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Ostrich Riding South Africa

Many visitors to this stunning and diverse country will overlook the seemingly unimportant Klein (little) Karoo. However, just as with every other corner of the country, you can be sure that there is plenty to do and see in this delightful little spot in South Africa. Ostrich Riding and racing is just one great attraction to be found here. This peculiar bird numbers well into the hundred thousands in a town and farming area known as Oudtshoorn. If you ever wanted to know all about these dynamic, feathered creatures, Oudtshoorn is the place to go. It is also one of the few places where you can find Ostrich Riding in South Africa.

Oudtshoorn rose to fame during the 1800s when ostrich feathers became a fashion must-have on a world-wide scale. No outfit was considered complete without a resplendent feather boa swept back around a lady’s neck. The semi-arid regions of the Little Karoo proved to be ideal for raising these large birds and by the time the railway network was extended to Oudtshoorn in 1913, the town had blossomed into a cluster of multi-millionaire farmers. The town became filled with 'feather palaces’ – large, ornate and lavishly decorated mansions made from sandstone in an art nouveau style with circular turrets and intricate iron railings. The ceilings and cornices were embossed while window panes were filled with vivid stained glass images. Today many of these palaces still stand proudly as a monument to more prosperous times. The Ostrich feather trade experienced a decline after the First World War but farmers managed to make a slow recovery with the introduction of tourism.

Today there is more than one Ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn that is open to tourists. Modern Ostrich farms tend to focus more on eggs, meat and leather than on the initial feather trade that once made them so prosperous. A decorated or carved ostrich egg can fetch a fair amount of money while ostrich meat is become very sought after due to its low fat content. Ostrich leather is supple and soft and is used widely in the making of a variety of leather goods – both locally and internationally. The average visit to an ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn will start out with a somewhat fascinating tour of the facilities. Here you will learn about how the eggs are incubated, how the chicks are cared for. Afterwards you are usually introduced to some of the friendlier feathered inhabitants one the farm which you can hand-feed and sometimes even cuddle.

As the tour near completion, some farms may offer the opportunity to sit on or ride these magnificent flight-less birds. It should be noted that these actions are subject to a weight limit. Ostrich races are popular with braver tourists as riding these gigantic birds is not for the feint hearted. The rider sits awkwardly behind the wings and leans forward to hold on the neck for balance. Afterwards a hood is taken off the bird and it begins the jolting run down the race track. While it has been noted that wild ostriches can reach speeds of up to 70 km/h, most ostriches running in such an enclosed environment will rarely reach such high speeds. After the race the rider slides off the birds back and returns to friends and family to share his or her memorable experience. After the visitors race, local 'jockeys’ might entertain the guests with an 'ostrich derby’.

Another option which is becoming increasingly popular is that of walking on Ostrich eggs. The thick, tough shells are incredibly resilient and the public are invited to find this out for themselves. There is no weight limit and the task is much less daunting than riding ostriches. Tours are sometimes offered in a variety of languages and Ostrich riding and racing instructions can also be given in a language of choice. If you enjoy participating in more extreme and unusual activities whilst on holiday, don’t forget to try Ostrich Riding in South Africa!


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