On the African savanna, the ostrich would rather run than fight, achieving a top speed of 45 miles per hour (72.5 km/h). But make no mistake: If threatened by a predator such as a lion or a leopard, the world's tallest and heaviest bird will forward-kick its foe with a force powerful enough to kill.
Gangly and flightless, ostriches aren’t typically aggressive toward humans, but don’t do what the late country singer Johnny Cash did. The "Man in Black" once encountered an agitated male on his property in 1981, where there was land set aside for his collection of exotic animals. Johnny grabbed a stick and swung at the bird but missed. The ostrich kicked and caught Cash square on his large belt buckle. He was lucky, because an ostrich has very sharp toe claws – up to 4 inches (10.2 cm) long – that could easily disembowel a human.
Avoid that ostrich:
- If you get into a fight with an ostrich, don’t forget about its beak. The bird could whip its long neck around and nip you around your eyes or other delicate regions.
- A fully grown male ostrich can stand as tall as 9 feet (2.75 m) tall and weigh up to 330 pounds (150 kg). This height comes in handy for spotting predators.
- An ostrich will often lie low to hide, stretching its long neck along the ground. But, no, ostriches don’t actually bury their heads in the sand. When they’re hiding and trying to blend in with the sandy soil, it can look that way, giving rise to the myth.