Oudtshoorn, Ostrich Capital of the World

Oudtshoorn is in the dry and dusty Klein Karoo region of South Africa, which is best described as a vast and unforgiving landscape. Fortunes were made with indigenous ostriches between 1864 and 1885, when every noble lady decided she needed a feather as an accessory in her hat. Oudtshoorn was the only town that had them in abundance. The feathers became worth more than diamonds by weight, and farmers changed from food for humans to lucerne for giant birds that stand 2.5 meters tall and can weigh as much as 115 kilograms. The oversupplied market collapsed when ostrich feathers became commonplace and nobody wanted them.

The Ostrich Capital of the World: Oudtshoorn
Ostrich Herd: Photo BrianCC BY 2.0

The Ostrich Capital of the World

Feathers in Abundance

Demand resurfaced in 1913 when ostrich feathers were back in fashion, and were only outranked by gold, diamonds, and wool only among South African exports. Ostrich barons built themselves grand palaces. When motor cars arrived in Europe they had open tops and the feathers in gigantic hats blew away. Oudtshoorn’s moment in history was over.

The Ostrich Capital of the World: Oudtshoorn
Feathers in Abundance: Photo Kei 51CC BY 2.0

Ostrich Baron Palace

Karoo farmers are tough and stubborn. They were not prepared to abandon their farmsteads and their way of life. Gradually markets developed for alternative products including ostrich skin handbags and wallets, ostrich feathers for dusting, and ostrich meat – which has the taste and texture of beef fillet, but is far healthier in terms of fat, kilojoules, protein, iron, and cholesterol. Visitors flock to Oudtshoorn every summer to visit ostrich farms, buy ostrich eggs and feathers, eat ostrich fillets in restaurants, and enjoy traditional farm stays were the view is forever.

The Ostrich Capital of the World: Oudtshoorn
Ostrich Baron Palace: Photo ThomasCC BY-SA 2.0

How to Cook the Perfect Ostrich Steak

The best things in life are simple. Obtain a supply of the hardest, driest firewood you can find. Individual pieces should be as thick as your wrist. Split the larger ones and use as kindling. Allow the fire to burn down to red-hot coals. Meanwhile prepare your healthy and nutritious meat. Ostrich steak is drier than beef because there is much less fat, and you must cook it quickly.

Roll the steak in cracked peppercorns until generously covered, sprinkle a little salt and gently baste with olive oil. Place over coals hot enough to make it sizzle, and grill for four minutes a side. Allow to rest for five minutes in a warm place. Top with a rich plum sauce, your favourite béarnaise, green peppercorn and brandy sauce, or enjoy à la mode in country style. Never overcook.

The Ostrich Capital of the World: Outdshoorn
Ostrich Steak: Photo Divya Thakur / CC BY-SA 2.0

About Richard Farrell

Richard FarrellI tripped over a shrinking bank balance and fell into the writing gig unintentionally. This was after I escaped the corporate world and searched in vain for ways to become rich on the internet by doing nothing. Despite the fact that writing is no recipe for wealth, I rather enjoy it. I will deny I am obsessed with it when I have the time.My base is Umtentweni in South Africa on the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast (30.7167° S, 30.4667° E). I work from home where I ponder on the future of the planet, and what lies beyond in the great hereafter. Sometimes I step out of my computer into the silent riverine forests, and empty golden beaches for which the area is renowned.

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5 Responses

  1. Tips for Traveling South Africa On a Budget | Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] find some great meat here. It can be expensive, but you can try kudu, springbok, zebra, ostrich and even alligator. You can pamper yourself with a nice meal or two at fancy […]

  2. Avatar for Richard Farrell


    Ostriches actually make pretty nice steak, That is ironic.

  3. Avatar for Richard Farrell


    But at least eating Ostrich meat. Ostriches are birds and their meat could be indeed delicious. Humans have gone ahead to eat gorilla meat. They poach these creatures for bush meat. Gorillas are 98% of human DNA so that is like eating a fellow human. Humans are crazy!

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    Seriously? People eat Ostrich meat? I did not know this.

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    Thank you very much for this article, I have learnt a lot about ostrich because I didn’t know that people eat ostrich meat. Keep up the good work.


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