BIRD POWER — Ostriches can prove pretty ornery, but that didn’t keep them from being displayed in some offbeat attractions. During the late 1800s & early 1900s, ostrich farms dotted Florida, and Jacksonville boasted its share. Attracting both locals & tourists, the parks featured ostriches that were ridden like racehorses. The big birds also pulled small wagons & carriages. They were harnessed singly or occasionally in pairs.
During the season when the females laid their eggs, the male ostriches suffered mood swings. They could get testy, lashing out with their claws. An ostrich attack can prove fatal to humans. There are ways, though, to ward off an assault, according to the ostrich farms. A person can achieve some safety by lying flat, since ostriches can only could kick dangerously at a height of three feet. This is why a little fox terrier dog can send one of the big birds scurrying, even though an ostrich might charge a man on horseback.
Ostriches also proved destructive. A tall board fence surrounded the Florida Ostrich Farm on Talleyrand Avenue in East Jacksonville. This fence kept a couple of carpenters busy, for they constantly renailed boards that the ostriches kicked off. The owners of the park learned their lesson: Replace the boards with the nails on the inside!
Fast Facts about Ostriches
- The gawky birds are the second fastest land animal in the world. They can speed along at 40 miles per hour, and they can maintain this pace for at least 30 minutes. Only cheetahs can outrun an ostriches.
- Ostriches feature enormous feathers, but they can’t fly.
- Ostriches produce the strongest commercially available leather in the world, as well as some of the most gorgeous feathers.
- Ostriches are not an endangered species, since there are at least 2 million worldwide.
- Ostrich meat is a red meat. It’s almost fat free, and it’s very low in calories & cholesterol. It resembles beef, and you cook it almost the same way. Ostrich meat, though, has its own distinctive flavor. You may’ve had the chance to try it, since several Jacksonville restaurants have recently served it.
- Ostriches can boast of the best feed-to-weight ratio gain of any land animal in the world. Farmers raise them in at least 50 countries. Ostrich ranches can be found from Africa to Alaska.
- Ostriches look through the largest eyes of any land animal. Each eye can measure up to 2 inches in diameter.
- Don’t believe one old myth: Ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand.
~written by Glenn Emery