It’s no wonder why riding an ostrich sparks our curiosity. We’re so used to seeing people ride horses, donkeys, and camels. But ostriches?
As weird as it sounds, riding ostriches has been around for quite some time. Ostriches are large, flightless birds. They make up for this by sprinting in short bursts of 45 mph—but they can reach speeds of up to 60 mph! It didn’t take long for humans to take advantage of this characteristic and turn it into a sport.
Riding an ostrich sounds like a hoot because it is. People love the thrill of mounting an ostrich and (hopefully) not falling off! Although you can ride an ostrich, that doesn’t mean you should. It can be harmful to ostriches and dangerous to humans.
We’re discussing why it’s best to avoid ostrich riding when you travel. There’s a lot of debate around this controversial subject. We believe it’s best to keep your eyes open and make the best decisions for you.
Why You Should Avoid Riding an Ostrich
Despite its controversy, riding ostriches is common in some regions, especially Africa. The most popular place to climb onto an ostrich and go wild is in the Oudtshoorn area of Africa. This place is known as the world’s ostrich capital, although that’s probably changed in recent years.
Two out of the three farms in Oudtshoorn stopped offering ostrich rides to tourists in 2017. More people realize that ostrich riding is dangerous to the animals and dangerous to humans. Let’s explore these reasons a little further.
Ostriches are one of the many species that have fallen into the tourism industry involuntarily. The biggest issues with ostrich riding are that it’s unnatural and likely to hurt their backs. If an ostrich were to carry someone once, maybe twice in its lifetime, the ostrich would be fine. But ostriches are not pack animals like donkeys or camels. It’s difficult for them to carry heavy weight repeatedly.
It’s not that ostriches are weak creatures. Quite the opposite! Ostrich kicks can kill a human and predator such as a lion or hyena. An ostrich has strong, powerful legs used for self-defense. Their strong legs are for keeping predators away, not to carry large weights.
Aside from the ethical perspective, the activity can be dangerous. Riding an ostrich is fast. You must hold onto the wings, and when the worker opens the pen, off you go. Ostriches sprint in short bursts of over 40 mph and falling off of one is the last thing you want.
Ostriches are aggressive, temperamental creatures that are difficult to tame, even raised in captivity. They also cannot be outrun. An ostrich can charge and knock you down with a powerful kick if they feel threatened. A sharp, 4-inch talon on each foot can cause severe damage to your abdomen.
If you go ostrich riding, there should be workers that run behind you to catch you when you fall. These workers will shoo away the bird should it try to attack. Still, you should be wary of riding one. Ultimately, the main concern with ostrich riding is the welfare of the birds.
Can You Ride an Ostrich Like a Horse?
Riding an ostrich is different from riding a horse for a few reasons. Horses have long, sturdy necks and manes to grab onto, and they have four legs for a more balanced distribution of weight. These physical traits make riding a horse less challenging. Plus, you can ride a horse for a much longer time.
On the other hand, ostriches have long necks that can coil away if you touch them. You also can’t grab onto the neck of an ostrich because you might strangle it. The only way to hold onto an ostrich is to grab hold of the wings. You’ll have a few minutes to ride an ostrich if you’re lucky.
Some people debate that riding an ostrich is more manageable after you get used to it since ostriches can’t buck you off as a horse can. This is probably the only useful thing about riding an ostrich.
No matter how hard you try, an ostrich can’t be trained to be ridden. Unlike a horse, there’s no saddle, reigns, or control.
Can You Still Visit an Ostrich Farm?
Ostrich riding is frowned upon these days, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun at an ostrich farm. It depends on where your convictions take you. At an ostrich farm, you have the pleasure of feeding ostriches and learning more about these terrific birds. You might even be kissed by a bird!
For a while, Ostrich farms in Africa relied on ostrich riding as their headlining activity. Some tourists have reported that ostrich farms aren’t anything special for adults now that this event is gone most places, but it can be a fun time for kids. It’s more about spending time with the birds and appreciating them for what they are.
Luckily, you don’t need to travel all the way to Africa to visit an ostrich farm! Plenty of farms have established themselves in the US. Some allow visitors, and some only exist to raise meat. Do your research and look for local ostrich farms that accept visitors.
A downside to visiting an ostrich farm is that some farms limit which birds can be fed. Since ostriches are so temperamental, one of them can likely try to attack a visitor. Although ostrich attacks are rare, farms are picky about which birds get to interact with visitors.
The attraction for ostrich riding is understandable, especially when watching videos of people having a blast on top of the bird’s back. But ostrich riding is dangerous, considering one kick to the abdomen can disembowel you! It’s best to avoid riding ostriches since it’s not the best for their backs, and they really don’t like it.
Instead, visit an ostrich farm or zoo and learn more about how you can help these creatures. The ostriches appreciate it! Maybe ostriches are a little cranky, but they indeed are magnificent creatures. What other animal do you know that can take down a lion in one powerful kick?
- Related article: Zebras and Ostriches: A Symbiotic Relationship
Featured Image Credit: Dr. Arjay Kumar Singh, Shutterstock