Book review: Ostrich, By Edgar Williams


Lack of flight produced not only size but also singular feathers. "Soft, downy and symmetrical", they were used by Egyptians as symbols of fairness and the Folies Bergère for tantalising coquetry.

In 1907, South Africa made more money from fashionable ostrich feathers than from gold. This led to the birds being domesticated though farmers were bankrupted by the First World War.

Recent investors in ostrich meat also lost heavily in financial scams. Doubtless it is coincidence that the ostrich's brain (0.015 per cent of body weight) means "it does not have much intelligence".