Beaufort West is a town in the Western Cape province in South Africa. It is the largest town in the arid Great Karoo region, and is known as the "Capital of the Karoo". It forms part of the Beaufort West Local Municipality, with 34 085 inhabitants in 2011.
Area: 56,50 km²
Population: 34 090 (2011)
Beaufort West was the first town to be established in the central Karoo. The town was founded in 1818 and initially named Beaufort after Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort, who was the father of Lord Charles Henry Somerset, then governor of the Cape Colony. The town was renamed Beaufort West in 1869 to avoid confusion with Port Beaufort in the Western Cape as well as Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape.
The town became prosperous with the introduction of Saxon Merino sheep. One of those who first farmed them, John Molteno, was a young Anglo-Italian immigrant who then founded the town's first bank in 1854 and went on to become the first Prime Minister of the Cape.
Beaufort West became the first municipality in South Africa on 3 February 1837 and had the country's first town hall. When the railroad reached the town in 1880 it became a marshaling yard and locomotive depot and today it is the largest town in the Karoo.
Professor Christiaan Barnard, the town’s most famous son, performed the first successful human-to-human heart transplant. He is honored in the local museum, which houses a display of awards presented to him and a replica of the original heart transplant theatre.
Beaufort West is the site of one of the largest migrations of mammals on record. In 1849, Sir John Fraser (son of the local Dutch Reformed Church minister) observed and famously documented a herd of Springbok that took three days to pass the town
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