IS bred in Africa, Asia, and America. It is the tallest of all birds; when he holds up his head he can reach eleven feet in height. The head is very small in comparison with the body, being hardly bigger than one of his toes. It is covered, as well as the neck, with a certain down or thin-set hairs, instead of feathers, the sides and thighs are entirely bare and flesh colour. The lower part of the neck, where the feathers begin, is white. The wings are short and of no use for flying, but help the bird in his skipping along the plain. The feathers of the back, in the cock, are coal black; in the hen only dusky, and so soft that they resemble a kind of wool. The tail is thick, bushy, and round, in the cock whitish, in the hen duskish with white tops. These are the feathers which adorn the heads of the fair and of the brave. They are generally in great requisition, to decorate the hats of our ladies, and the helmets of warriors.
The Ostrich swallows any thing that presents itself to him, leather, grass, iron, bread, hair, &c. and what the power of digestion in the stomach is unable to macerate, is voided entire by the common way. The eggs are as big as a young child’s head, with a hard and stony shell, which being buried in the sand to the number of fifty and upwards, are cherished only by the heat of the sun, till the young are hatched. In the thirty-ninth chapter of Job we read a most beautiful description of this bird. They had at that time, observed the manner in which the female Ostrich abandons her brood to the natural heat of the sand: “She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not her’s. Her labour is in vain; without fear, because God hath deprived her of wisdom; neither has he imparted to her understanding. What time she lifteth up her head on high she scorneth the horse and his rider.” Nothing can be more exact than this character of the Ostrich, and it ought to increase our admiration and respect for the sacred writings in which we find after so many ages, so correct, so animated a description of the bird,
Who, tossing up on high in vacant air,
Her much more vacant head, struts fast along
On Ammon’s sandy plains, and, void of care,
Leaves all what’s dear behind – Untaught to feed
Her orphan brood, hatch’d from spheric shells,
Summon her guidance, but in vain; she still
Struts far away on Ammon’s sandy plains.
The name of Struthio, which is applied to this bird, in Latin as well as in Greek, seems to bear a sort of analogy to his manner of strutting on the ground; and the etymologists are at a loss to decide, whether to strut comes from Struthio, or Struthio from strutting.