Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/259

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AGE—CRY—STRENGTH—SPEED—FOOD.

I could never obtain any data that would enable me to form a correct estimate of the age of the ostrich, but it may fairly be concluded that he lives between twenty and thirty years.

The cry of the ostrich so greatly resembles that of a lion as occasionally to deceive even the natives. It is usually heard early in the morning, and at times also at night.

The strength of the ostrich is enormous. A single blow from its gigantic foot (it always strikes forward) is sufficient to prostrate, nay, to kill many beasts of prey, such as the hyæna, the panther, the wild dog, the jackal, and others.

The ostrich is exceedingly swift of foot, under ordinary circumstances outrunning a fleet horse: "What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and its rider." On special occasions and for a short distance, its speed is truly marvelous, perhaps not much less than a mile in half a minute. Its feet appear hardly to touch the ground, and the length between each stride is not unfrequently twelve to fourteen feet. Indeed, if we are to credit the testimony of Mr. Adanson, who says he witnessed the fact in Senegal, such is the rapidity and muscular power of the ostrich, that, even with two men mounted on his back, he will outstrip an English horse in speed! The ostrich, moreover, is long-winded, if I may use the expression, so that it is a work of time to exhaust the bird.

The food of the ostrich, in its wild state, consists of the seeds, tops, and buds of various shrubs and other plants.[1] But it is often difficult to conceive how it can manage to live at all, for one not unfrequently meets with it in regions apparently destitute of vegetation of any kind:

  1. At the Zoological Gardens, Regent's Park, where at this moment several of these birds are alive, the ostrich is fed on a mixture of oats, barley, chaff, and cabbage, of which the respective quantities are as follows: oats, one pint; barley, one pint; chaff, half a gallon; and cabbage, four pounds.