Oudtshoorn Ostrich Farms
Ostriches in the Western Cape are big business. The birds are farmed for their feathers, skin and lean meat, which is exported all over the world, while their eggs are used for decorative purposes. Ostrich farms also attract tourists to the area, anchoring an industry and providing employment.
The ostrich has spawned an entire industry in the Western Cape’s Little Karoo region, where ostrich farming has flourished for decades.
The world-famous Oudtshoorn ostrich is a cross between the resident Little Karoo breed and birds from North Africa, and it is thought that the idea of farming ostriches for their feathers may have originated in Algeria.
By the 1880s the ostrich industry was firmly entrenched in South Africa. At first, these birds were fancied only for their feathers, worn during the Art Nouveau period in Europe and the United States. The industry went into decline in the build-up to World War I, but began to gather momentum again after World War II.
It is now a sustainable, dynamic industry, no longer exclusively reliant on fine feathers for its survival. The main appeal of the modern ostrich is its meat. In a world that prefers healthy, leaner cuts of protein, the ostrich fits the bill. Ostrich skin is also used for jackets, handbags and shoes, while the eggshells are used for decorative purposes. Feathers are still a fashion item, albeit not as prominent as a century ago.
Oudtshoorn remains the capital of the ostrich industry. The town’s prosperity is evidence of the very good business these big-eyed birds have become, providing jobs and attracting tourism in addition to the export and sale of ostrich products.
Visitors to the Little Karoo can tour a number of ostrich farms, particularly around Oudtshoorn, where tours are organised on a daily basis. Here, at a working ostrich farm, you can see how the birds are bred as well as the various ways in which ostrich products are fashioned and marketed.