I love ostriches and luckily, when you're on safari, you won't have much difficulty seeing them. Wild ostriches live throughout Africa, mostly in the drier areas and at low elevations. There are 4 living sub-species and they all inhabit different parts of the continent.
The ostrich is the world's largest bird and it won't surprise you that it can't fly. But boy, can it run. It's large powerful legs can propel this huge beast to speeds of up to 45 miles (70km) an hour. Those powerful legs can also kick like a mule and kill a man, so it's best not to corner an ostrich. Just in case you do anger it, keep in mind that ostriches can only kick forward, not backwards.
The fact that the ostrich can run like the wind has made ostrich racing a popular sport, especially in South Africa. Riding an ostrich is on my list of top 50 things to do before I die. If I can't make it to Oudtshoorn, in the Karoo (the ostrich capital of the world), I could try my luck in Phoenix, Arizona at the Ostrich Festival that's held every March.
It's my unscientific opinion that the ostrich must be one of the most versatile animals in the world. Ostrich farms are very popular, you can find them as far afield as Texas, Israel and Namibia. Ostriches are farmed for their eggs among other things. One egg can easily make an omelet for a dozen hungry men. Their shells have been used to make ornaments and necklaces for thousands of years by many African tribes. The shells are also handy for storing water.
Ostrich skin makes great leather. I'm not sure if it's still the case, but any self respecting Latino man in Texas when I lived there a decade ago could be seen sporting a nice pair of ostrich cowboy boots. Ostrich leather is very strong, and easily recognized by the little black dots from where the feathers were plucked.
I apologize to vegetarians, but ostrich meat is really delicious. It's leaner than steak, but just as satisfying and has the same lovely dark red coloring. It can be tough, so it should not be overcooked. The South African Ostrich Business Chamber has plenty of recipes on their website.
Ostrich feathers were heavily favored by hat-loving Victorian ladies and this fad almost led to the birds extinction. But once it was discovered that ostriches could be successfully farmed, the pressure was off. These days ostrich feathers are still in demand for costumes, feather boas, center pieces and feather dusters.
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