Uruguay is the smallest state in South America. Its territory consists largely of flat undulating hilly countries below 500 m and the lowlands on the Rio de la Plata and the Atlantic. Almost three quarters of the country’s area are campos, wide subtropical grasslands. Uruguay is an agricultural country. Its main industry is livestock. It is operated as extensive pasture farming in the Campos. The industry concentrated around Montevideo specializes in the processing of livestock products.
As one of the 7 countries starting with U according to COUNTRYAAH, Uruguay is only half the size of Germany. It is located in the southeast of South America between the Atlantic and the Rio de la Plata. Its neighboring countries are Brazil in the northeast and Argentina in the west.
The state capital is Montevideo (1.4 million residents) on the Rio de la Plata. More than 40% of the country’s population live in it.
Uruguay is predominantly a flat undulating hill country at a height of 100 to 150 m. Only a few narrow ridges, which are the last southern foothills of the Brazilian mountains and are known as cuchillas, reach heights of up to 500 m. The hill country is divided by rivers that flow into the border river with Argentina, the Rio Uruguay, the largest of which is the Rio Negro.
In the south of the country, on the Rio de la Plata and the lower reaches of the Rio Uruguay, there is a 120 km wide lowland, which, like parts of the coastal plain on the Atlantic, consists of fertile loess and alluvial soil. The Atlantic coast with numerous large lagoons (beach lakes) is partly swampy.
The whole of Uruguay has a warm, humid subtropical climate with distinct seasons. In winter (June to September) the temperatures are a mild 10 °C, in summer a very warm 22 °C. Precipitation falls all year round, but is particularly abundant in early summer. Occasionally Pamperos, cold air ingress from the Argentine pampas, influence the weather. Then the air temperature can drop by 20 °C within a few hours.
The predominant vegetation form of the hill countries are the wide grasslands of the Campos. The Campos are pasture landscapes comparable to the Pampas of Argentina, to which the original vegetation, hard grass corridors with low trees, had to give way. The now rare natural forests thrive as narrow gallery forests along the rivers.
Important data about the country
|177 414 km²
|19 residents / km²
|Growth of population:
|0.7% / year
(men / women)
|Form of government:
|Descendants of European immigrants around 88% (mainly of Spanish and Italian descent), mulattos and mestizos around 12%
|Catholics 66%, Jewish and Protestant minorities
|subtropical humid with occasional advances of cold air from the south. Average temperatures in Montevideo in July 9.4 °C, in January 23.1 °C
|Pasture land 78.5%, arable land 8.3%, forest 3.6%
|Main export goods:
|Meat, sheep’s wool, textiles, vegetables, tobacco
|Gross domestic product:
|US $ 20.6 billion (2003)
(share of GDP 2003)
|Industry 27%, agriculture 13%, services 60%
|Gross National Product:
|US $ 3,820 / residents (2003)
For a long time, Uruguay was politically and economically a model country with material prosperity and generous social benefits. It was therefore also called the “Switzerland of South America”.
Since the 1960’s, however, the problems of its neighboring countries have caught up with Uruguay, not least because of its relatively one-sided economic structure and world market dependency: high inflation rates, negative foreign trade balance and the associated high debt abroad.
Uruguay is an agricultural country with predominant land ownership. Large farms (estanzias) make up 7% of all farms, but manage more than half of the usable area. The livestock industry is due to the very favorable natural conditions, the pillar of the economy of Uruguay. The cattle and sheep farming, traditionally oriented towards meat and wool products, is practiced in extensive pasture farming. Around 9 million cattle and 26 million sheep graze on the extensive pasture areas of the Campos.
As one of the largest meat exporters in the world, the country generates more than 50% of its export revenues with products from cattle and sheep breeding, especially meat and wool. The most important part of the country’s industry is naturally the processing of livestock products. The meat processing, leather and textile industries are mainly located in the agglomeration of Montevideo.