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WHAT IS THE OSTRICH?


The ostrich is a funny looking bird. With its long and skinny neck, the overly large body, long legs and big, beady eyes, you will be forgiven if you laugh at your first sight of this strange looking creature. Many cartoons depict the ostrich with its head buried in sand - this is a myth. Ostriches do not bury their heads in sand. It is certainly not a myth that the ostrich cannot fly - although the ostrich has large wings, it is incapable of flying.



It can run very fast and over short distances of about 100 - 150 metres, can reach speeds of about 50 kilometres an hour. Never be tempted to get too close to an ostrich, especially during breeding season. The male ostrich (the one with the black and white feathers) can be extremely dangerous and although you might think that you could outrun it, it is more likely that the bird will overtake you and give you a hard kick - this may sound funny, but ostriches have been known to kill people with their kicks.














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Besides their unusual looks and their inability to fly, ostriches achieved fame in 1870 when the "great feather boom" took the world by storm. Suddenly it was fashionable for ladies to be seen with a feather boa or an item of clothing made from feathers. It is estimated that at the height of the feather boom the town in the Little Karoo, Oudtshoorn (also called the ostrich feather capital of the world) exported 450 000 kilograms of ostrich feathers per year. Fashion is fickle as we all know, and the 20th century saw the destructiveness of two world wars and this all but destroyed the feather industry as fashions became more austere and less glamorous. There is still a demand for ostrich feathers and leather today, but it's on a much smaller scale.

 

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