Last Updated on February 18, 2022
Can You Ride an Ostrich?
Before we start to consider whether you should ride an ostrich, is it something that you can actually do?
Yes. In some places, such as South Africa, ostrich riding is available. It was once a common tourist pastime. When we visited South Africa back in 2012, it was one of the top things to try in Oudtshoorn. It is less popular now, as people become more aware of the impacts ostrich riding has on these unique flightless birds. However, it is still an activity that is available to tourists for fun and thrill; just not as widely available.
Wherever you can ride an ostrich, there are severe rules and regulations, to help maintain safety standards for both the ostriches and humans.
Riding an Ostrich: A Personal Experience
Let me begin by stating that I have had an ostrich ride.
Before you start to curse me, hold up.
It was back when we were young, starting to learn about traveling the world, and did not know better.
Was it fun? For humans, it is a short thrill. For the birds, likely a horrible experience during each ride.
The important part: Over a decade later after my experience, I would not do it again, nor would I encourage you to.
As part of the sales process, you are convinced that their rules and regulations keep the birds safe. Fast forward a decade-plus later, and after learning much about animal cruelty, we know that is not really the case.
Actually, Cango Ostrich Show Farm, where I had my ostrich riding experience over a decade ago was one of the first in the Oudtshoorn district to stop the riding of ostriches and support less invasive handling of any animals. Fewer are supporting the activity now and instead focus on educating visitors.
At Cango Ostrich Show Farm, their visits now include guided tours that allow you to touch an Ostrich, feed them by hand, receive a ‘nick massage’ as they eat from over your shoulder, stand on ostrich eggs, and learn about the history, farming practices and industry with ostriches.
What is it Like to Ride an Ostrich?
Riding an ostrich, you have to hold on for dear life, with its wings slightly covering your legs, while gripping onto the wings. Grab its neck and you could possibly strangle it. Plus, if you were to touch its neck, it would coil away and you wouldn’t get far.
Ostriches are not trained to be ridden. For an amateur, there is no way to control the bird in the least. One of the workers did give us a demonstration of ostrich riding where he did a great job of controlling the movement of the bird; at least he made it look easy.
We were instructed to put on coveralls and two staff members set out to catch an ostrich. Putting a cloth bag over its head to calm it down made it easier to get the ostrich over to the board fence for each rider to climb up onto the bird and lean back slightly. They gently held out the wings while each rider sat and placed the wings over your legs. The wings felt strong, and therefore you gripped the wings during the ride.
After a short ride (maybe 10 seconds), the workers grab your arms and instruct you to let go of the bird as they catch you from falling.
The cloth bag was pulled off and the farmworkers helped direct it away from the board fence two farm workers ran alongside each rider so they could attempt to catch each rider if they fell.
Luckily, nobody fell. It was a complete hoot. Even the workers thought our riding was great, or perhaps it was the expression on our faces. After a short ride (maybe 10 seconds?), the workers grab your arms and instruct you to let go of the bird. Thankfully, they caught me.
Should You Ride an Ostrich?
As with any animal encounter, riding an ostrich comes with many questions about ethics and morals.
Even if the farms place a weight limit on who can ride, it is pretty clear that ostriches are not built to withstand the weight of a human. In the wild, they would never have to withstand that kind of weight on their backs. The extra weight will cause their bone structure to weaken, causing the ostrich more pain with each ride, as well as a serious injury to their back.
Plus, as an animal lover, you probably would not want to see an animal in pain or suffering.
You can look into the eyes of a horse and get some indication of how it is feeling. A glance into the eyes of an ostrich and all you get is your reflection.
Ostriches are incredible creatures, that are worth more than having a purpose for human entertainment.
Is Ostrich Riding Dangerous?
You have got to have a lot of trust in the workers that are assisting you in your ostrich riding. There is no way to honestly secure yourself when you are on the ostrich, and once the bird starts running too fast and the ‘trainer’ gives you the command to get off, you have to let yourself fall back off of the bird, trusting that the helpers will be there to guide you off gently.
In wild and domesticated ostriches that have retained their original instincts, they could react aggressively when under stress, or feeling trapped. When you get onto the ostrich, it has a cloth bag placed on its head to cover its eyes, which looking back at my experience, would create a stressful situation for the bird.
Ostriches can reach speeds of 45 miles per hour and come with a powerful kick, as witnessed once by the popular American musician Johnny Cash.
“One of the most interesting ostrich-attack stories involved Johnny Cash, who kept an exotic animal park with ostriches on his property. Cash encountered an aggressive male ostrich several times during his walks in the woods in 1981. On one occasion, Cash brandished a 6-foot stick and swung it at the bird, who dodged the swipe and slashed at Cash with its foot. Cash noted that the blow struck him in the stomach, and if it weren’t for a strong belt buckle, he said that the ostrich’s toe claw would have cut his abdomen open and killed him” -Britannica
With the fast speed of an ostrich, there is, of course, a chance that you could (at the very least) fall off and get injured. This is also why children should never ever attempt to ride an ostrich.
…. Did You Know?
- If ostrich eggs are laid in sand, the egg equalizes and you can step on the eggs without breaking them if there were no cracks, to begin with.
- Ostriches do indeed give a good neck massage if you are holding a bucket of food in front of you.
- The flightless ostrich is the world’s largest bird. It is one of several reasons why they can’t fly.
- Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand. However, ostriches will lay low and press their long necks to the ground to become less visible if in danger.
- They can run at a pace of over 40mph. This means that you will never outpace one on foot.
- A cheetah is likely to be the only predator that can outpace an ostrich. However, the bird is impressively likely to be too strong for the cat.
- You can find ostriches that are nine feet tall. With a weight up to more than 300lbs on average, they can certainly overpower a human.
- Ostriches lay the biggest eggs, measuring up to 15cm. Relative to the size of the bird, however, it’s the smallest in terms of bird-to-egg ratio. It really puts into perspective how big ostriches are.
- As Johnny Cash learned (mentioned above) during his attack, ostriches are well equipped to fight off threats. They have a powerful enough kick that could kill instantly. They also have extremely sharp claws.
- Their conservation status is of least concern, meaning that there are no worries that they will become endangered any time soon.