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250 Madagascar Island

miles, islands, africa, hair and species

MADAGASCAR ISLAND, 250 miles from the east coast of Africa, extends from lat. 12° to 25° 30' S., almost 1000 miles long, and 260 miles of average breadth. A lofty granitic plateau, 80 to 160 miles wide and 3000 to 5000 feet high, occupies its central region, bare undu lating moors, on which rise peaks and domes of bazalt and granite to a height of nearly 9000 feet. Many islands are on its north and north-east, —the Comora, Bourbon, Mauritius, Roderiques, Amirantes, and Seychelles, with the Chagos and Maldive coral atolls farther east, which are sup posed to mark larger subsided islands. The queen is nominally sovereign of the whole island, though practically several of the western tribes are inde pendent. So long ago as 1828, king Ravama, with the aid of England, not only threw off the Sakalava yoke, but, invading their country again and again, compelled them, as well as other tribes, to submit. Madagascar has 66 species of mam mals. Near, comparatively speaking, as it is to Africa, and broad as is the belt of forest which surrounds the island in an almost unbroken line, it has no lions, leopards, elephants, monkeys, zebras, or giraffes, and no hoofed animals, except a species of river hog. The special occupants of its tropical woods are the lemurs, which in Africa are unknown. The original relationship between Madagascar and Malaysia is indicated in some measure by the flora, and still more by the fauna ; and a hypothesis has been constructed by several naturalists, of the existence of a lost con tinent, named by Mr. Sclater Lemuria, to which

Madagascar and Malaysiaare supposed to have both belonged. The coral reefs of the region are a sign that the surviving islands belong to the class called by Mr. Darwin sinking lands. Several mines of excellent coal were being energetically worked in 1881, and the iron and copper manufactures evinced much skill.

One language only is spoken throughout, with trifling varieties of dialect. The inhabitants are of two classes, the Hova, the ruling nation at present, and the M nay. Both are of African lineaments, but the Hova fairer than the Malagasy, with hair less woolly, and said in features to bear some remote resemblance to the Malays. The eyes of the Malagasy are large, brilliant, and restless ; ears large ; nose short and flat, though not so much so as in the Negro ; lips moderately thick ; height middling, and limbs well pro portioned ; lower jaws large, and mouth well garnished with teeth ; colour dark ; hair jet black, thin, and curly, occasionally inclining to woolly ; beard very slight. The women are generally small and well proportioned, usually plain, but some of them very handsome. They are about the size of the native women of India. Christian missionaries abated infanticide and seine of the worst horrors of war. They have shamed into secrecy the cruel superstitions con nected with divination and charms. They have promoted external modesty and sobriety.