Ostrich
Overview
The Ostrich is one or two species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 of large flightless bird
Flightless bird
Flightless birds are birds which lack the ability to fly, relying instead on their ability to run or swim. They are thought to have evolved from flying ancestors. There are about forty species in existence today, the best known being the ostrich, emu, cassowary, rhea, kiwi, and penguin...

s native to Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, the only living member(s) of the genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 Struthio
Struthio
Struthio is a genus of bird in the order Struthioniformes.-Species:There are ten known species from this genus, of which eight are extinct. There are five more possible species of which trace fossils have been found...

. Some analyses indicate that the Somali Ostrich
Somali Ostrich
The Somali Ostrich is a large flightless bird, a distinct subspecies, sometimes considered a full species, of the Ostrich.-Taxonomy:...

 may be better considered a full species apart from the Common Ostrich, but most taxonomists consider it to be a subspecies.

Ostriches share the order
Order (biology)
In scientific classification used in biology, the order is# a taxonomic rank used in the classification of organisms. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, family, genus, and species, with order fitting in between class and family...

 Struthioniformes with the kiwi
Kiwi
Kiwi are flightless birds endemic to New Zealand, in the genus Apteryx and family Apterygidae.At around the size of a domestic chicken, kiwi are by far the smallest living ratites and lay the largest egg in relation to their body size of any species of bird in the world...

s, emus, and other ratite
Ratite
A ratite is any of a diverse group of large, flightless birds of Gondwanan origin, most of them now extinct. Unlike other flightless birds, the ratites have no keel on their sternum—hence the name from the Latin ratis...

s. It is distinctive in its appearance, with a long neck and legs and the ability to run at maximum speeds of about 70 kilometres per hour (43.5 mph), the top land speed of any bird.
Encyclopedia
The Ostrich is one or two species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 of large flightless bird
Flightless bird
Flightless birds are birds which lack the ability to fly, relying instead on their ability to run or swim. They are thought to have evolved from flying ancestors. There are about forty species in existence today, the best known being the ostrich, emu, cassowary, rhea, kiwi, and penguin...

s native to Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, the only living member(s) of the genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 Struthio
Struthio
Struthio is a genus of bird in the order Struthioniformes.-Species:There are ten known species from this genus, of which eight are extinct. There are five more possible species of which trace fossils have been found...

. Some analyses indicate that the Somali Ostrich
Somali Ostrich
The Somali Ostrich is a large flightless bird, a distinct subspecies, sometimes considered a full species, of the Ostrich.-Taxonomy:...

 may be better considered a full species apart from the Common Ostrich, but most taxonomists consider it to be a subspecies.

Ostriches share the order
Order (biology)
In scientific classification used in biology, the order is# a taxonomic rank used in the classification of organisms. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, family, genus, and species, with order fitting in between class and family...

 Struthioniformes with the kiwi
Kiwi
Kiwi are flightless birds endemic to New Zealand, in the genus Apteryx and family Apterygidae.At around the size of a domestic chicken, kiwi are by far the smallest living ratites and lay the largest egg in relation to their body size of any species of bird in the world...

s, emus, and other ratite
Ratite
A ratite is any of a diverse group of large, flightless birds of Gondwanan origin, most of them now extinct. Unlike other flightless birds, the ratites have no keel on their sternum—hence the name from the Latin ratis...

s. It is distinctive in its appearance, with a long neck and legs and the ability to run at maximum speeds of about 70 kilometres per hour (43.5 mph), the top land speed of any bird. The Ostrich is the largest living species
Largest organisms
The largest organism found on Earth can be measured using a variety of methods. It could be defined as the largest by volume, mass, height or length. Some organisms group together to form a superorganism, though this cannot truly be classed as one large organism...

 of bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

 and lays the largest egg of any living bird (extinct elephant bird
Elephant bird
Elephant birds are an extinct family of flightless birds found only on the island of Madagascar and comprising the genera Aepyornis and Mullerornis.-Description:...

s of Madagascar and the giant moa
Giant moa
The giant moa is an extinct genus of ratite birds belonging to the moa family. Like all ratites it was a member of the order Struthioniformes. The Struthioniformes are flightless birds with a sternum without a keel. They also have a distinctive palate...

 of New Zealand did lay larger eggs).

The diet of Ostriches mainly consists of plant matter, though it also eats invertebrates. It lives in nomadic groups which contain between five and fifty birds. When threatened, the Ostrich will either hide itself by lying flat against the ground, or will run away. If cornered, it can attack with a kick from its powerful legs. Mating patterns differ by geographical region, but territorial males fight for a harem of two to seven females. These fights usually last just minutes, but they can easily cause death through slamming their heads into opponents.

The Ostrich is farmed around the world, particularly for its feathers, which are decorative and are also used as feather duster
Feather duster
A feather duster is an implement used for cleaning. It consists typically of a wooden-dowel handle and feathers from either the male or female ostrich bird that are wound onto the handle by a wrapped wire. Dusters vary in size by are most often between 14" and 32" in total length. Some dusters...

s. Its skin is used for leather
Leather
Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.-Forms:...

 products and its meat marketed commercially.

Description

Ostriches usually weigh from 63 to 130 kg (138.9 to 286.6 lb), with exceptional male Ostriches weighing up to 156.8 kilograms (345.7 lb). The feathers of adult males are mostly black, with white primaries and a white tail. However, the tail of one subspecies is buff
Buff (colour)
Buff is a pale yellow-brown colour that got its name from the colour of buff leather.Displayed on the right is the colour buff.EtymologyAccording to the Oxford English Dictionary, buff as a descriptor of a colour was first used in the London Gazette of 1686, describing a uniform to be "A Red Coat...

. Females and young males are greyish-brown and white. The head and neck of both male and female Ostriches is nearly bare, with a thin layer of down
Down feather
The down of birds is a layer of fine feathers found under the tougher exterior feathers. Very young birds are clad only in down. Powder down is a specialized type of down found only in a few groups of birds. Down is a fine thermal insulator and padding, used in goods such as jackets, bedding,...

. The skin of the females neck and thighs is pinkish gray, while the male's is blue-gray, gray or pink dependent on subspecies.

The long neck and legs keep their head 1.8 to 2.75 m (5.9 to 9 ft) above the ground, and their eyes are said to be the largest of any land vertebrate – 50 millimetres (2 in) in diameter; they can therefore perceive predators at a great distance. The eyes are shaded from sun light falling from above.

Their skin varies in colour depending on the sub-species. The strong legs of the Ostrich are unfeathered and show bare skin, with the tarsus (the lowest upright part of the leg) being covered in scales – red in the male, black in the female. The bird has just two toes on each foot (most birds have four), with the nail
Nail (anatomy)
A nail is a horn-like envelope covering the dorsal aspect of the terminal phalanges of fingers and toes in humans, most non-human primates, and a few other mammals. Nails are similar to claws, which are found on numerous other animals....

 on the larger, inner toe resembling a hoof
Hoof
A hoof , plural hooves or hoofs , is the tip of a toe of an ungulate mammal, strengthened by a thick horny covering. The hoof consists of a hard or rubbery sole, and a hard wall formed by a thick nail rolled around the tip of the toe. The weight of the animal is normally borne by both the sole...

. The outer toe has no nail. The reduced number of toes is an adaptation that appears to aid in running. Ostriches can run at over 70 kilometres per hour (43 mph) for up to 30 minutes. The wings reach a span of about 2 metres (7 ft) and are used in mating displays and to shade chicks. The feathers lack the tiny hooks that lock together the smooth external feathers of flying birds, and so are soft and fluffy and serve as insulation. They have 50-60 tail feathers, and their wings have 16 primary, four alular and 20-23 secondary feathers. The Ostrich's sternum
Sternum
The sternum or breastbone is a long flat bony plate shaped like a capital "T" located anteriorly to the heart in the center of the thorax...

 is flat, lacking the keel
Keel (bird)
A keel or carina in bird anatomy is an extension of the sternum which runs axially along the midline of the sternum and extends outward, perpendicular to the plane of the ribs. The keel provides an anchor to which a bird's wing muscles attach, thereby providing adequate leverage for flight...

 to which wing muscles attach in flying birds. The beak
Beak
The beak, bill or rostrum is an external anatomical structure of birds which is used for eating and for grooming, manipulating objects, killing prey, fighting, probing for food, courtship and feeding young...

 is flat and broad, with a rounded tip. Like all ratites, the Ostrich has no crop, and it also lacks a gallbladder
Gallbladder
In vertebrates the gallbladder is a small organ that aids mainly in fat digestion and concentrates bile produced by the liver. In humans the loss of the gallbladder is usually easily tolerated....

. They have three stomachs, and the caecum is 71 centimetres (28 in) long. Unlike all other living birds, the Ostrich secretes urine separately from faeces. Contrary to all other birds who store the urine and faeces combined in the coprodeum, they store the faeces in the terminal rectum. They also have unique pubic bones that are fused to hold their gut. Unlike most birds the males have a copulatory organ, which is retractable and 8 inches (20.3 cm) long. Their palate
Palate
The palate is the roof of the mouth in humans and other mammals. It separates the oral cavity from the nasal cavity. A similar structure is found in crocodilians, but, in most other tetrapods, the oral and nasal cavities are not truly separate. The palate is divided into two parts, the anterior...

 differs from other ratites in that the sphenoid
Sphenoid bone
The sphenoid bone is an unpaired bone situated at the base of the skull in front of the temporal bone and basilar part of the occipital bone.The sphenoid bone is one of the seven bones that articulate to form the orbit...

 and palatal bones are unconnected.

At sexual maturity (two to four years), male Ostriches can be from 1.8 metre in height, while female Ostriches range from 1.7 metre. During the first year of life, chicks grow about 25 centimetres (9.8 in) per month. At one year of age, Ostriches weigh around 45 kilograms (99.2 lb). Their lifespan is up to 40 or 45 years.

A female ostrich can determine her own eggs amongst others in a communal nest.

Taxonomy

The Ostrich was originally described by Linnaeus
Carolus Linnaeus
Carl Linnaeus , also known after his ennoblement as , was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology...

 in his 18th-century work, Systema Naturae
Systema Naturae
The book was one of the major works of the Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician Carolus Linnaeus. The first edition was published in 1735...

under its current binomial name
Binomial nomenclature
Binomial nomenclature is a formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts, both of which use Latin grammatical forms, although they can be based on words from other languages...

. Its scientific name is derived from Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, struthio meaning "Ostrich" and camelus meaning "camel", alluding to its dry habitat.

The Ostrich belongs to the ratite
Ratite
A ratite is any of a diverse group of large, flightless birds of Gondwanan origin, most of them now extinct. Unlike other flightless birds, the ratites have no keel on their sternum—hence the name from the Latin ratis...

 order
Order (biology)
In scientific classification used in biology, the order is# a taxonomic rank used in the classification of organisms. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, family, genus, and species, with order fitting in between class and family...

 Struthioniformes. Other members include rheas
Rhea (bird)
The rheas are ratites in the genus Rhea, native to South America. There are two existing species: the Greater or American Rhea and the Lesser or Darwin's Rhea. The genus name was given in 1752 by Paul Möhring and adopted as the English common name. Möhring's reason for choosing this name, from the...

, emu
Emu
The Emu Dromaius novaehollandiae) is the largest bird native to Australia and the only extant member of the genus Dromaius. It is the second-largest extant bird in the world by height, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. There are three subspecies of Emus in Australia...

s, cassowaries
Cassowary
The cassowaries are ratites, very large flightless birds in the genus Casuarius native to the tropical forests of New Guinea, nearby islands and northeastern Australia. There are three extant species recognized today...

, moa
Moa
The moa were eleven species of flightless birds endemic to New Zealand. The two largest species, Dinornis robustus and Dinornis novaezelandiae, reached about in height with neck outstretched, and weighed about ....

, kiwi
Kiwi
Kiwi are flightless birds endemic to New Zealand, in the genus Apteryx and family Apterygidae.At around the size of a domestic chicken, kiwi are by far the smallest living ratites and lay the largest egg in relation to their body size of any species of bird in the world...

 and the largest bird ever, the now-extinct Elephant Bird
Elephant bird
Elephant birds are an extinct family of flightless birds found only on the island of Madagascar and comprising the genera Aepyornis and Mullerornis.-Description:...

 (Aepyornis). However, the classification of the ratites as a single order has always been questioned, with the alternative classification restricting the Struthioniformes to the Ostrich lineage and elevating the other groups. Presently, molecular evidence is equivocal while paleobiogeographical
Biogeography
Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species , organisms, and ecosystems in space and through geological time. Organisms and biological communities vary in a highly regular fashion along geographic gradients of latitude, elevation, isolation and habitat area...

 and paleontological
Paleontology
Paleontology "old, ancient", ὄν, ὀντ- "being, creature", and λόγος "speech, thought") is the study of prehistoric life. It includes the study of fossils to determine organisms' evolution and interactions with each other and their environments...

 considerations are slightly in favor of the multi-order arrangement.

Subspecies

Five subspecies
Subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

 are recognized:
  • 'Common Ostrich (S. struthio) complex':
    • S. c. australis, Southern Ostrich, southern Africa
      Southern Africa
      Southern Africa is the southernmost region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. Within the region are numerous territories, including the Republic of South Africa ; nowadays, the simpler term South Africa is generally reserved for the country in English.-UN...

      . It is found south of the Zambezi
      Zambezi
      The Zambezi is the fourth-longest river in Africa, and the largest flowing into the Indian Ocean from Africa. The area of its basin is , slightly less than half that of the Nile...

       and Cunene
      Cunene River
      The Cunene River or Kunene River is a river in Southern Africa. It flows from the Angola highlands south to the border with Namibia. It then flows west along the border until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the few perennial rivers in the region. It is about long, with a drainage...

       rivers. It was once farmed for its feathers in the Little Karoo area of Cape Province
      Cape Province
      The Province of the Cape of Good Hope was a province in the Union of South Africa and subsequently the Republic of South Africa...

      .
    • S. c. camelus, North African Ostrich, or Red-necked Ostrich, North Africa
      North Africa
      North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

      . Historically it was the most widespread subspecies, ranging from Ethiopia
      Ethiopia
      Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

       and Sudan
      Sudan
      Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

       in the east throughout the Sahel
      Sahel
      The Sahel is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic zone of transition between the Sahara desert in the North and the Sudanian Savannas in the south.It stretches across the North African continent between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea....

       to Senegal
      Senegal
      Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

       and Mauritania
      Mauritania
      Mauritania is a country in the Maghreb and West Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Western Sahara in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast, and by Senegal in the southwest...

       in the west, and north to Egypt
      Egypt
      Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

       and southern Morocco
      Morocco
      Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

      , respectively. It has now disappeared from large parts of this range, and it only remains in 6 of the 18 countries where it originally occurred, leading some to consider it Critically Endangered
      Critically Endangered
      Critically Endangered is the highest risk category assigned by the IUCN Red List for wild species. Critically Endangered means that a species' numbers have decreased, or will decrease, by 80% within three generations....

      . It is the largest subspecies, at 2.74 metres (9 ft) in height and up to 154 kilograms (339.5 lb) in weight. The neck is pinkish-red, the plumage of males is black and white, and the plumage of females is grey.
    • S. c. massaicus, Masai Ostrich, East Africa
      East Africa
      East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easterly region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. In the UN scheme of geographic regions, 19 territories constitute Eastern Africa:...

      . It has some small feathers on its head, and its neck and thighs are pink. During the mating season, the male's neck and thighs become brighter. Their range is essentially limited to southern Kenya
      Kenya
      Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

       and eastern Tanzania
      Tanzania
      The United Republic of Tanzania is a country in East Africa bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. The country's eastern borders lie on the Indian Ocean.Tanzania is a state...

       and Ethiopia
      Ethiopia
      Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

       and parts of Southern Somalia
      Somalia
      Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...

      .
    • S. c. syriacus, Arabian Ostrich
      Arabian Ostrich
      The Middle Eastern Ostrich or Arabian Ostrich is an extinct subspecies of the ostrich which once lived on the Arabian Peninsula and in the Near East. Its range seems to have been continuous in prehistoric times, but with the drying-up of the Arabian Peninsula, it disappeared from the inhospitable...

      or Middle Eastern Ostrich, Middle East
      Middle East
      The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

      . Was formerly very common in the Arabian Peninsula
      Arabian Peninsula
      The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

      , Syria
      Syria
      Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

      , and Iraq
      Iraq
      Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

      ; it became extinct around 1966.

  • S. c. molybdophanes, Somali Ostrich
    Somali Ostrich
    The Somali Ostrich is a large flightless bird, a distinct subspecies, sometimes considered a full species, of the Ostrich.-Taxonomy:...

    , southern Ethiopia
    Ethiopia
    Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

    , northeastern Kenya
    Kenya
    Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

    , and Somalia
    Somalia
    Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...

    . The neck and thighs are grey-blue, and during the mating season, the male's neck and thighs become brighter and bluer. The females are more brown than those of other subspecies. It generally lives in pairs or alone, rather than in flocks. Its range overlaps with S. c. massaicus in northeastern Kenya.

Some analyses indicate that the Somali Ostrich may be better considered a full species, but there is no consensus among experts about this. The Tree of Life Project
Tree of Life Web Project
The Tree of Life Web Project is an ongoing Internet project providing information about the diversity and phylogeny of life on Earth. This collaborative peer reviewed project began in 1995, and is written by biologists from around the world....

 and IOC
Birds of the World: Recommended English Names
Birds of the World: Recommended English Names is a paperback book, written by Frank Gill and Minturn Wright on behalf of the International Ornithological Congress. The book is an attempt to produce a standardised set of English names for all bird species, and it is the product of a project set in...

 recognize it as a different species, but The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World
The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World
The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World is a book by Jim Clements which presents a list of the bird species of the world.It is currently in its sixth edition , and is being published by Cornell University Press. Previous editions were published by the author's own imprint, Ibis Publishing. An...

, Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World
Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World
The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World is a book by Richard Howard and Alick Moore which presents a list of the bird species of the world...

and BirdLife International
BirdLife International
BirdLife International is a global Partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources...

 do not. As of 2010 BirdLife International is reviewing the proposed split. Mitochondrial DNA
Mitochondrial DNA
Mitochondrial DNA is the DNA located in organelles called mitochondria, structures within eukaryotic cells that convert the chemical energy from food into a form that cells can use, adenosine triphosphate...

 haplotype
Haplotype
A haplotype in genetics is a combination of alleles at adjacent locations on the chromosome that are transmitted together...

 comparisons suggest that it diverged from the other Ostriches not quite four mya due to formation of the Great Rift Valley
Great Rift Valley
The Great Rift Valley is a name given in the late 19th century by British explorer John Walter Gregory to the continuous geographic trench, approximately in length, that runs from northern Syria in Southwest Asia to central Mozambique in South East Africa...

. Hybridization with the subspecies that evolved southwestwards of its range, S. c. massaicus, has apparently been prevented from occurring on a significant scale by ecological separation, the Somali Ostrich preferring bushland where it browses middle-height vegetation for food while the Masai Ostrich is, like the other subspecies, a grazing
Grazing
Grazing generally describes a type of feeding, in which a herbivore feeds on plants , and also on other multicellular autotrophs...

 bird of the open savanna
Savanna
A savanna, or savannah, is a grassland ecosystem characterized by the trees being sufficiently small or widely spaced so that the canopy does not close. The open canopy allows sufficient light to reach the ground to support an unbroken herbaceous layer consisting primarily of C4 grasses.Some...

 and miombo
Miombo
Miombo is the Swahili word for Brachystegia, a genus of tree comprising a large number of species. Miombo woodland is classified in the tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome...

habitat.

The population from Río de Oro
Río de Oro
Río de Oro , is, with Saguia el-Hamra, one of the two territories that formed the Spanish province of Spanish Sahara after 1969; it was originally taken as a Spanish colonial possession in the late 19th century...

 was once separated as Struthio camelus spatzi because its eggshell pores were shaped like a teardrop and not round. However, as there is considerable variation of this character and there were no other differences between these birds and adjacent populations of S. c. camelus, the separation is no longer considered valid. This population disappeared in the latter half of the 20th century. There were 19th century reports of the existence of small Ostriches in North Africa; these are referred to as Levaillant's Ostrich (Struthio bidactylus) but remain a hypothetical form not supported by material evidence.

Evolution

The earliest fossil of Ostrich-like birds is the Palaeotis
Palaeotis
Palaeotis is a genus of paleognath bird from the middle Eocene epoch of central Europe. One species is known, Paleotis weigelti. The holotype specimen is a fossil tarsometatarsus and phalanx. Lambrect described it as an extinct bustard , and gave it its consequent name . After a suggestion by...

living near the Asiatic steppes, from the Middle Eocene
Eocene
The Eocene Epoch, lasting from about 56 to 34 million years ago , is a major division of the geologic timescale and the second epoch of the Paleogene Period in the Cenozoic Era. The Eocene spans the time from the end of the Palaeocene Epoch to the beginning of the Oligocene Epoch. The start of the...

, a middle-sized flightless bird that was originally believed to be a bustard
Bustard
Bustards, including floricans and korhaans, are large terrestrial birds mainly associated with dry open country and steppes in the Old World...

. Apart from this enigmatic bird, the fossil record of the Ostriches continues with several species of the modern genus Struthio which are known from the Early Miocene
Miocene
The Miocene is a geological epoch of the Neogene Period and extends from about . The Miocene was named by Sir Charles Lyell. Its name comes from the Greek words and and means "less recent" because it has 18% fewer modern sea invertebrates than the Pliocene. The Miocene follows the Oligocene...

 onwards. While the relationship of the African species is comparatively straightforward, a large number of Asian species of Ostrich have been described from fragmentary remains, and their interrelationships and how they relate to the African Ostriches is confusing. In China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Ostriches are known to have become extinct only around or even after the end of the last ice age; images of Ostriches have been found there on prehistoric pottery and petroglyph
Petroglyph
Petroglyphs are pictogram and logogram images created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, and abrading. Outside North America, scholars often use terms such as "carving", "engraving", or other descriptions of the technique to refer to such images...

s. There are also records of Ostriches being sighted on islands of the Indian Ocean and when discovered on the island of Madagascar the sailors of the 18th century referred to them as Sea Ostriches, although this has never been confirmed.

Several of these fossil forms are ichnotaxa (that is, classified according to the organism's footprints or other trace rather than its body) and their association with those described from distinctive bones is contentious and in need of revision pending more good material.
  • Struthio coppensi
    Struthio coppensi
    Struthio coppensi is an extinct species of ratite bird from the Miocene of Namibia....

    (Early Miocene of Elizabethfeld, Namibia)
  • Struthio linxiaensis
    Struthio linxiaensis
    Struthio linxiaensis is an extinct species of ratite from the Miocene of China....

    (Liushu Late Miocene of Yangwapuzijifang, China)
  • Struthio orlovi
    Struthio orlovi
    Struthio orlovi is an extinct species of ratite bird from the Miocene of Moldavia....

    (Late Miocene of Moldavia)
  • Struthio karingarabensis (Late Miocene - Early Pliocene of SW and CE Africa) - oospecies
    Trace fossil classification
    Trace fossils are classified in various ways for different purposes. Traces can be classified taxonomically , ethologically , and toponomically, that is, according to their relationship to the surrounding sedimentary layers...

    (?)
  • Struthio kakesiensis (Laetolil Early Pliocene of Laetoli, Tanzania) - oospecies
  • Struthio wimani
    Struthio wimani
    Struthio wimani is an extinct species of ratite bird from the Pliocene of China....

    (Early Pliocene of China and Mongolia)
  • Struthio daberasensis (Early - Middle Pliocene of Namibia) - oospecies
  • Struthio brachydactylus (Pliocene of Ukraine)
  • Struthio chersonensis (Pliocene of SE Europe to WC Asia) - oospecies
  • Asian Ostrich
    Asian Ostrich
    The Asian Ostrich, Struthio asiaticus, was an ostrich found in the Pliocene from Central Asia to China.In China, ostriches are known to have become extinct only around or even after the end of the last ice age; images of ostriches have been found there on prehistoric pottery and as petroglyphs...

    , Struthio asiaticus (Early Pliocene - Late Pleistocene of Central Asia to China ?and Morocco)
  • Giant Ostrich
    Giant Ostrich
    Struthio dmanisensis, is an extinct Eurasian species of ratite ostrich which lived in the Late Pliocene to the Early Pleistocene of Georgia....

    , Struthio dmanisensis (Late Pliocene/Early Pleistocene of Dmanisi
    Dmanisi
    Dmanisi is a townlet and archaeological site in Kvemo Kartli region of Georgia approximately 93 km southwest of the nation’s capital Tbilisi in the river valley of Mashavera.- History :...

    , Georgia)
  • Struthio oldawayi (Early Pleistocene of Tanzania) - probably subspecies of S. camelus
  • Struthio anderssoni - oospecies (?)

Distribution and habitat

Ostriches formerly occupied Africa north and south of the Sahara
Sahara
The Sahara is the world's second largest desert, after Antarctica. At over , it covers most of Northern Africa, making it almost as large as Europe or the United States. The Sahara stretches from the Red Sea, including parts of the Mediterranean coasts, to the outskirts of the Atlantic Ocean...

, East Africa, Africa south of the rain forest belt, and much of Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

. Today Ostriches prefer open land and are native to the savanna
Savanna
A savanna, or savannah, is a grassland ecosystem characterized by the trees being sufficiently small or widely spaced so that the canopy does not close. The open canopy allows sufficient light to reach the ground to support an unbroken herbaceous layer consisting primarily of C4 grasses.Some...

s and Sahel
Sahel
The Sahel is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic zone of transition between the Sahara desert in the North and the Sudanian Savannas in the south.It stretches across the North African continent between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea....

 of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, both north and south of the equatorial forest zone. In Southwest Africa they inhabit the semidesert or true desert. They rarely go above 100 metres (328.1 ft). The Arabian Ostrich
Arabian Ostrich
The Middle Eastern Ostrich or Arabian Ostrich is an extinct subspecies of the ostrich which once lived on the Arabian Peninsula and in the Near East. Its range seems to have been continuous in prehistoric times, but with the drying-up of the Arabian Peninsula, it disappeared from the inhospitable...

es in the Near and Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 were hunted to extinction by the middle of the 20th century.

Social and seasonal behaviour

Ostriches normally spend the winter months in pairs or alone. Only 16 percent of Ostrich sightings were of more than two birds. During breeding season and sometimes during extreme rainless periods Ostriches live in nomad
Nomad
Nomadic people , commonly known as itinerants in modern-day contexts, are communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but...

ic groups of five to 50 birds (led by a top hen) that often travel together with other grazing
Grazing
Grazing generally describes a type of feeding, in which a herbivore feeds on plants , and also on other multicellular autotrophs...

 animals, such as zebra
Zebra
Zebras are several species of African equids united by their distinctive black and white stripes. Their stripes come in different patterns unique to each individual. They are generally social animals that live in small harems to large herds...

s or antelope
Antelope
Antelope is a term referring to many even-toed ungulate species indigenous to various regions in Africa and Eurasia. Antelopes comprise a miscellaneous group within the family Bovidae, encompassing those old-world species that are neither cattle, sheep, buffalo, bison, nor goats...

s. Ostriches are diurnal, but may be active on moonlit nights. They are most active early and late in the day.
The male ostrich territory is between 2 and 20 km² (0.77220431718507 and 7.7 sqmi).

With their acute eyesight and hearing, Ostriches can sense predators such as lion
Lion
The lion is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger...

s from far away. When being pursued by a predator, they have been known to reach speeds in excess of 70 kilometres per hour (43.5 mph), and can maintain a steady speed of 50 kilometres per hour (31.1 mph), which makes the Ostrich the world's fastest two-legged animal. When lying down and hiding from predators, the birds lay their heads and necks flat on the ground, making them appear as a mound of earth from a distance. This even works for the males, as they hold their wings and tail low so that the heat haze of the hot, dry air that often occurs in their habitat aids in making them appear as a nondescript dark lump.

When threatened, Ostriches run away, but they can cause serious injury and death with kicks from their powerful legs. Their legs can only kick forward. Contrary to popular belief, Ostriches do not bury their heads in sand
Ostrich effect
In behavioral finance, the ostrich effect is the avoidance of apparently risky financial situations by pretending they do not exist. The name comes from the common legend that ostriches bury their heads in the sand to avoid danger....

. This myth likely began with Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 (AD 23-79), who wrote that Ostriches "imagine, when they have thrust their head and neck into a bush, that the whole of their body is concealed."

Feeding

They mainly feed on seeds, shrubs, grass, fruit and flowers; occasionally they also eat insects such as locust
Locust
Locusts are the swarming phase of short-horned grasshoppers of the family Acrididae. These are species that can breed rapidly under suitable conditions and subsequently become gregarious and migratory...

s. Lacking teeth, they swallow pebbles that act as gastrolith
Gastrolith
A gastrolith, also called a stomach stone or gizzard stones, is a rock held inside a gastrointestinal tract. Gastroliths are retained in the muscular gizzard and used to grind food in animals lacking suitable grinding teeth. The grain size depends upon the size of the animal and the gastrolith's...

s to grind food in the gizzard
Gizzard
The gizzard, also referred to as the ventriculus, gastric mill, and gigerium, is an organ found in the digestive tract of some animals, including birds, reptiles, earthworms and some fish. This specialized stomach constructed of thick, muscular walls is used for grinding up food; often rocks are...

. An adult Ostrich carries about 1 kilograms (2.2 lb) of stones in its stomach. When eating, they will fill their gullet with food, which is in turn passed down their esophagus in the form of a ball called a bolus
Bolus (digestion)
In digestion, a bolus is a mass of food that has been chewed at the point of swallowing. Once a bolus reaches the stomach, digestion begins....

. The bolus may be as much as 210 millilitre. After passing through the neck (there is no crop
Crop (anatomy)
A crop is a thin-walled expanded portion of the alimentary tract used for the storage of food prior to digestion that is found in many animals, including gastropods, earthworms, leeches, insects, birds, and even some dinosaurs.- Bees :Cropping is used by bees to temporarily store nectar of flowers...

) the food enters the gizzard
Gizzard
The gizzard, also referred to as the ventriculus, gastric mill, and gigerium, is an organ found in the digestive tract of some animals, including birds, reptiles, earthworms and some fish. This specialized stomach constructed of thick, muscular walls is used for grinding up food; often rocks are...

 and is worked on by the aforementioned pebbles. The gizzard can hold as much as 1300 g (45.9 oz). Ostriches can go without drinking for several days, using metabolic water
Metabolic water
Metabolic water refers to water created inside a living organism through their metabolism, by oxidizing energy-containing substances in their food...

 and moisture in ingested plants, but they enjoy liquid water and frequently take baths where it is available.

Ostriches can tolerate a wide range of temperatures. In much of their habitat, temperatures vary as much as 40 C-change between night and day. Their temperature control mechanism relies on action by the bird, which uses its wings to cover the naked skin of the upper legs and flanks to conserve heat, or leaves these areas bare to release heat.

Reproduction

Ostriches become sexually mature
Sexual maturity
Sexual maturity is the age or stage when an organism can reproduce. It is sometimes considered synonymous with adulthood, though the two are distinct...

 when they are 2 to 4 years old; females mature about six months earlier than males. The species is iteroparous, with the mating season beginning in March or April and ending sometime before September. The mating process differs in different geographical regions. Territorial
Territory (animal)
In ethology the term territory refers to any sociographical area that an animal of a particular species consistently defends against conspecifics...

 males typically hiss and use other sounds to claim victory over a harem
Harem (zoology)
The term harem is used in zoology to describe the social organization of certain herbivore species, such as those in the Hominidae and Equidae families, into groups of females and young surrounding a single dominant male...

 of two to seven hens. The successful male will then be allowed to breed with all the females in an area, but will only form a pair bond with the dominant female.

The cock performs with his wings, alternating wing beats, until he attracts a mate. They will go to the mating area and he will maintain privacy by driving away all intruders. They graze until their behaviour is synchronized, then the feeding becomes secondary and the process takes on a ritualistic appearance. The cock will then excitedly flap alternate wings again, and start poking on the ground with his bill. He will then violently flap his wings to symbolically clear out a nest in the soil. Then, while the hen runs a circle around him with lowered wings, he will wind his head in a spiral motion. She will drop to the ground and he will mount for copulation.
Ostriches are oviparous
Egg (biology)
An egg is an organic vessel in which an embryo first begins to develop. In most birds, reptiles, insects, molluscs, fish, and monotremes, an egg is the zygote, resulting from fertilization of the ovum, which is expelled from the body and permitted to develop outside the body until the developing...

. The females will lay their fertilized eggs
Egg (biology)
An egg is an organic vessel in which an embryo first begins to develop. In most birds, reptiles, insects, molluscs, fish, and monotremes, an egg is the zygote, resulting from fertilization of the ovum, which is expelled from the body and permitted to develop outside the body until the developing...

 in a single communal nest, a simple pit, 30 to 60 cm (11.8 to 23.6 in) deep and 3 metres (9.8 ft) wide, scraped in the ground by the male. The dominant female lays her eggs first, and when it is time to cover them for incubation she discards extra eggs from the weaker females, leaving about 20 in most cases. Ostrich eggs are the largest of all eggs (and by extension, the yolk
Egg yolk
An egg yolk is a part of an egg which feeds the developing embryo. The egg yolk is suspended in the egg white by one or two spiral bands of tissue called the chalazae...

 is the largest single cell
Cell (biology)
The cell is the basic structural and functional unit of all known living organisms. It is the smallest unit of life that is classified as a living thing, and is often called the building block of life. The Alberts text discusses how the "cellular building blocks" move to shape developing embryos....

), though they are actually the smallest eggs relative to the size of the adult bird. — on average they are 15 centimetres (5.9 in) long, 13 centimetres (5.1 in) wide, and weigh 1.4 kilograms (3.1 lb), over 20 times the weight of a chicken
Chicken
The chicken is a domesticated fowl, a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl. As one of the most common and widespread domestic animals, and with a population of more than 24 billion in 2003, there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird...

's egg. They are glossy cream-coloured, with thick shells marked by small pits. The eggs are incubated by the females by day and by the males by night. This uses the colouration of the two sexes to escape detection of the nest, as the drab female blends in with the sand, while the black male is nearly undetectable in the night. The incubation
Avian incubation
Incubation refers to the process by which certain oviparous animals hatch their eggs, and to the development of the embryo within the egg. The most vital factor of incubation is the constant temperature required for its development over a specific period. Especially in domestic fowl, the act of...

 period is 35 to 45 days. Typically, the male defends the hatchlings and teaches them to feed, although males and females cooperate in rearing chicks. The survival rate is low for the hatchlings, with an average of one per nest surviving to adulthood. Common predators of nests and young ostriches include jackal
Jackal
Although the word jackal has been historically used to refer to many small- to medium-sized species of the wolf genus of mammals, Canis, today it most properly and commonly refers to three species: the black-backed jackal and the side-striped jackal of sub-Saharan Africa, and the golden jackal of...

s, various birds of prey, mongoose
Mongoose
Mongoose are a family of 33 living species of small carnivorans from southern Eurasia and mainland Africa. Four additional species from Madagascar in the subfamily Galidiinae, which were previously classified in this family, are also referred to as "mongooses" or "mongoose-like"...

 and vulture
Vulture
Vulture is the name given to two groups of convergently evolved scavenging birds, the New World Vultures including the well-known Californian and Andean Condors, and the Old World Vultures including the birds which are seen scavenging on carcasses of dead animals on African plains...

s. Animals that prey on Ostriches of all ages include cheetah
Cheetah
The cheetah is a large-sized feline inhabiting most of Africa and parts of the Middle East. The cheetah is the only extant member of the genus Acinonyx, most notable for modifications in the species' paws...

s, lion
Lion
The lion is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger...

s, leopard
Leopard
The leopard , Panthera pardus, is a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera, the other three being the tiger, lion, and jaguar. The leopard was once distributed across eastern and southern Asia and Africa, from Siberia to South Africa, but its...

s, african hunting dogs, and spotted hyena
Spotted Hyena
The spotted hyena also known as laughing hyena, is a carnivorous mammal of the family Hyaenidae, of which it is the largest extant member. Though the species' prehistoric range included Eurasia extending from Atlantic Europe to China, it now only occurs in all of Africa south of the Sahara save...

. Ostriches can often outrun their predators in a pursuit and can even outpace Cheetahs over long distances. However, they may sometimes fiercely fight predators, especially when chicks are being defended, and have been capable of killing enemies as large as lions in such confrontations.

Ostriches reared entirely by humans may not direct their courtship behaviour at other Ostriches, but toward their human keepers.

Hunter-gatherers

Hunter-gatherer
Hunter-gatherer
A hunter-gatherer or forage society is one in which most or all food is obtained from wild plants and animals, in contrast to agricultural societies which rely mainly on domesticated species. Hunting and gathering was the ancestral subsistence mode of Homo, and all modern humans were...

s 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
Howiesons Poort
Howiesons Poort is a lithic technology cultural period in the Middle Stone Age in Africa named after the Howieson’s Poort Shelter archeological site near Grahamstown in South Africa...

 period of the Middle Stone Age
Middle Stone Age
The Middle Stone Age was a period of African Prehistory between Early Stone Age and Late Stone Age. It is generally considered to have begun around 280,000 years ago and ended around 50-25,000 years ago. The beginnings of particular MSA stone tools have their origins as far back as 550-500,000...

 at Diepkloof Rock Shelter
Diepkloof Rock Shelter
Diepkloof Rock Shelter is a rock cave in Western Cape, South Africa in which has been found some of the earliest evidence of the human use of symbols, in the form of patterns engraved upon ostrich eggshell water containers. These date around 60,000 years ago.The symbolic patterns consist of lines...

 in South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 suggests ostriches were an important part of human life as early as 60,000 BP.

History

Ostriches have inspired cultures and civilizations for 5,000 years in Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

 and Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. A
statue of Arsinoe II of Egypt
Arsinoe II of Egypt
For other uses see, ArsinoeArsinoë II was a Ptolemaic Greek Princess of Ancient Egypt and through marriage was of Queen Thrace, Asia Minor and Macedonia as wife of King Lysimachus and later co-ruler of Egypt with her brother-husband Ptolemy II Philadelphus For other uses see, ArsinoeArsinoë II...

 riding an Ostrich was found in a tomb in Egypt. The Kalahari bushmen still use their eggs as water jugs.

Hunting and farming

In Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 times, there was a demand for Ostriches to use in venatio
Venatio
Venatio was a form of entertainment in Roman amphitheaters involving the hunting and slaying of wild animals. Exotic wild beasts from the far reaches of the Roman Empire were brought to Rome and hunts were held in the morning prior to the afternoon main event of gladiatorial duels...

games or cooking. They have been hunted and farmed for their feathers, which at various times have been popular for ornamentation in fashion
Fashion
Fashion, a general term for a currently popular style or practice, especially in clothing, foot wear, or accessories. Fashion references to anything that is the current trend in look and dress up of a person...

able clothing (such as hat
Hat
A hat is a head covering. It can be worn for protection against the elements, for ceremonial or religious reasons, for safety, or as a fashion accessory. In the past, hats were an indicator of social status...

s 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. The market for feathers collapsed after World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, but commercial farming for feathers and later for skins became widespread during the 1970s. Ostriches are so adaptable that they can be farmed in climates ranging from South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 to Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

.

It is claimed that Ostriches produce the strongest commercial leather. Ostrich meat tastes similar to lean beef
Beef
Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle. Beef can be harvested from cows, bulls, heifers or steers. It is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of the Middle East , Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Europe and the United States, and is also important in...

 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.

Attacks

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
Disembowelment
Disembowelment is the removal of some or all of the organs of the gastrointestinal tract , usually through a horizontal incision made across the abdominal area. Disembowelment may result from an accident, but has also been used as a method of torture and execution...

 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
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

.

Racing

In some countries, people race each other
Racing
A sport race is a competition of speed, against an objective criterion, usually a clock or to a specific point. The competitors in a race try to complete a given task in the shortest amount of time...

 on the back of Ostriches. The practice is common in Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 and is relatively unusual elsewhere. The Ostriches are ridden in the same way as horses
Horse racing
Horse racing is an equestrian sport that has a long history. Archaeological records indicate that horse racing occurred in ancient Babylon, Syria, and Egypt. Both chariot and mounted horse racing were events in the ancient Greek Olympics by 648 BC...

 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
Culture of South Africa
South Africa is known for its ethnic and cultural diversity. Therefore, there is no single culture of South Africa.The South African black majority still has a substantial number of rural inhabitants who lead largely impoverished lives...

. Within the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, a tourist attraction
Tourist attraction
A tourist attraction is a place of interest where tourists visit, typically for its inherent or exhibited cultural value, historical significance, natural or built beauty, or amusement opportunities....

 in Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville is the largest city in the U.S. state of Florida in terms of both population and land area, and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. It is the county seat of Duval County, with which the city government consolidated in 1968...

 called 'The Ostrich Farm' opened up in 1892; it and its races became one of the most famous early attractions
Tourist attraction
A tourist attraction is a place of interest where tourists visit, typically for its inherent or exhibited cultural value, historical significance, natural or built beauty, or amusement opportunities....

 in the history of Florida
History of Florida
The history of Florida can be traced back to when the first Native Americans began to inhabit the peninsula as early as 14,000 years ago. Recorded history begins with the arrival of Europeans to Florida, beginning with the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León, who explored the area in 1513...

.

In the United States, Chandler, Arizona
Chandler, Arizona
-Demographics:As of the Census of 2010, there were 236,123 people, 86,924 households, and 60,212 families residing in the city. The racial makeup of the city was 73.3% White, 4.8% Black or African American, 1.5% Native American, 8.2% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 21.9% Hispanic or Latino, and 8.3%...

 hosts the annual 'Ostrich Festival' which features ostrich races. Racing has also occurred at many other locations such as Virginia City
Virginia City
Virginia City is a city located in Storey County, Nevada.Virginia City may also refer to:* Virginia City, Montana* Virginia City, Nevada* Virginia City, Virginia* Virginia City , a 1940 film starring Errol Flynn...

 in Nevada
Nevada
Nevada is a state in the western, mountain west, and southwestern regions of the United States. With an area of and a population of about 2.7 million, it is the 7th-largest and 35th-most populous state. Over two-thirds of Nevada's people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which contains its...

, Canterbury Park
Canterbury Park
Canterbury Park is a horse racing track located in Shakopee, Minnesota, USA.It runs a meet that consists of 62 racing days from early May to Labor Day, generally holding scheduled races Thursday through Sunday, with racing added on several holidays throughout the meet. The track itself features a...

 in Minnesota
Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

, Prairie Meadows
Prairie Meadows
Prairie Meadows is a Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racetrack and racino in Altoona, Iowa.-History and information:In 1984, Prairie Meadows received a license from the Iowa Racing and Gaming commission to operate a horse racing facility after parimutuel betting was legalized by the state the...

 in Iowa
Iowa
Iowa is a state located in the Midwestern United States, an area often referred to as the "American Heartland". It derives its name from the Ioway people, one of the many American Indian tribes that occupied the state at the time of European exploration. Iowa was a part of the French colony of New...

, and Ellis Park
Ellis Park
Ellis Park may refer to:* Ellis Park Stadium, also known by its sponsored name of Coca-Cola Park, is a stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa* Ellis Park Racecourse, a thoroughbred horse race track in Henderson, Kentucky...

 in Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

.

Conservation

The wild Ostrich population has declined drastically in the last 200 years, with most surviving birds in reserves or on farms. However, its range remains very large, leading the IUCN and BirdLife International
BirdLife International
BirdLife International is a global Partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources...

 to treat it as a species of Least Concern
Least Concern
Least Concern is an IUCN category assigned to extant taxon or lower taxa which have been evaluated but do not qualify for any other category. As such they do not qualify as threatened, Near Threatened, or Conservation Dependent...

. Of its 5 subspecies, the Middle Eastern Ostrich (S. c. syriacus) became extinct around 1966, and the North African Ostrich (S. c. camelus) has declined to the point where it now is included on CITES Appendix I and some treat it as Critically Endangered
Critically Endangered
Critically Endangered is the highest risk category assigned by the IUCN Red List for wild species. Critically Endangered means that a species' numbers have decreased, or will decrease, by 80% within three generations....

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