Dorsetshire, a maritime county of England, on the British channel, and bordering on Devonshire, Somersetshire, Wilts, and Hants; length from E. to W. 57 m., greatest breadth 40 in.; area, 1,006 sq. m.; pop. in 1871, 195,-544. The seacoast is very irregular, running out in several promontories, and broken by Poole harbor and Weymouth or Melcombe Regis bay. The chief rivers are the Stour, Frome, and Piddle. The face of the country is undulating, there being no mountains, and the highest point, Pillerden Pen, being only 934 ft. above the sea. A range of chalk downs, entering the country from Wiltshire on the N., passes S. W. and W. to the border of Somersetshire on the W., and is called the North downs; while a similar range, under the name of South downs, runs S. and 8. E. from the W. terminus of the other, nearly parallel with the coast, to Poole harbor. The soil consists mainly of loose sand or gravel, interspersed with clay and chalk, and in some places mixed with them, the conglomerate thus produced being the most fertile in the county.
Besides the chalk formation, Dorsetshire contains pipe, plastic, and potters1 clays, and has famous quarries of Portland stone, so called from the locality in which it is found, and which is exported to various parts of England, Ireland, and France. There are no ores nor coal. The downs are employed chiefly as sheep pastures. The Dorset sheep are noted as a profitable breed, and "Southdown mutton" has a high reputation. There is another and very small breed in the island of Purbeck, much prized by epicures. Excellent butter is made, but the cheese is of poor quality. The principal grain crops are wheat and barley. Potatoes, flax, and hemp are also raised. The manufactures comprise silk, woollens, cottons, blankets, canvas, ducks, fabrics of flax, gloves, parchment, buttons, beer, ale, and cider. Herrings, salmon, oysters, and large quantities of mackerel are taken off the coast. The chief towns are Dorchester, the county seat, Brid-port, Lyme Regis, Weymouth, Poole, Shaftesbury, Wareham, and Sherborne.