You just got to love South Africa – we have something for everyone! Many people will come to see our “Big Five” (Buffalo, Rhino, Lion, Elephant and Leopard) and then, unexpectedly, while visiting the small Karoo town of Oudtshoorn, fall in love with those quirky looking ostriches!
You can of course see ostriches in the Kruger or Addo National Parks, in fact, they can be found in most of our Game Parks, you sometimes even see them on a road trip but, Oudtshoorn is the “ostrich capital” of the country.
The Ostrich Boom
Way back in about 1870, Oudtshoorn experienced an “ostrich boom” – this may seem hard to believe in this day and age, but back then, ostrich feathers were the height of fashion in Europe. Woman’s hats and dresses were decorated with these feathers and such was the demand, that the local Oudtshoorn feather merchants became “Barons” overnight. One can still see the many stately sandstone homes and buildings from that period in the town, a tourist attraction all on its own!
That Over the Top Feather Clutch Bag….
Ostrich feathers may not be such a fashion item any longer though I did notice that at the opening of Parliament last week, that the leader of the opposition, Helen Zille was sporting an ostrich feather clutch bag…. perhaps this will spark a “comeback” Shoes, handbags, purses and even jackets are made from ostrich leather…and then there is the benefit of eating their cholesterol-free meat….
Flying versus Sprinting
Ostriches are the world’s largest flightless birds, but forget about pitying them for not having the benefits of soaring over mountains like their cousins. Instead, they have been given the ability to out sprint most animals, including us poor humans. Who needs “flying wings” when one can run at on average at 50kmp or if need be, sprint up to 70kmp!!
Males do Funny Stuff…
The ostriches’ wings are not totally redundant though, when running at speed, they use them to help them change direction, sort of like a steering mechanism. The male ostrich also flaps his wings about in a “courtship ritual dance” when trying to get the attention of the love of his life…. quite hilarious and a great experience if you are lucky enough to catch him in the act.
I want those Legs!
What about those long skinny legs? Do not be deceived by their appearance, they are very powerful and, with one kick, can actually kill a human. So, although the ostrich may look a little silly, just remember, they have been known to take on even the most dangerous of predators and outsmart them with those very strong legs.
And those Eyelashes…..
The feature that I love the most about ostriches are their eyes – they are huge, measuring up to 5cm across, apparently their eyes are the largest of any land animal. And then there are the eyelashes…. what us poor mortals and in particular, we women would give to have those amazingly long eyelashes…..
Not for the Faint-hearted!
Last, but not least, ostriches lay the biggest eggs of any species of bird….up to 10 times bigger than the average hen’s egg. This is definitely one reason I do not yearn to be an ostrich, imagine laying an egg that big…
Oudtshoorn is a charming Karoo town where one can while away a couple of days and, although visiting an ostrich farm would be top of the agenda, there are many other attractions to keep you occupied. Click here to see more activities like visiting the Cango Caves or the Cango Wildlife Ranch and don’t forget about the meerkats – read about my wonderful experience with the meerkats here.
Have you been seen an ostrich or visited Oudtshoorn? I have visited Oudtshoorn quite a number of times and each time have found something new to experience, even did my first hot air balloon flight there – if you are visiting South Africa, put it on the list and if you are a local, well don’t bury your head in the sand… Oudtshoorn has a lot to offer!
PS For more Posts on my Personal A – Z of South Africa, click here