Kloofs, ravines, koppies and gullies.                                        Bruce Shaw

 

I don’t know how to put all of this together, but I’m sure it would be of interest to many.

As I started trying to define a few terms often used in hunting articles, as usual, the deeper I researched the more interesting and complicated it became. This following table is my attempt at clarifying and at the same time simplifying some of them. A few are a bit tongue in cheek. If Bruce Truter gets hold of the UK definitions we could have a funny story which nobody understands. Any professors or laymen out there are more than welcome to email me (bikandall@gmail.com) with (simple) additions and corrections. Pictures could have clarified some descriptions, but I would have ended up with a book. When many years ago, my brother went from stock-broking back to university to study a Bsc Geology (simply for fun), I thought he was crazy. Now I understand.

 

Geology

The study of the earth as a whole, its origin, structure, composition and history (including the development of life), and the nature of the processes which have given rise to its present state. 

Geomorphology

The description and interpretation of land forms. 

 

  

bluff

steep cliff or headland normally with an almost perpendicular front.

 

butte

flat topped hill from hard rock overlaying weaker layers (see mesa) When the diameter of the top is about equal to, or less than the height it is referred to as a butte.

 

buttress

projecting portion of a hill or mountain.

 

canyon

spectacularly massive gorge, created by the erosive action of a powerful river.

 

contour

a line drawn on a map joining places of equal height above sea level – paths frequently follow these imaginary lines.

 

course

path followed by a river.

 

cuesta

a ridge with a gentle dip on one side and a relatively steep scarp (escarpment) slope on the other.

 

defile

a term loosely used, applied to a gorge, ravine or narrow pass.

 

dome

rounded summit of a hill/mountain feature.

 

donga

a dry watercourse or ravine caused by erosion.

 

drift

an important ford on a river.

 

escarpment

a long steep slope at the edge of a plateau.

 

ford

that part of a river or body of water which may be crossed by wading.

 

gorge

narrow opening between hills or a rocky ravine, often with a stream running through.

 

gully

a long narrow channel worn out by the action of water particularly on a hillside, smaller than a ravine.
also a channel produced by the erosion of soil by sudden heavy flows.

 

 

 

 

hill

a naturally raised area of land; in general a hill is not considered a mountain unless the elevation from foot to summit is well over one thousand feet, but the distinction is arbitrary.

 

hogsback

a cuesta where the dip slope and the scarp slope are both approximately 45º.

 

inselberg

a large, isolated peak on an eroded plain or pediment
(in German, “island mountain”).

 

kloof

a steep sided ravine but widely used in SA to mean any gorge, ravine, valley, sloot, gully; almost any ground feature that goes down.

 

kop

a prominent hill or peak.

 

koppie

an older butte - I think that koppie has simply been “bastardised” from the Dutch kopje. It is not a small “kop”. Like its antonym, kloof, this word has come to mean almost anything that sticks out of the ground.

 

kopje

as above - the remnants of a butte (a tor ?).

 

levee

natural bank of a river formed during flooding by deposition of silt.

 

marsh

a tract of soft wet land, usually low-lying.

 

mesa

flat table like mass from hard rock overlaying weaker layers (mesa is Spanish for table). In time a mesa becomes a butte (then kopje). When the diameter of the top is about equal to, or less than the height it is referred to as a butte.

 

monadnock

Isolated hills which stand above the general level of the peneplain (surrounding area). ie: the erosion remnants of the original surface. They would include buttes mesas and inselbergs and of course koppies.

 

mountain

a large natural elevation of the earth surface rising rapidly, arbitrarily over 1000 feet from bottom to top.

 

outcrop

portion of rock projecting above the surface so exposed to view.

 

pass

a low and passable gap through a mountain barrier - the easiest way across a range of mountains (bms).

 

peak

the pointed top of a mountain.

 

peneplain

the end product of the cycle of erosion in humid climates.

 

plain

an extensive area of level or gently undulating land. On many of the plains in temperate zones the natural vegetation is grass and so become known as grasslands. (prairie, pampas, steppe, veld); in short a level tract of especially treeless country (shorter grass).

 

plateau

an area of fairly high level ground; a state of little variation after an increase.

 

poort

a river-carved cutting through a mountain range.

 

ridge

a long narrow hilltop, mountain range or watershed.

 

rand

a low ridge of hills often covered with scrub (South Africa)

 

ravine

a long deep narrow depression rather smaller than a valley but larger than a gully. Several gullies often lead to a ravine and several ravines to a valley.

 

saddle

a ridge rising to a summit at each end.

 

savanna

a tropical grassy plain with few or no trees (longer grass).

 

sloot

deep gully formed by heavy rain.

 

spur

a projection from a mountain or mountain range.

 

steppe

short grassed plain in temperate latitudes (between 30 and 60).

 

summit

the highest point of a mountain.

 

terraces

usually representing former levels of a stream/river.

 

valley

a low area more or less enclosed by hills, usually with a stream flowing through it.
any internal angle formed by two or more opposing hills.

 

veld

generically has come to mean any open unpopulated? land out of town - but see high veld, bush veld.

 

high veld

rolling treeless grasslands at 5000 to 6000 ft typical of the open Transvaal - SA generic version of pampas , prairies and steppes.

 

bush veld

is typically between 1000 and 3000 feet and is generally covered with scrub – in South Africa it has become any scarcely populated land out of town, with bush (bms)

 

thorn veld

veld dominated by Acacia

 

sourveld

that veld where grasses have little nutritive value in winter

 

                                                               

 

References
 

Lester C King
South African Scenery
A Textbook of Geomorphology
Oliver & Boyd
Edinburgh and London
 

D G A Whitten written with J R V Brooks
The Penguin Dictionary of GEOLOGY
Penguin Reference Books
 

W G Moore
A Dictionary of Geography
Penguin Books

Nicholson & Morton
Working with Maps
Shuter & Shooter
 

The Encyclopaedia of Geomorphology
 

 

 

United Kingdom

 

 

 

 

brae

hill or bank overlooking a valley – scots.

 

burn

a brook or small stream – scots.

 

coppice

area of undergrowth and small trees grown for periodic cutting.

 

copse

a small wood – or as above.

 

croft

a small farm holding, typically 5 acres – scots.

 

dale

wide open valley.

 

dell

a small wooded valley.

 

dingle

a small narrow, well-wooded valley.

 

down

open, treeless, hilly land esp southern England.

 

fell

a bare, uncultivated hill or mountain.

 

fen

a tract of low lying marshy ground esp eastern England.

 

glade

an open space or passage in a wood or forest, either natural or from the felling of trees.

 

glen

a long narrow valley with steep sides usually with a stream or river at the bottom. It is narrower and more steep sided than a strath.

 

grove

a small shady wood, a cluster of trees set in a small open space.

 

hogsback

a steep-sided ridge of hills.

 

inver

confluence (flowing together)

 

knoll

a small rounded hill.

 

sgúr

sharp hill

 

spinny

a small wood with undergrowth.

 

strath

a broad river valley – scots.

 

thicket

a small wood or group of closely set trees esp one with dense undergrowth.

 

tor

a term used in south-west England for residual masses of rock, usually capping hills. A tor commonly appears as a pile of rock slabs or a series of rock slabs standing on end. ie exposed rock mass or boulders, always isolated in the landscape. They are distinctive, standing abruptly upright – typically granite.

 

wold

a ridge with a gentle dip on one side and a relatively steep scarp (escarpment)  slope on the other (cuesta) – the cotswolds is an example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just for interest

 

clay

a rock fragment                              <1/256mm

 

silt

a rock fragment from between        1/256 – 1/16mm

 

sand

a rock fragment from between        1/16 – 2mm

 

gravel

a rock fragment from between        2 - 4mm

 

pebble

a rock fragment from between        4 - 64mm

 

cobble

a rock fragment from between        64 - 256mm

 

boulder

a rock fragment greater than           256mm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

       

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