The climate of Soudan is distinctly tropical, with two well-defined seasons, hot and rainy from April or May to October, warm and dry for the rest of the year. The former is accompanied by tremendous thunderstorms and continuous downpours flushing all the khors, wadies, and other watercourses, flooding large tracts along the lower courses of the Shari, Logon, Komadugu, and Niger, and interrupting the communications for weeks together in Baghirmi and Bornu. Before the rains set in the glass seldom falls below or 100° F., rising at noon to 104°, while the mean annual temperature at Kuka (Bornn) is about 82° F. But in the dry season it is often lowered to 58° or 60°, and under the influence of the cool northeast winds water often freezes on the uplands, snow falls in Dar-Fur. and fires are kept up in the houses in the central districts of Kano. The chief ailments are ague and other marsh fevers in the low-lying tracts subject to inundations, the Guinea-worm, cutaneous diseases, and leprosy. The fevers are dangerous alike to Europeans and natives.

An exuberant forest vegetation is favored by the rich alluvial soil and tropical heat wherever moisture abounds. Of large growths the most characteristic and widespread are —the baobab (Adansonia), reaching north to the 13th parallel and attaining a girth of 80 feet; the superb deleb palm, covering extensive tracts especially in the east, where it grows to a height of over 120 feet; the shea or butter tree (Bassia butyracea), in the Niger basin and Kong uplands; the cotton-tree, dum palm, tamarind, several varieties of euphorbias, acacias, and mimosas, the heglyg (Balanites Egyptiaca), and jerjak of Wadai, which yields a kind of vegetable honey. Owing to the absence of salt the date-palm is very rare.

The chief cultivated plants are cotton, maize, several kinds of durrah (Sorghum vulgare, S. cernuuum, etc.), hemp, tobacco, gourds, water-melons, indigo (of excellent quality and growing everywhere, wild and cultivated), and lastly the guru or kola nut (Sterculia acuminata and S. macro-carpa), which in Soudan takes the place of the coffee berry. Cotton of the finest quality has been raised on the rich alluvial plain of Taka and Senaar.

The beasts of prey, nowhere very numerous, are chiefly represented by the lion, panther, hyena, and jackal. Elephants in herds of 400 or 500 frequent the swampy districts about Lake Tchad, but are not found farther north than the 12th or 13th parallel. The ordinary African rhinoceros is common, and the rare one-horned species appears to have been met with in Wadai. The wild ass, zebra, giraffe, and antelopes in considerable variety abound on the eastern steppe lands, and endless species of monkeys in the forest districts. Crocodiles, some of great size, from 16 to 18 feet long, infest all the large rivers, the satigwai ,—a web-footed variety, occurring in the Niger. The hippopotamus also abounds in these waters, which teem with fish, mostly of unknown species. These attract numerous flocks of water-fowl,—pelicans, spoonbills, cranes, ducks, and many unknown species. In the Tchad, Fittri, and other districts the fish are captured, dried, and exported in large quantities to Fezzan and the countries beyond the Niger. Flies and mosquitoes swarm in the marshy, and locusts in the dry districts; and in the woodlands insect life is represented by myriads of termites and some very large species of bees, wasps, and ants, besides beetles and butterflies in considerable variety. [22.291]

Related material


“Soudan.” The Encylopædia Britanica or Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and General Literature. 9th ed. Philadelphia: Maxwell Sommervile: 1894. 25 vols. Hathi Trust Digital Library online version of a copy in the University of New York Public Library. Web. 20 August 2020.

Last modified 20 August 2020