The South African ostrich (Struthio camelus australis), also known as the black-necked ostrich, Cape ostrich or southern ostrich is a subspecies of the common ostrich endemic to Southern Africa. It is widely farmed for its meat, eggs and feathers.
Wild ostriches have roamed the African continent for centuries. These animals featured in Egyptian hieroglyphs and rock art, their feathers adorned the helmets of Roman warriors and North African tribes used the leather as shields. Initially, feathers for Europe’s fashion industry were harvested from wild ostriches, but in the 1800s ostriches were domesticated, and so farming and cross-breeding of the ostrich species began. Initially, only ostrich feathers were valued and used for fashion items from the 1860s to the 1940s, but later also the leather and meat of ostriches were utilised.
The ostrich is native to Africa and the largest bird on the planet. It can not fly but can run up to 70 km/h when threatened. Males (roosters) have black and white feathers, grow up between 2.4 and 2.7 m tall and weigh up to 150 kg, but females (hens) adorned with grey and white plumage, are slightly smaller.
The ostrich’s long neck, which is almost half the height of the bird, is almost hairless and reddish to blue in colour, while its legs are bare. Males and females form small groups, usually a rooster with a few hens, and both genders take turns to hatch their eggs.