Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/266

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times causes the Boer considerable damage by trampling down and eating the grain.

The opinions of authors and sportsmen with regard to the ostrich vary considerably. Some ascribe to it great stupidity, while others consider it as possessed of vivacity and much intelligence. Without passing a judgment, I will only mention that I have seen it exhibit these opposite qualities in no small degree.

In a domesticated state, it is true, the ostrich appears to be a quiet, dull, and heavy-looking bird; but when seen in its native haunts, it is restless, wary, and difficult of approach. From its great stature, and the prominent position of its eyes, its range of vision is naturally considerable, which enables it to discover danger at a considerable distance. This, together with the exposed localities frequented by it, probably accounts for the comparatively few that even the mightiest Nimrods of South Africa can boast of having killed.

What may be the case with the ostrich in a wild state is hard to say; but when in confinement, no bird or other animal demonstrates so little discrimination in the choice of its food, for it then swallows with avidity stones, pieces of wood and iron, spoons, knives, and a variety of other indigestible matters. This strange propensity and apparent obtuseness of taste obtained for the bird at an early period the epithet of "the iron-eating ostrich;"

"The estridge that will eate
An horshowe so great
In the steade of meat;
Such fervent heat
His stomach doth freat."[1]

Many amusing anecdotes are told of the strange habits of this bird. Once—so runs the story—when the ostrich was still a rare sight in Europe, a woman, on hearing of the arrival of a batch of these birds, and being anxious to obtain

  1. "The Boke of Philip Sparrow."