1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Burgos (province)

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BURGOS, a province of northern Spain; bounded on the N.E. by Biscay and Álava, E. by Logroño, S.E. by Soria, S. by Segovia, S.W. by Valladolid, W. by Palencia, and N.W. by Santander. Pop. (1900) 338,828; area, 5480 sq. m. Burgos includes the isolated county of Treviño, which is shut in on all sides by territory belonging to Álava. The northern and north-eastern districts of the province are mountainous, and the central and southern form part of the vast and elevated plateau of Old Castile. The extreme northern region is traversed by part of the great Cantabrian chain. Eastwards are the highest peaks of the province in the Sierra de la Demanda (with the Cerro de San Millan, 6995 ft. high) and in the Sierra de Neila. On the eastern frontier, midway between these highlands and the Cantabrian chain, two comparatively low ranges, running east and west of Pancorbo, kave a gap through which run the railway and roads connecting Castile with the valley of the Ebro. This Pancorbo Pass has often been called the "Iron Gates of Castile," as a handful of men could hold it against an army. South and west of this spot begins the plateau, generally covered with snow in winter, and swept by such cold winds that Burgos is considered, with Soria and Segovia, one of the coldest regions of the peninsula. The Ebro runs eastwards through the northern half of the province, but is not navigable. The Douro, or Duero, crosses the southern half, running west-north-west; it also is unnavigable in its upper valley. The other important streams are the Pisuerga, flowing south towards Palencia and Valladolid, and the Arlanzón, which flows through Burgos for over 75m.

The variations of temperature are great, as from 9° to 20° of frost have frequently been recorded in winter, while the mean summer temperature is 64° (Fahr.). As but little rain falls in summer, and the soil is poor, agriculture thrives only in the valleys, especially that of the Ebro. In live-stock, however, Burgos is one of the richest of Spanish provinces. Horses, mules, asses, goats, cattle and pigs are bred in considerable numbers, but the mainstay of the peasantry is sheep-farming. Vast ranges of almost uninhabited upland are reserved as pasture for the flocks, which at the beginning of the 20th century contained more than 500,000 head of sheep. Coal, china-clay and salt are obtained in small quantities, but, out of more than 150 mines registered, only 4 were worked in 1903. The other industries of the province are likewise undeveloped, although there are many small potteries, stone quarries, tanneries and factories for the manufacture of linen and cotton of the coarsest description. The ancient cloth and woollen industries, for which Burgos was famous in the past, have almost disappeared. Trade is greatly hindered by the lack of adequate railway communication, and even of good roads. The Northern railways from Madrid to the French frontier cross the province in the central districts; the Valladolid-Bilbao line traverses the Cantabrian mountains, in the north; and the Valladolid-Saragossa line skirts the Douro valley, in the south. The only important town in the province is Burgos, the capital (pop. 30,167). Few parts of Spain are poorer; education makes little progress, and least of all in the thinly peopled rural districts, with their widely scattered hamlets. The peasantry have thus every inducement to migrate to the Basque Provinces, Catalonia and other relatively prosperous regions; and consequently the population does not increase, despite the excess of births over deaths.