SENEGAL, a country of West Africa belonging to France. As a geographical expression it is the land watered by the Senegal river; politically it has a much wider significance. The French possessions in this region are divided into (1) the colony of Senegal, and dependent native states; (2) the colony of Upper Senegal and Niger, with a dependent Military Territory; (3) the Territory of Mauretania. The first colony includes the most westerly coast region of Africa; a large part of the second colony is the country enclosed in the great bend of the Niger; while the Military Territory is east of that river. The Territory of Mauretania is part of the western Sahara, stretching indefinitely north from the Senegal river. It includes the oasis of Adrar Temur (see Adrar) and the coast regions between Cape Blanco and the Senegal river. In the present article the two colonies are dealt with in separate sections (I. and II. below), the story of French conquest and colonization throughout this vast region forming section III.
Senegal is bounded N. by the Territory of Mauretania, W. by the Atlantic, S. by Portuguese Guinea and French Guinea, and E. by the Faleme, which separates it from Upper Senegal and Niger. Wedged into Senegal and surrounded by it save seawards is the British colony of the Gambia. Senegal colony proper consists of the towns of Dakar, St Louis, Goree and Rufisque, a narrow strip of territory on either side of the Dakar-St Louis railway, and a few detached spots, and has an area of 438 sq. m. with a population (census of 1904) of 107,826. The rest of the country consists of native states under French protection, and includes, since 1909, the northern bank of the river Senegal below Bakel. In this larger sense, which is that employed in this article, Senegal covers about 74,000 sq. m., with an estimated population of 1,800,000. Among the protected states is Bondu (q.v.) lying immediately west of the lower Faleme.
Physical Features.—The coast follows a S.S.W. direction from the mouth of the Senegal to Cape Verde, the most western point of the African continent; thence it bends south as far as Cape Roxo, where the Portuguese frontier begins. The only gulf on the coast is that which lies to the south of Cape Verde and contains the island of Goree (q.v.). The coast in the northern part is low, arid, desolate and dune-skirted, its monotony relieved only here and there by cliffs and plateaus. Further south it becomes marshy, and clothed with luxuriant vegetation. A little to the north of the Gambia the coast-line is much broken by the archipelago of islands formed by the Salum estuary, whilst south of the Gambia is the broad estuary of the Casamance. Between the Senegal and the Gambia and as far east as about 13° W., the country behind the seaboard is a slightly elevated and, for the most part, barren plain. Further east is a mountainous and fertile region with altitudes of over 4000 ft. The mountains sink abruptly towards the Niger valley, while southwards they join the Futa Jallon highlands. On the north they extend to the left bank of the Senegal and throw out spurs into the desert beyond. The Senegal (q.v.), its tributary the Faleme, and the upper course of the Gambia (q.v.) are the chief rivers which drain the country. The Salum, already mentioned, is a river-like estuary which penetrates fully 100 m. and is split into many channels. It is navigable from the sea for 60 m. The Casamance flows between the Gambia to the north and the Cacheo to the south, and has a drainage area of some 6000 sq. m. Rising in the Futa Jallon, the river has a course of about 212 m., and at Sedhiu, 105 m. from the sea, is 11 m. broad. Forty miles lower down it is joined by a northern tributary, the Songrogu, and thence to the ocean forms, with its numerous lateral channels, an estuary. The mouth of the river is fully 6 m. wide. Six to seven feet of water cover the bar at low tide, the river being navigable by shallow draught vessels for the greater part of its length.
Geology.—The low region of the seaboard has a very uniform character. It consists of sandstones or clay rocks and loose beds of reddish soil, containing marine shells. At certain points, such as Cape Verde and Cape Roxo (or Rouge), the red sandstones crop out, giving to the latter its name. Clay slates also occur, and at intervals these sedimentary strata are interrupted by basaltic amygdaloid and volcanic rocks. For instance, the island of Goree is basaltic. The base of the mountains is formed in certain places of clay slate, but more generally of granite, porphyry, syenite or trachyte. In those districts mica-schlsts and iron ores occur. Iron and gold are found in the mountains and the alluvial deposits. Many of the valleys are covered with fertile soils; but the rest of the country is rather arid and sterile.
Climate.—There are two seasons, the dry and the rainy or winter, the latter contemporaneous with the European summer. In the rainy season the wind blows from the sea, in the dry season the harmattan sweeps seaward from the Sahara. Along the seaboard the dry season is cool and agreeable; in the interior it is temperate in the three months which correspond to the European winter, for the rest of the year the heat is excessive. The maximum readings (90° to 100° F.), which are exceptional at St Louis, become almost the rule at Bakel on the upper Senegal. The mean temperature at St Louis is 68° to 70° F. The rainy season begins at Goree between the 27th of June and the 13th of July. During this period storms are frequent and the Senegal overflows and floods the lowlands, the heat and humidity rendering the country affected very unhealthy. Several districts formerly covered with forest, to which fact Cape Verde owed its name, are now treeless, a continual slow diminution in the rainfall being the result. No part of the country is suited for permanent occupation by Europeans. Yellow fever, malaria, &c., once prevalent in the towns, have been successfully combated by attention to sanitation.
Flora.—The principal tree is the baobab (Adansonia digitata), which sometimes at the height of 24 ft. has a diameter of 34 and a circumference of 104 ft. Acacias are numerous, one species, A. adansonia, being valuable for ship-timber. Among the palm-trees is the ronier, whose wood resists moisture and the attacks of insects; in some places, as in Cayor, it forms magnificent forests. The mampatas grows sometimes 100 ft. high, its branches beginning at a height of about 25 ft. Landolphia and other rubber plants, and the oil-palm, grow luxuriantly in the Casamance district. The karite, or shea-butter tree, is common. Wild indigo is abundant, and the cotton plant is indigenous.
Fauna.—The lion of Senegal and the neighbouring countries differs from the Barbary lion; its colour is a deeper and brighter yellow, and its mane is neither so thick nor so long. Other beasts of prey are the leopard, the wild cat, the cheetah, the civet and the hyena. The wild boar is clumsier than the European variety. Antelopes and gazelles occur in large herds; the giraffe is found in the region of the upper Senegal; the elephant is rare; the hippopotamus is gradually disappearing. Crocodiles swarm in the upper Senegal. Monkeys and apes of different species (the chimpanzee, the colobus, the cynocephalus, &c.), the squirrel, rat and mouse abound. The hedgehog, marmot, porcupine, hare, rabbit, &c., are also met with. Among the more noteworthy birds are the ostrich, which migrates to the Sahara; the bustard, found in desert and uncultivated districts; the marabout, a kind of stork, with its beak black in the middle and red at the point, which frequents the moist meadow lands and the lagoons; the brown partridge, the rock partridge and the quail in the plains and on the mountain sides; and the guinea-fowl in the thickets and brushwood. Along the coast are caught the sperm whale, the manatee and the cod-fish.
Inhabitants.—The inhabitants of Senegal are, mainly, “Moors” and allied Berber races, and Negroids. The Moors, or rather Berbers (Trarzas, Braknas and Duaish), inhabit the right bank of the Senegal. Fula (Peuls) are found in various parts of the country. Negroids, however, form the bulk of the population. There are few, if any, tribes of unmixed Negro blood, though in most of them the Negro element largely predominates. The best known of these tribes are the Wolofs and Mandingos, the last-named a widespread group of allied peoples bearing many names such as Sarakolés and Bambaras. Mandingos inhabit the basins of the upper Niger and the upper Senegal, and the western slope of the mountains of Futa Jallon. Under the name of Wakore or Wangara they are also found in all the immense tract enclosed in the bend of the Niger. The Berbers, Fula and Mandingos are Moslems. The Wolofs and the Serers inhabit the seaboard from St Louis to the Gambia, and the left bank of the Senegal from its mouth to Dagana. The Balanta inhabit the left bank of the Casamance; they are allied to the Mandingos. The principal languages spoken are Wolof, Fula, Serer, Mandingo and Arabic. The river Senegal marks the line of separation between Wolof and Arabic. Fula is the language of the Fula and Tukulors (Fula half-breeds); Mandingo comprises several dialects and is widely spoken. Polygamy is generally practised. Slave raiding has been stopped and domestic slavery is not recognized by the French. (See Berbers, Fula, Wolof, Mandingo, &c.)
Towns.—The chief towns of Senegal are St Louis, pop. (1904) 28,469, Dakar (23,452), Goree (1500) (all separately noticed) and Rufisque. Rufisque (12,446; including suburbs, 19,177) is a seaport 14 m. E. of Dakar and is on the railway connecting that town with St Louis. It is the chief place in the colony for the export of groundnuts. Portudal and Joal are small places on the coast south of Rufisque. (Midway between Cape Verde and Cape Blanco is the small port of Marsa or Portendic, a little south of Jeil [Old Portendic],
- See A. Knox, “The Isohyets ’twixt Sahara and Western Sudan,” in Geog. Journ. (June 1909).