The ancient Roman encyclopaedist and philosopher Pliny the Elder once wrote that the ostrich, being profoundly stupid, sticks its head into a bush at the first sign of danger and considers itself invisible. Here's the truth about this magnificent, maligned bird.
- The ostrich is a member of the ratite family of birds, the largest living species of bird and lays the largest egg.
- Ostriches are the second fastest animals in the world and can run at 64km per hour, maintaining this speed for at least 30 minutes.
- Their long neck and legs keeps their head 1.8 to 2.75 meters (6 to 9 ft) above the ground, and their eyes are said to be the largest of any land vertebrate – 50 millimeters (2.0 in) in diameter; they can therefore perceive predators at a great distance.
- In the wild, ostriches can live to up to 60 years.
- Ostriches have no teeth and swallow small stones to aid their digestion and grind food in the gizzard. An adult ostrich carries about 1kg (2.2 lb) of stones in its stomach.
- An ostrich has 3 stomachs.
- An ostrich uses its wings for balance, communication, courtship and to protect its young.
- Ostriches can go without drinking for several days, using metabolic water and moisture in ingested plants.
- An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain.
- In their natural environment ostriches normally spend the winter months in pairs or alone. During breeding season and sometimes during extreme rainless periods ostriches live in nomadic groups of five to 50 birds, led by a top hen.
- Ostriches become sexually mature between the ages of two and four years; females mature about six months earlier than males.
- Eggs are laid early spring to autumn, weighing between 1kg (2.2lb) to 2kg (4.4lb).
- One ostrich egg equals up to 24 chicken eggs, and takes approximately 2 hours to boil.
- Ostrich’s skeletons and fossils have been found which date back over 120 million years – ostriches are a true dinosaur.
- Ostriches were almost wiped out in the 18th century due to hunting for feathers. By the middle of the 19th century, due to the extensive practice of ostrich farming the ostrich population increased. The movement changed to domesticating and plucking ostriches, instead of hunting. Ostriches have been successfully domesticated and are now farmed throughout the world, particularly in South Africa, for meat, feathers and leather.
- Ostriches produce the strongest commercially available leather, which is supple and has a distinctive quill pattern.
- Ostrich meat tastes similar to lean beef and is low in fat and cholesterol, as well as high in calcium, protein and iron.