Ostriches are very large, flightless birds that originate in Africa.

The Ostrich: Struthio camelus

Appearance and Physiology
Grown ostriches stand taller than a man, and may reach a height of as much as 8 feet tall. Much of this is made up of their long unfeathered neck and legs. They may weigh up to 350 pounds.

The male ostrich has relatively bright black and white plumage when comparted to the dull brown female. Aside from these differences, both genders are very similar. The ostrich is the only living bird with just two toes, one of which is much more developed than the other to act as a base for running. An ostrich may be able to run at up to 40 miles per hour, easily outrunning most predators. Ostriches also possess enviable stamina. The strong legs are also capable of delivering a powerful kick, that has been known to kill.

Ostriches have very acute senses. They have both keen sight and sensitive smell. These, combined with the high vantage point of the head enable to ostrich to frequently detect predators before they can come close.

Habitat and Range
Ostriches reside in the Savannah of southern Africa, typically in bushy areas. They live amongst the hooved animals that eat many of the same things that they do.

Ostriches are primarily vegetarian, but also eat small animals such as lizards or insects. Ostriches are famed for their desire to eat brightly coloured or shiny objects.

Ostriches live in small herds naturally, but when farmed are kept in great numbers. Ostriches are farmed widely today, for their feathers, their meat and their skin. Ostrich meat doesn't taste very exotic or interesting unfortunately. In the 19th century, when ostrich feathers were in fashion in Europe and North America, ostriches were driven close to extinction by hunters with guns.

The character of ostriches has been likened to that of camels. They are stubborn, and likely to abuse humans who approach too close. True violence is only likely when an attack is planned. Unlike some animal ostriches do not defend their young with their lives, instead they leave them to fend for themselves in the event of an attack.

Courtship is mostly the realm of the male ostrich, who seeks to attract a female. To do this, the neck and legs of the male brighten as blood surges to the surface, the male flaps his wings, stamps his feet and sways his head. After mating has taken place the male scratches out a nest in the dust, in which the female will lay her eggs. Incubation takes 6 weeks, during which both the parents share the duty of keeping the eggs warm and protecting them. Each egg weighs as much as 3 pounds, and have very strong shells. Young ostriches are able to outrun a human within hours of their hatching.

Having recently eaten ostrich meat in a fondue restaurant in Gatineau, Quebec, I feel the need to describe the experience for the uninitiated.

First of all, raw ostrich meat is a dark red colour, more like beef than any kind of poultry I've ever seen. It was brought to the table raw, along with a small grill for the eater's own use. The pile of raw ostrich meat had a little sign sticking out of it, made from a toothpick. The sign had a cartoon picture of an ostrich running in a field, in case the eater got confused as to what exactly the red meat was.

I was expecting it, despite the dark colour, to at least taste vaguely like chicken, or turkey, or some other type of poultry. But while cooking it on the little grill, I noticed it turning an even darker brown. The strip of meat had the appearance of a regular old steak. When I finally had the good fortune to bite into it, I was surprised at its sweetness and its tenderness.

It did not taste like bird. It didn't taste like cow, either, though. It had a wild game sort of sweetness that reminded me of the one time I'd eaten caribou meat. And although there were 4 or 5 other kinds of meat available on the table, we found ourselves at the end of the meal, fighting for the last pieces of ostrich meat.

I highly recommend the experience.

A distinctly piquant meat, Ostrich is rich in protein and remarkably low in fat with the average 100 grams comprising of approximately 30 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of fat. The low fat content makes it an ideal food for those with heart problems who still bear the need to consume red meat.

The texture is not unlike beef, although the grain of the meat is a little finer. Once it has been properly prepared, an Ostrich steak resembles cooked beef, just a little darker.

(I have several recipes which I will post in due course.)

Os"trich (?), n. [OE. ostriche, ostrice, OF. ostruche, ostruce, F. autruche, L. avis struthio; avis bird + struthio ostrich, fr. Gr. , fr. bird, sparrow. Cf. Aviary, Struthious.] [Formerly written also estrich.] Zool.

A large bird of the genus Struthio, of which Struthio camelus of Africa is the best known species. It has long and very strong legs, adapted for rapid running; only two toes; a long neck, nearly bare of feathers; and short wings incapable of flight. The adult male is about eight feet high.

⇒ The South African ostrich (Struthio australis) and the Asiatic ostrich are considered distinct species by some authors. Ostriches are now domesticated in South Africa in large numbers for the sake of their plumes. The body of the male is covered with elegant black plumose feathers, while the wings and tail furnish the most valuable white plumes.

Ostrich farm, a farm on which ostriches are bred for the sake of their feathers, oil, eggs, etc. -- Ostrich farming, the occupation of breeding ostriches for the sake of their feathers, etc. -- Ostrich fern Bot. a kind of fern (Onoclea Struthiopteris), the tall fronds of which grow in a circle from the rootstock. It is found in alluvial soil in Europe and North America.


© Webster 1913.

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