A kick from an Ostrich is able to disembowel a human with a single blow
The Ostrich or Common Ostrich (Struthio camelus) is either one or two species of large flightless birds native to Africa, the only living member(s) of the genus Struthio, which is in the ratite family. Some analyses indicate that the Somali Ostrich may be better considered a full species separate from the Common Ostrich, but most taxonomists consider it to be a subspecies.
The ostrich shares the order Struthioniformes with the kiwis, emus, rheas, and cassowaries. It is distinctive in its appearance, with a long neck and legs, and can run at up to about 70 km/h (43 mph), the fastest land speed of any bird. The ostrich is the largest living species of bird and lays the largest eggs of any living bird (extinct elephant birds of Madagascar and the giant moa of New Zealand laid larger eggs).
The ostrich’s diet consists mainly of plant matter, though it also eats invertebrates. It lives in nomadic groups of 5 to 50 birds. When threatened, the ostrich will either hide itself by lying flat against the ground, or run away. If cornered, it can attack with a kick of its powerful legs. Mating patterns differ by geographical region, but territorial males fight for a harem of two to seven females.
The ostrich is farmed around the world, particularly for its feathers, which are decorative and are also used as feather dusters. Its skin is used for leather products and its meat is marketed commercially
Ostriches and humans
Ostriches have inspired cultures and civilizations for 5,000 years in Mesopotamia and Egypt. A statue of Arsinoe II of Egypt riding an ostrich was found in a tomb in Egypt. The Kalahari bushmen still use their eggs as water jugs.Hunter-gatherers in the Kalahari use ostrich eggshells as water containers in which they puncture a hole to enable them to be used as canteens. The presence of such eggshells with engraved hatched symbols dating from the Howiesons Poort period of the Middle Stone Age at Diepkloof Rock Shelter in South Africa suggests ostriches were an important part of human life as early as 60,000 BP.
Hunting and farming
In Roman times, there was a demand for ostriches to use in venatio games or cooking. They have been hunted and farmed for their feathers, which at various times have been popular for ornamentation in fashionable clothing (such as hats during the 19th century). Their skins are valued for their leather. In the 18th century they were almost hunted to extinction; farming for feathers began in the 19th century. At the start of the 20th century there were over 700,000 birds in captivity. The market for feathers collapsed after World War I, but commercial farming for feathers and later for skins and meat became widespread during the 1970s. Ostriches are so adaptable that they can be farmed in climates ranging from South Africa to Alaska.Ostriches were farmed for their feathers in South Africa beginning in the 19th century. According to Frank G. Carpenter, the English are credited with first taming ostriches outside Cape Town. Farmers captured baby ostriches and raised them successfully on their property, and were able to obtain a crop of feathers every seven to eight months instead of killing wild ostriches for their feathers. It is claimed that ostriches produce the strongest commercial leather.Ostrich meat tastes similar to lean beef and is low in fat and cholesterol, as well as high in calcium, protein and iron. Uncooked, it is dark red or cherry red, a little darker than beef.
Ostriches typically avoid humans in the wild, since they correctly assess humans as potential predators, and, if approached, often run away. However, ostriches may turn aggressive rather than run when threatened, especially when cornered, and may also attack when they feel the need to defend their offspring or territories. Similar behaviors are noted in captive or domesticated ostriches, which retain the same natural instincts and can occasionally respond aggressively to stress. When attacking a person, ostriches kick with their powerful feet, armed with long claws, which are capable of disemboweling or killing a person with a single blow. In one study of ostrich attacks, it was estimated that two to three attacks that result in serious injury or death occur each year in the area of Oudtshoorn, South Africa, where a large number of ostrich farms abut against both feral and wild ostrich populations.
A Jacksonville, Florida, man with an ostrich-drawn cart, circa 1911See also: List of racing forms#Animal racingIn some countries, people race each other on the back of ostriches. The practice is common in Africa and is relatively unusual elsewhere. The ostriches are ridden in the same way as horses with special saddles, reins, and bits. However, they are harder to manage than horses.The racing is also a part of modern South African culture. Within the United States, a tourist attraction in Jacksonville, Florida called ‘The Ostrich Farm’ opened up in 1892; it and its races became one of the most famous early attractions in the history of Florida.In the United States, Chandler, Arizona hosts the annual ‘Ostrich Festival’ which features ostrich races. Racing has also occurred at many other locations such as Virginia City in Nevada, Canterbury Park in Minnesota, Prairie Meadows in Iowa, and Ellis Park in Kentucky.