Are Ostriches Dangerous?

Ostriches are crowned as the largest as well as the fastest running birds on the planet.

While they are unable to fly.

However, they have strong muscular legs with their feet developed into a hoof-like shape.

Additionally, they have a 10-cm long talon on their inner toes. 

Which means

Ostriches can deliver solid kicks packing enough pressure to harm any animal.

Therefore, ostriches are considered dangerous birds.

You don’t want to get them angry!

Here’s what you’re going to discover in this article

  • Do ostriches attack humans?
  • Can an ostrich actually kill you?
  • Are they the most dangerous bird?
  • Can an ostrich bite hurt?
  • What you should do to survive an ostrich attack

Sound interesting?

Great, let’s get started!

Do Ostriches Attack Humans?

They do, but not frequently.

You see, in the animal kingdom size is associated with dominance.

Animals tend to stretch themselves to warn others from approaching further. 

For instance, even small bugs expand their bodies to bluff their way out of spider webs.

In contrast, some animals make themselves smaller to avoid conflict.

Now,

An average human is only about 6-feet, while an ostrich flaunts towering 9-feet.

Therefore, even if a human stands up straight it will not look much of a threat to an ostrich.

Nonetheless, ostriches don’t eat humans.

Most ostriches lack the motivation to attack a human.

You’d be surprised to know, ostriches have been reported to assault humans. 

Ornithologists suggest that an ostrich is likely to attack humans only in the following cases:

1. Fear 

If a human invades an ostrich’s space, then, the bird may feel scared or threatened.

What will make things worse is  if that human tries to touch an ostrich

In such a scenario, the ostrich will likely try to run away. 

However, if that ostrich has no route for escaping then it will have no choice but to protect itself from that human.

And so,

If cornered, an ostrich will try to land a kick on human stomach.

Scientists estimate such a kick to be about 2000psi in pressure.

A kick that strong is highly likely to cause a deep laceration.  

2. Breeding Season

Like all other birds, ostriches also experience a surge in testosterone during the breeding season.

This hormonal imbalance causes extreme aggression among ostriches.

Such an ostrich will expand its feathers in warning on the slightest approaches.

However, if the ostrich has hatchlings around, then, it may not even warn before attacking a human. 

So be very careful and never go near an ostrich during breeding season especially if they have hatchlings!

3. Territorial Behavior

Ostriches are extremely territorial birds, even outside the breeding season.

So, if an ostrich feels entitled, it will attack any human.

This is most common with male ostriches reaching puberty.

Now, you may be concerned:

Can An Ostrich Kill You?

Potentially? Yes.

You see, ostriches are the largest birds alive.

A typical ostrich weighs about 155kgs and can grow as tall as 9.6 feet.

Also, it flaunts a 2m wide wingspan, making it appear bulkier than other animals of the same size.

Meanwhile, an average human weighs approximately 70kgs with a height of 6 feet.

While humans do possess a 1.5m wide arm span, they lack the plumage 

A typical ostrich is twice as massive as any human.

But even if the size is disregarded, an ostrich is better equipped for fighting than a human (See figure 1).

Are Ostriches Dangerous?

Figure 1: A Brief Comparison of Characteristics of Humans and Ostriches

For instance, ostrich legs are long and muscular with a scaly appearance.

The foot itself seems to have evolved from a 4-toe ratite foot into a hoof-like shape for better walking skills. 

Besides, ostriches can use their feathers as rudders to change directions. 

An ostrich can run faster than any other bird, typically about 80-100km/hour.

Each ostrich foot has a 10-cm-long talon on its innermost toe (see figure 2)

Ostrich foot

Figure 2: Representing Hoof-like Ostrich Feet with a Single Talon on Inner Toe (Credit to Schaller et al.,2011)

Though the talon is not that sharp, it gives an ostrich more striking power than an average horse.

Ornithologists describe it by saying:

An adult ostrich can deliver a kick strong enough to knock out even a lion.

In contrast, human legs are made entirely of muscles.

And humans cannot kick with such intensity. 

Furthermore, a human can run at 15km/hour.

So, running away from an ostrich is not usually an option. 

Another thing is, ostriches have excellent eyes.

Which means they can detect a predator from miles away.

Despite all this,

No authentic ostrich-caused human deaths have ever been reported. 

Are Ostriches The Most Dangerous Bird?

This title belongs to Cassowaries, not ostriches. 

Related article – Ostrich Vs Cassowary 

It’s mostly because cassowaries are the only birds authentically reported to have caused two human fatalities.

  1. The first incident happened in 1926 when a 17-year-old hunter was trying to hunt a cassowary. The hunter tripped while the bird slashed its jugular vein, killing the boy on the spot.
  2. The second case occurred in 2019 when a 75-year-old man fell in the cassowary cage of his Private Animal Collection in Florida. The man suffered serious injuries and later died in the Hospital.

While this justifies how cassowaries are deemed as the most dangerous birds.

However, cassowaries are rather shy birds that rarely come near humans. 

Besides, humans have killed far more cassowaries than vice versa.

So,

Perhaps, humans are the most dangerous of all animals.

That said, we don’t really have enough parameters to measure how much any animal can cause damage. 

Ideally, such an estimate should include a bird’s behaviors, needs, size of talons to beaks as well as geographical distribution.

While cassowaries have killed two humans, they may not be the most dangerous birds.

If we observe birds for how many times a bird has attacked a human, then ostriches may be the most aggressive birds. 

There are significant cases reported of ostriches attacking humans. 

The most popular of these incidents is an ostrich hitting Johnny Cash when he was visiting a wildlife resort.

According to Cash, he survived the attack only because he was wearing a belt.

Still, reported ostrich attacks are not enough to claim ostriches as the most dangerous birds.

Besides, ostriches have been exported as to presents to the Indian Royalties. 

Currently, ostriches are regularly farmed for their eggs, meat, feathers, and even for entertainment purposes.

For instance, in Palestine and South Africa, ostriches are raised for riding.

In fact,

Some wildlife resorts allow you to feed an ostrich by hand. 

Speaking of such farms, have you ever tried feeding an ostrich?

If you haven’t, then I must warn you that sometimes ostriches bite. 

If you are a hard-core bird enthusiast, this might seem like some exhilarating experience.

Which leads me to my next point

Does An Ostrich Bite Hurt?

It sure does.

You see, ostriches have pouty beaks with a sharp set of teeth.

These help in ingesting all sorts of materials from fruits and herbs to small toads and even voles. 

Though ostriches don’t eat humans, they can certainly bite. 

However, it is not at all surprising. 

Why?

Well, ostriches have the biggest eyes for any land animal with a 2-inch diameter for each eye.

And so, ostriches can see danger approaching from miles away. 

However, this doesn’t mean that their eyes can see closer objects with the same precision.

It’s just like how humans cannot see an object at a 25cm distance from their eyes.

So,

Perhaps, ostriches get confused with close objects.

That is why they are unable to see the hand feeding them.

Ostrich eyes take up much of its skull space, leaving almost no room for brains.

Did you know..

Ostrich’s brain is smaller than even its one eye. 

Having a small brain is not a compliment at all.

This means the bird cannot make many judgments or think beyond certain instincts.

Therefore, zoologists often consider ostriches the dumbest birds relative to their size. 

So,

Ostriches may randomly bite a human feeding them, for no sane reason.

The only recorded evidence of an ostrich biting humans is a video of a man feeding ostriches through its car windows.

The ostriches went ahead and bit his finger.

The pain was so sharp that the man struggled to close the car window while screaming in pain.

Ostrich bites have been reported to cause skin rash and eye injuries.

On a side note, nobody has ever turned into an ostrich by its bite.

So, I am guessing Spiderman or Twilight themes do not fit your usual ostrich bites. 

Anyways, I advise you to not let your kids feed Ostrich.

Here’s a thought

What if an ostrich attacks you?

What should you do?

Let’s find out

What Should I Do To Survive An Ostrich Attack?

Again, ostriches have extremely small brains, so you cannot reason with them.

I mean, who can reason with a raging bird?

So, your best bet at survival is making the most of your surroundings.

I suggest:

  1. Find some cover say a building or car. Otherwise, climb up a tree.
  2. Walk into thorn bushes if you can find them. You may get several scratches, but you will live.
  3. If there is nothing around, lie down and cover your head and ears. The ostrich will spread its wings to threaten you but will likely leave you after a while.
  4. If the ostrich still hits you, find a log to strike the neck. But don’t do this unless it’s the only way.
  5. If the ostrich corners you, then grab its neck and twist it. Drag the ostrich down on its weight, but then run away.

Wrapping Up 

Ostriches are the largest and fastest running flightless birds.

Most ostriches are harmless.

However, if an ostrich is nesting it may kick any intruder.

While ostriches can potentially kill any human, there are no such cases that have ever been reported.

Cassowaries are considered the most dangerous birds alive.

Still, an ostrich can cause laceration or even bite you.

So are ostriches dangerous?

Not really but they can be if they want to!