1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cantal

CANTAL, a department of central France, formed from Haute-Auvergne, the southern portion of the old province of Auvergne. It is bounded N. by the department of Puy-de-Dôme, E. by Haute-Loire, S.E. by Lozère, S. by Aveyron and Lozère, and W. by Corrèze and Lot. Area 2231 sq. m. Pop. (1906) 228,600. Cantal is situated in the middle of the central plateau of France. It takes its name from the Monts du Cantal, a volcanic group occupying its central region, and continued towards the north and east by ranges of lower altitude. The Plomb du Cantal, the culminating summit of the department, attains a height of 6096 ft.; and its neighbours, the Puy Mary and the Puy Chavaroche, attain a height of 5863 and 5722 ft. respectively. Immediately to the east of this central mass lies the lofty but fertile plateau of Planèze, which merges into the Monts de la Margeride on the eastern border. The valley of the Truyère skirts the Planèze on the south and divides it from the Monts d’Aubrac, at the foot of which lies Chaudesaigues, noted for its thermal springs, the most important in the department. Northwards the Monts du Cantal are connected with the Monts Dore by the volcanic range of Cézallier and the arid plateaus of Artense. In the west of the department grassy plateaus and beautiful river valleys slope gently down from the central heights. Most of the streams of the department have their sources in this central ridge and fall by a short and rapid course into the rivers which traverse the extensive valleys on either side. The principal rivers are the Alagnon, a tributary of the Allier; the Celle and Truyère, tributaries of the Lot; and the Cère and Rue, tributaries of the Dordogne. The climate of the department varies considerably in the different localities. In the alluvial plain between Murat and St Flour, and in the south-west in the arrondissement of Aurillac, it is generally mild and dry; but in the northern and central portions the winters are long and severe and the hurricanes peculiarly violent. The cold and damp of the climate in these districts are great obstacles to the cultivation of wheat, but rye and buckwheat are grown in considerable quantities, and in natural pasture Cantal is extremely rich. Cattle are accordingly reared with profit, especially around Salers and in the Monts d’Aubrac, while butter and Roquefort cheese are made in large quantities. Large flocks of sheep pasture in the Monts d’Aubrac and elsewhere in the department; goats are also reared. The inhabitants are simple and primitive and accustomed to live on the scantiest fare. Many of them migrate for part of the year to Paris and the provinces, where they engage in the humblest occupations. The principal articles of food are rye, buckwheat and chestnuts. The internal resources of the department are considerable; but the difficulty of land-carriage prevents them being sufficiently developed. The hills and valleys abound with game and the streams with fish. Cantal produces a vast variety of aromatic and medicinal plants; and its mineral products include coal, antimony and lime. The department has no prominent manufactures. Live-stock, cheese, butter and coal are the principal exports; coal, wine, cereals, flour and earthenware are imported. The department is served by the railways of the Orléans and Southern companies, the construction of which at some points demanded considerable engineering skill, notably in the case of the viaduct of Garabit spanning the gorge of the Truyère. Cantal is divided into four arrondissements—Aurillac, Mauriac, Murat and St Flour—23 cantons and 267 communes. It belongs to the region of the XIII. army corps and to the académie (educational division) of Clermont-Ferrand. Its bishopric is at St Flour and depends on the archbishopric of Bourges. Its court of appeal is at Riom. The capital is Aurillac (q.v.), and St Flour (q.v.) is the other principal town.