce copies of anything made by Europeans. They display considerable inventive power, and they are exceedingly quick to adopt new ideas from Europeans.

There is a considerable variety in the houses of the different Malagasy tribes. The majority of Hova houses were formerly built of layers of the hard red soil of the country, with high-pitched roofs thatched with grass or rush; while the chiefs and wealthy people had houses of framed timber, with massive upright planking, and lofty roofs covered with shingles or tiles. But the introduction of sun-dried and burnt bricks, and of roofing tiles in the central provinces has led to the general use of these materials in the building of houses, large numbers of which are made in two storeys and in European fashion. The forest and coast tribes make their dwellings chiefly of wood framing filled in with the leaf-stalks of the traveller's tree, with the leaves themselves forming the roof covering. The houses of the Betsileo and Sakalava are very small and dirty, but those of the coast peoples are more cleanly and roomy. Among the Hova and Betsileo the old villages were always built for security on the summits of lofty hills, around which were dug several deep fosses, one within the other. In other districts the villages and homesteads are enclosed within formidable defences of prickly-pear or thorny mimosa.

Apart from the modern influence of religious teaching, the people are very immoral and untruthful, disregardful of human life and suffering, and cruel in war. Until lately polygamy has been common among all the Malagasy tribes, and divorce effected in an absurdly easy fashion. At the same time the position of woman is much higher in Madagascar than in most heathen countries; and, the fact that for nearly seventy years there were (with a few months' exception) only female sovereigns, helped to give women considerable influence in native society. The southern and western peoples still practise infanticide as regards children born on several unlucky days in each month. This was formerly the general practice all over the island. The old laws among the Hova were very barbarous in their punishments, and death in various cruel forms was inflicted for very trifling offences. Drunkenness is very prevalent in many parts of the island; and it can hardly be said of many of the Malagasy that they are very industrious. But they are courageous and loyal to their chiefs and tribe, and for short periods are capable of much strenuous exertion. They are affectionate and firm in their friendships, kind to their children and their aged and infirm relatives, very respectful to old age, most courteous and polite and very hospitable to strangers. Slavery had a patriarchal and family character, and was seldom exercised in a cruel or oppressive way.

The Malagasy have never had any organized religious system or forms of worship; there are no temples, images or stated seasons of devotion, nor is there a priesthood, properly so-called. Yet they have never been without some distinct recognition of a supreme being, whom they call Andriamdnitra, " The Fragrant One," and Zanahc ry, " The Creator " - words which are recognized all over the island. They have also retained many ancient sayings, proverbial in their style, which enforce many of the truths of natural religion as to the attributes of God. With all this, however, there has long existed a kind of idolatry, which in its origin is simply fetishism - the belief in charms - as having power to procure various benefits and protect from certain evils. Among the Hova in modern times four or five of these charms had acquired special sanctity and were each honoured as a kind of national deity, being called " god," and brought out on all public occasions. Together with this idolatry there is also a firm belief in the power of witchcraft and sorcery, in divination, in lucky and unlucky days and times, in ancestor worship, especially that of the sovereign's predecessors, and in several curious ordeals for the detection of crime. The chief of these was the celebrated tangena poison ordeal, in which there was implicit belief, and by which, until its prohibition by an article in the AngloMalagasy treaty of 1865, thousands of persons peris

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Madagascar'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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