Bo, also commonly referred to as Bo Town, is the third largest city in Sierra Leone by population (after Freetown and Kenema) and the largest city in the Southern Province. Bo is the capital and administrative center of Bo District. The city of Bo had a population of 149,957 in the 2004 census and has an estimated current population of about 175,000. Bo is an urban center, and lies approximately 160 miles (250 km) east south-east of Freetown, and about 44 miles (71 km) to Kenema. Bo is the leading financial, educational and economic center of Southern Sierra Leone. Bo was previously the second largest city in Sierra Leone by population, However, Kenema over took Bo in population after the 2015 Sierra Leone national census.
Bo is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in Sierra Leone. The city is home to a significant population of many of Sierra Leone's ethnic groups, with no single ethnic group forming a majority. Bo is the principal home of the Mende people, who form the plurality of the city's population. The Krio language is by far the most widely spoken language in Bo and is used as the primary language of communication in the city.
The city's population is religiously diverse, primarily among Muslims and Christians.
Centrally located, Bo lies on the main rail line east and south of Freetown which was closed in 1974. From 1930 until independence in 1961, it was the capital of the Protectorate of Sierra Leone. The city is the administrative centre of the Southern Province. After Freetown, Bo is the leading transportation, commercial, and educational centre of Sierra Leone. Bo began its modern development with the coming of the railroad in 1889 and became an educational center in 1906, when the Bo Government Secondary School was established.
The inhabitants of Bo are known for their resolve, resistance and hospitality. The town was named after its generosity. An elephant was killed close to what is now known as Bo Parking Ground. People from the surrounding villages came to receive their share. Because the meat was so large, the hunter spent days distributing it and the words "Bo- lor" (which in Mende language means "this is yours," with reference to the meat) was said so much that the elders and visitors decided to name the place Bo. "Bo-lor" in Mende also translates to "this is Bo."