Ostriches are impressive animals, but they can also be extremely dangerous. Wild ostriches are generally more aggressive than their domesticated counterparts, but also farm-raised ostriches will attack if provoked or they feel threatened.
If attacked by an ostrich, your safest option is to get into cover and hide. Climbing a tree will also protect you from the ostrich’s powerful kicks and sharp talons. If neither of these options is available, you will have to play dead or fight off the attacking ostrich with a stick.
Of course, the best way to survive an ostrich attack is not being attacked in the first place. Many ostrich farmers do not enter their pens. Stay as far away as possible from wild and domesticated ostriches. If one approaches you, back away, even if it doesn’t seem aggressive. And don’t make sudden moves.
In this article, we will go into detail with your options if you should ever end up in a situation where you need to survive an ostrich attack.
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Why Ostrich Attacks are Dangerous
Weighing up to 330 lb. (150 kg) ostriches are the world’s largest bird, and a force to be reckoned with. They are heavy, fast, and not afraid of anything.
The ostrich has three weapons you should beware of:
- Kicking a powerful punch: Their extraordinarily strong legs are the most dangerous part of an ostrich. At 2,000 pounds per square inch (141 kg/square cm), one kick from an ostrich can easily kill a person. And they are highly likely to kick you if they do attack.
- Its sharp talons: Ostrich talons can be up to 4 inches (10 cm) long. They are quite sharp, and combined with a strong kick; an ostrich talon can disembowel a person.
- Its beak: While ostrich beaks are not as sharp as the beak of many other birds, being pecked by one can still hurt. Try to protect your eyes and other sensitive areas.
Death from ostrich attacks are very rare, but not unheard of. Every year a handful of people are killed by ostriches, and many more get seriously injured.
Why Ostriches Attack
An ostrich attack is usually caused by it feeling threatened. This is especially the case during the mating season, when they are nesting and when they have chicks.
During mating season, the males are more aggressive, and mothers will protect their offspring by any means necessary.
Ostriches do not attack humans often. They are not predators and they do not hunt for prey. Unlike predators, an ostrich will not kill you in order to eat you. When it feels that you are no longer a threat, it will most likely leave you alone.
Get in Cover
If an ostrich approaches you, look for cover. Such as a car, building, a fence etc. Make sure it’s a sturdy structure that can take an ostrich kick.
Only go for cover if it is nearby and you get there quickly. It’s important that you are positively certain that you can reach your cover before the ostrich reaches you. The ostrich is the fastest two-legged animal in the world, and it can reach speeds of over 40 mph (65 kph).
If the cover is not a perfectly safe place, try to hide as well. Ostriches are not very intelligent, and if it can’t see you it will likely forget about you, lose interest, and walk away.
Get Out of Reach
If you can’t easily reach cover, you may be able to get to safety by climbing a tree.
Try to climb 9 or 10 feet up if possible. Ostriches can’t fly or climb, and they can’t jump very well either, but a large ostrich can grow up to 9 feet (2.7 meters) tall.
As long as you remain out of reach of its kicks you are a lot safer than on the ground, but it may still try to peck you. And although getting pecked will not cause serious injuries, it will be unpleasant and could cause you to lose balance.
If getting to safety is not an option, you may have to play dead. Lay face down and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms.
In the best of cases, playing dead will convince the ostrich that you are no longer a threat and leave you alone. In the worst case, it will still try to render you incapacitated.
Playing dead is not an optimal situation, but it’s better than standing up or trying to outrun an ostrich. Your position low on the ground will make it harder for the ostrich to kick you, but you will still be exposed to its sharp talons and pecking. It may also stand or even lay on you – weighing up to 330 lb. that can do you serious harm.
Expect to get hurt by this encounter, but you will likely survive.
Fight it Off with a Long Stick
If you can’t get to cover and you feel you must fight your way out, look for a long, heavy stick. It has to be long enough that the ostrich can’t kick you without getting within range of your stick.
Go for its neck long. The neck is easier to reach while you stay out of kicking distance, and it is a very vulnerable area on the ostrich. Of course, hitting it anywhere else is better than not hitting at all.
Try to stay to the side of the ostrich. Ostriches can only kick frontwards, not backwards or sideways.
Keep hitting the ostrich until it runs away. Do not stop unless it’s decidedly in retreat. Then return to a safe place.
Grab It by the Neck
This is a high-risk/high reward strategy that is not recommended.
In order to get to its neck, you need to be close to the bird, which leaves you vulnerable. Besides, if it’s a large ostrich you may only be able to reach the root of the neck, which will not give you nearly as much leverage as grabbing nearer to the head.
But if you do get a good grab, you can force the ostrich down relatively easy. And it will be unable to peck or kick you while you hold its head down.
At this point, your best option is to get help from bystanders or, if necessary, break its neck. Do not let go of the bird before you are confident that the situation is under control.