A very long time ago, the ostrich had a short neck. With his long legs and short neck, it was hard to catch insects on the ground or pick berries from high bushes or drink water from the river. One morning, as ostrich bend his legs to drink some water, Crocodile swam down the river and asked for help whomever he met. This morning he woke up with a terrible toothache.

Crocodile saw Baboon with a baby on her back, bending over the water’s edge. He swiftly approached them, but not too close so he wouldn’t scare them away. “I’ve been having a terrible toothache this morning. Would you be so kind as to pull it with your sharp claw?” Fish eagle followed Crocodile and cried, “Don’t do it! He’ll eat you!” So mama Baboon ran off with her baby clinging to her.

Crocodile continued down the river and that’s when he met Ostrich, who was trying to get a sip of water. “I’ve been having a terrible toothache this morning. Would you be so kind as to pull it with your strong beak?” Ostrich backed away, but upon seeing the crying Crocodile he froze not knowing which way to move. Fish eagle in his quest to save whomever he could, followed Crocodile again and yelled, “Don’t do it! He’ll eat you!”

As Ostrich backed farther away, Crocodile cried harder and louder promising not to hurt Ostrich. Ostrich took pity and peaked into Crocodile’s opened mouth asking, “Is this the one that hurts?” He would persist, “Is this the one?” Each time, Crocodile said, “Uh-uh” Ostrich moved deeper and deeper into Crocodile’s mouth. Suddenly, Crocodile remembered that this morning out of the pain he forgot about breakfast. He clamped the jaws down trapping Ostrich’s head. “Let me out!” cried Ostrich.

Nearby, Elephant was bathing and heard the muffled voice of Ostrich. He lurched out of the water, grabbed Ostrich’s long legs with his trunk and pulled him in the opposite direction from Crocodile.  Elephant backed one step, another, but still there was no view of Ostrich’s head, instead Ostrich’s neck was getting longer and longer. As Crocodile felt his tooth aching again, he abruptly opened his jaws, giving time for Ostrich to escape.

Ostrich ran away from Crocodile as far as possible. When he was far away from the river, he slowed down and realized that something was different. The ground seemed much farther away and he could reach it easily without bending his legs. The berries were right within his reach. “What was different?” he wondered.  At the same time Eagle circled above him, “Look at your long neck. I told you to stay away from Crocodile.”

Now Ostrich knew what was new. He didn’t like the encounter with Crocodile, but he certainly liked his new long neck. So since then, ostriches have stayed in the bush – away from the river and they all now have very long necks.

Source: How the Ostrich Got Its Long Neck by Verna Aardema


Eight fascinating facts about the ostrich

  1. At 8 feet tall, the ostrich is the world’s largest and heaviest bird. Its significant weight, up to 320 lb., prohibits the bird from taking flight. Their kick is strong enough to kill a Lion.
  2. Ostriches are the fast runners of any birds or other two-legged animal and can sprint at over 45 miles/hr., covering up to 5m in a single stride. What’s more, an ostrich can maintain this speed for up to half an hour. Unlike other birds, who have three or four toes, ostriches have only two toes on each foot which allows for greater speed.
  3. Ostriches’ wings reach a span of about 2 meters and are used in mating displays, to shade chicks, to cover the naked skin of the upper legs and flanks to conserve heat, and as “rudders” to help them change direction while running.
  4. The ostrich’s eyes are about the size of billiard balls. They take up so much room in the skull that the ostrich’s brain is actually smaller than either one of its eyeballs. This may be why the ostrich, despite its tremendous running speed, is not very good at eluding predators: It tends to run in circles.
  5. Ostriches have three stomachs. An ostrich’s diet mainly consists of plant matter, but they’ll occasionally prey upon snakes, lizards and even rodents. Lacking teeth, ostriches swallow pebbles to grind their food. An adult ostrich carries about 1kg of stones at any one time.
  6. All of the herd’s hens place their eggs in the dominant hen’s 3m-wide nest, though her own are given the prominent center place; each female can determine her own eggs amongst others. The eggs are incubated by the dominant female by day and by the male by night, using the coloration of the two sexes to escape detection of the nest, as the drab female blends in with the sand, while the black male is nearly undetectable in the dark.
  7. Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand: the myth probably originates from the bird’s defensive behavior of lying low at the approach of trouble and pressing their long necks to the ground in an attempt to become less visible. And they stretch their long necks flat on the ground when they sleep. Their plumage blends well with sandy soil and, from a distance, gives the appearance that they have buried their heads in the sand.
  8. Ostriches usually spend the winter months alone or in pairs. During breeding season ostriches live in some nomadic groups of 5-100 birds which usually travel together with grazing animals, like antelopes and zebras.

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