1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Landes (department)

LANDES, a department in the south-west of France, formed in 1790 of portions of the ancient provinces of Guyenne (Landes, Condomios Chalosse), Gascony and Béarn, and bounded N. by Gironde, E. by Lot-et-Garonne and Gers, S. by Basses Pyrenées, and W. (for 68 m.) by the Bay of Biscay. Pop. (1906) 293,397. Its area, 3615 sq. m., is second only to that of the department of Gironde. The department takes its name from the Landes, which occupy three-quarters of its surface, or practically the whole region north of the Adour, the chief river of the department. They are separated from the sea by a belt of dunes fringed on the east by a chain of lakes. South of the Adour lies the Chalosse—a hilly region, intersected by the Gabas, Luy and Gave de Pau, left-hand tributaries of the Adour, which descend from the Pyrenees. On the right the Adour is joined by the Midouze, formed by the junction of the Douze and the Midou. The climate of Landes is the Girondine, which prevails from the Loire to the Pyrenees. Snow is almost unknown, the spring is rainy, the summer warm and stormy. The prevailing wind is the south-west, and the mean temperature of the year is 53° F., the thermometer hardly ever rising above 82° or falling below 14°. The annual rainfall in the south of the department in the neighbourhood of the sea reaches 55 in., but diminishes by more than half towards the north-east.

The fertility of La Chalosse is counterbalanced by the comparative poorness of the soil of the Landes, and small though the population is, the department does not produce wheat enough for its own consumption. The chief cereal is maize; next in importance are rye, wheat and millet. Of vegetables, the bean is most cultivated. The vine is grown in the Chalosse, sheep are numerous, and the “Landes” breed of horses is well known. Forests, chiefly composed of pines, occupy more than half the department, and their exploitation forms the chief industry. The resin of the maritime pine furnishes by distillation essence of turpentine, and from the residue are obtained various qualities of resin, which serve to make varnish, tapers, sealing-wax and lubricants. Tar, and an excellent charcoal for smelting purposes, are also obtained from the pine-wood. The department has several mineral springs, the most important being those of Dax, which were frequented in the time of the Romans, and of Eugénie-les-Bains and Préchacq. The cultivation of the cork tree is also important. There are salt-workings and stone quarries. There are several iron-works in the department; those at Le Boucau, at the mouth of the Adour, are the most important. There are also saw-mills, distilleries, flour-mills, brick and tile works and potteries. Exports include resinous products, pine-timber, metal, brandy; leading imports are grain, coal, iron, millinery and furniture. In its long extent of coast the department has no considerable port. Opposite Cape Breton, however, where the Adour formerly entered the sea, there is, close to land, a deep channel where there is safe anchorage. It was from this once important harbour of Capbreton that the discoverers of the Canadian island of that name set out. Landes includes three arrondissements (Mont-de-Marsan, Dax and St Sever), 28 cantons and 334 communes.

Mont-de-Marsan is the capital of the department, which comes within the circumscription of the appeal court of Pau, the académie (educational division) of Bordeaux and the archbishopric of Auch, and forms part of the region of the 18th army corps. It is served by the Southern railway; there is some navigation on the Adour, but that upon the other rivers is of little importance. Mont-de-Marsan, Dax, St Sever and Aire-sur-l’Adour, the most noteworthy towns, receive separate notice. Hagetmau has a church built over a Romanesque crypt, the roof of which is supported on columns with elaborately-carved capitals. Sorde has an interesting abbey-church of the 13th and 14th centuries.