department alencon west
ORNE, a department of the north-west of France, about half of which formerly belonged to the province of Normandy and the rest to the duchy of Alencon and to Perche, lies between 48° 10' and 48° 58' N. lat., and between 1° E. and 0° 50' W. long., and is bounded N. by Calvados, N.E. by Eure, S.E. by Eure-et-Loir, S. by Sarthe and Mayenne, and W. by Manche. The greatest length from east to west is 87 miles, and the area 2635 square miles. The population in 1881 numbered 376,126. Geologically there aro two distinct regions : to the west of the Orne end the railway from Argentan to Alencon lie primitive rocks connected with those of Brittany ; to the east begin the .Jurassic and Cretaceous formations of Normandy. The latter district is agriculturally the richest part of the department ; in the former the poverty of the soil has led the inhabitants to seek their subsistence from industrial pursuits. Between the northern portions, draining to the Channel, and the southern portion, belonging to the basin of the Loire, stretch the hills of Perche and Normandy, which generally have a height of from 800 to 1000 feet. The highest point in the department., situated in the forest of Ecouves north of Alencon, reaches 1378 feet. The department gives birth to three Seine tributaries - the Eure, its affluent the Iton, and the Rille, which passes by Laigle. The Tongues, passing by Vimouticr, the Dives, and the Orne fall into the English Channel, - the last passing Sties and Argentan, and receiving the Noireau with its tributary the Vere, which runs past Flers. Towards the Loire flow the Huisne, a feeder of the Sarthe passing by Mortagne, the Sarthe, which passes by Alencon, and the Mayenne, some of whose affluents rise to the north of the dividing range and make their way through it by the most picturesque defiles. Nearly the whole department, indeed, with its beautiful forests containing oaks several centuries old, its green meadows peopled with herds, its limpid streams, its deep gorges, its stupendous rocks, is one of the most picturesque of all France, though neither bathed by the sea nor possessing a truly mountainous character. In the matter of climate Orne belongs to the Seine region. The mean temperature is 50° Fahr. ; the summer heat is never extreme ; the west winds are the most frequent the rainfall, distributed over about a hundred days in the year, amounts to nearly 3 feet, or half as much again as the average for France.
Arable land occupies seven-twelfths of the surface, woods one-eighth, and pasture land almost as much. The live stock comprises 70,000 horses, 4000 asses, 122,000 sheep (35,500 high-bred), yielding in 1878 660,000 lb of wool of the value of nearly £25,000, 53,000 pigs, 2800 goats, 210,000 horned cattle, 30,000 dogs, 700,000 fowls, 53,000 geese, and 15,800 beehives, each producing on the average 2 lb of wax and 20 lb of honey. Horse-breeding is the most flourishing business in the rural districts ; there are three breeds - those of Perche, Le Merlerault (a cross between Norman and English horses), and Brittany. The great Government stud of Le Pin is situated between Le -Merlerault and Argcntan. Several horse- training establishments exist in the department. A large number of lean cattle are bought in the neighbouring departments to be fattened ; the farms in the vicinity of Vimoutier, on the borders of Calvados, produce the famous Camenbert cheese, and others excellent butter. In 1882 Orne produced 3,288,000 bushels of wheat, meslin 431,000, rye 315,700, barley 1,510,000, oats 3,110,000, buckwheat 600,000, potatoes 654,000, beetroot 939,000 cwt., colza seed 5000 cwt., hemp 8300 cwt., besides fodder in great quantity and variety, pulse, flax, fruits, &c. The variety of production is due to the great natural diversity of the soils. Small farms are the rule, and the fields in those cases are surrounded by hedges relieved by pollard trees. Along the roads or in the enclosures are planted numerous pear and apple trees (nearly 3,000,000), yielding 58,000,000 gallons of cider and perry, part of which is manufactured into brandy. Beech, oak, birch, and pine are the chief timber trees in the extensive forests of the department, of which a third belongs to the state. Orne contains iron ore of poor quality, granite quarries employing from 400 to 500 workmen, and a kind of smoky quartz known as Alencon diamond. Its most celebrated mineral waters are those of the hot springs of Bagnoles, which contain salt, sulphur, and arsenic, and are employed for tonic and restorative purposes in cases of general debility. In the forest of Belhime, is the chalybeate spring of La Hesse, which was used by the Romans. The other mineral springs of the department are chalybeate or