Ostriches, despite being flightless and the heaviest bird in the world, can move really fast. How fast can an ostrich run? In this article, you’ll learn about the different ostrich species and their speeds, any dangers to humans or other animals, and why they run.
Ostrich Running Speed
The fastest ostrich can run up to 43 mph (70 km/h)! That’s quite the speed!
Not only can ostriches sprint to that speed, but they can run for a long time. In fact, ostriches can maintain 31 mph (50 km/h) over distances of many miles.
Different ostrich species, same speeds
Both living ostrich species can run at the same top speed.
There have been nine species of ostriches to have existed, but the only living ones left are the Common ostrich (Struthio camelus) and Somali or Blue-necked ostrich (Struthio molybdophanes). Both species live in Africa live in open grasslands and savannahs.
Common ostriches live in different parts of Africa depending on the subspecies. There are three subspecies of the common ostrich:
- Masai ostrich: countries of Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania
- North African ostrich: throughout West and North Africa
- South African ostrich: live in southern Africa.
- Arabian ostrich
Somali ostriches can be found in the Horn of Africa.
How Much Faster: Ostrich vs. Human
There’s no question that an ostrich can outrun a human. The real question is by how much.
The fastest a human can run is around 28 mph (45 km/h) over a distance of around 65 feet (20 meters). The average human can run 8 mph (13 km/h). So an ostrich can outrun the fastest human by a whopping 15 mph (25 km/h)!
Have fun trying to catch one of them on your own.
Ostrichs Around Humans
Ostriches will typically avoid humans. They’ll most likely run away in the wild, but they may defend themselves if they feel like you’re a threat to their young or territory. As you’ll see in a bit, that’s a scary prospect.
That being said, there are areas where people can ride an ostrich, which is a tourist attraction in places like South Africa. However, this practice has drawn some concern, as there are those who question whether or not it’s ethical.
How Can Ostriches Run So Fast?
As you’ll see, ostriches are built for speed. There are several reasons why they can run as fast as they do.
One of the biggest reasons for ostrich speed is they have a springy step. Scientists discovered that due to stored elastic energy in its tendon, an ostrich’s leg can make more than twice the power of humans in this manner. This means they don’t have to use their muscles as much to run in comparison to people.
The springy step mixed with their long legs gives ostriches quite the stride length, measuring up to 16 feet (5 meters)!
Another reason ostriches can run so well is because of ostriches’ center of gravity, which is between their legs and their wings. So ostriches can be perfectly balanced when running at high speeds.
Because of this, ostriches can then focus all of their leg power on running instead of keeping balanced.
Finally, despite being flightless birds, ostriches use their wings. They use them to balance and maneuver when they run so fast.
2 Reasons to Run
The two biggest reasons why ostriches need to run are similar to most creatures: to escape predators and to look for food.
1. Escaping Speedy Predators
Living in the African savannah, ostriches have quite a few speedy predators. This may include cheetahs, lions, leopards, wild dogs, hyenas, and crocodiles. The slowest of these on land (the Nile crocodile) has a top running speed of 22 mph (35 km/h). The others can easily keep pace, even outrun an ostrich. Thus, for survival, an ostrich would need to be able to run fast.
Here’s how a running ostrich fares against a pair of hunting cheetahs.
Predators like hyenas and wild dogs may hunt over long distances, so it’s a good thing that an ostrich has quite a bit of endurance.
Thankfully, another defense ostriches have against these animals is related to their running speed. We’re talking about their powerful legs. Not only can an ostrich run very quickly because of their legs, but they can also use powerful kicks to defend themselves.
Add in a 4-inch (10 cm) claw, and they make for intimidating prey. In fact, ostriches have a powerful enough kick they may kill a lion while defending themselves.
Searching for Food
Ostriches will migrate if they need to search for food.
As mentioned, they have great endurance when it comes to running. On top of that, ostriches can go a long time without water (possibly several days!) and are able to withstand high temperatures.
All these things combined make an ostrich quite suited to living in African climates.
Have you ever encountered an ostrich? Do you have any interesting tidbits to add? We’d love to hear from you! Comment below!
Hello, I’m Joshua. My love for travel began I was 18 when I went with some friends to New York City. All in all, I’ve traveled to 6 continents and 14 countries.