how fast can ostriches run

How Fast Can Ostriches Run? A Comprehensive Guide

Ostriches are among the most impressive and characteristic birds on the planet, not only for their huge size, but also for their noticeably fast running speed and unique behaviors. But exactly how fast can ostriches run?

According to reports by National Geographic, an ostrich has an impressive running speed of about 43 mph or 70 km/h, although it is incapable of flying! These birds can also run at incredibly high speeds for about 30 to 32 miles, regardless of the species of the ostrich.

If you want to find out more about ostriches and why they’re incredibly fast, keep on reading this guide!

How Fast Can Ostriches Run?

flock of ostriches running

The ostrich is, by far, the largest bird in the world in terms of size and weight. The average ostrich is around 8.5 feet (2.5 meters) and weighs anywhere between 200 to 220 lbs (90 to 100 kg).

Despite this incredibly large stature, the average ostrich will have a top running speed of about 43 to 45 mph (69.2 to 72.4 km/h).

In fact, in every stride that an ostrich takes, it leaps over 16.4 feet or (5 meters). This means that an average ostrich’s stride is about 6.5 times larger than that of an average human.

How Long Can an Ostrich Run at Full Speed?

What’s even more impressive than the ostrich’s ability to run at full speed is how long it can keep on running at such an astonishing pace!

Author Note: The average ostrich is capable of running at near top speed (around 37 mph or 60 km/h) for up 30 to 40 minutes.

With all these numbers and stats in mind, an ostrich is capable of finishing an entire marathon (about 26.2 miles or 42 km) in about 36 to 40 minutes. On the other hand, the world record for the fastest ever marathon time is 2 hours and 1 minute (121 minutes).

Why Do Ostriches Run So Fast?

ostrich running fast

There are several reasons why ostriches managed to become one of the fastest creatures in the world and easily the fastest land bird in the world. In this section, we’ll take a quick look at the aspects that helped ostriches to achieve that:

1. Incredibly Powerful Legs

For starters, to say that ostriches have strong legs is an understatement. A study published in the Journal of zoology about the mechanics of running in common ostriches shows how powerful their legs are.

Based on the researchers’ measurements, ostriches have an average stress strength of about 240 kilo Newton square meters and tendon stress of up to 40 Meganewton square meters.

Top Tip: With such incredible power at their feet, a single kick from an ostrich can kill a lion, so it’s no surprise that they’re also capable of cutting an enormous distance with every stride!

2. Perfect Center of Gravity

The build of an ostrich might look like a liability to running until you see one in action. The perfect center of gravity comes from the ostriches’ long neck, which protrudes forward while running in order to maintain the center of gravity between the bird’s legs.

This design allows the ostrich to spend almost all of its energy running forward rather than focusing on keeping its center of gravity in the right spot.

The high efficiency of their energy expenditure means that they can run at the highest possible speeds their leg muscles can push.

Photo by Magda Ehlers

3. Highly Elastic Tendons

Tendons are cord-like tensile connective tissues that keep muscles and bones attached. When muscles contract, tendons are pulled, which moves bones, and therefore, limbs.

In the case of ostrich, they have supernaturally elastic tendons. This helps them recoil at a much faster rate than their muscle’s ability to shorten.

As a result, the ostrich is capable of leaping much further than normal, extending its pace as well as position and force control.

4. Balancing Wings

ostrich displaying wings

Have you ever wondered why most high speed supercars have spoilers at the back? These attachments are designed to keep the vehicles balanced when they’re going at very high speeds, and that’s exactly what the wings of an ostrich do while running.

Author Note: Ostrich will extend their wings while sprinting to keep their bodies balanced, improve their aerodynamics, and reduce air resistance. This helps them reach incredibly high speed while running.

5. Evolved Around Some of the Fastest Predators

Lastly, as a flightless bird that lives in the open fields of Africa, the ostrich is surrounded by some of the fastest predators on the planet.

For that reason, ostriches have been perfecting and improving their running techniques because it’s their number 1 method for survival!

Do Different Species of Ostriches Have the Same Speed?

When it comes to species and variations, ostriches are not all created equal. In fact, there are 4 major subtypes of ostriches in the world today, and they all originated from the common African ostrich (Struthio camelus) in the African continent.

The only non-African variety of ostrich (the Arabian Ostrich) is now extinct. These species include:

  1. The North African Ostrich
  2. The South African Ostrich
  3. The Somali Ostrich
  4. The Masai Ostrich

Although ostriches come in 4 different species and subtypes, the differences between them are not easy to find for the untrained eye.

Not only that, but also when it comes to running pace and sustaining a high speed run for a long time, all these species run at almost the same top speed, which is around 43 mph or 70 km/h.

Can Ostriches Fly?

ostrich running away

Despite being incredibly fast, ostriches can’t fly, as they’re among the “flightless birds”. These birds are two-legged large birds that are found in various parts of the world. This includes the cassowaries and rheas (nandus) in Asia as well as the emu in Australia.

The main reason why ostriches can’t fly is their weight. In other words, an ostrich’s wings are perfectly capable of making it fly, but ostriches are too heavy to levitate for any time.

However, the earliest ostriches that existed during the dinosaur era were significantly lighter than present day ostriches, and therefore, they were able to fly.

Author Note: After the extinction of the dinosaurs, ostriches became more adapted to wandering around the large stretches of savannah, which made them grow relatively heavier through hundreds of thousands of years, until they became too heavy for their wings to lift them.

Are Ostriches the Fastest Bird Alive?

The answer to this question varies depending on what you’re comparing the ostrich with. For example, if you’re comparing the ostrich with all other birds in existence, then the quick answer is no.

This is because many birds that are capable of flying can reach higher speeds than ostriches and even sustain those speeds for a longer period of time.

For example, the golden eagle, the peregrine falcon, the white-throated needletail, and even the common rock pigeon and Anna’s hummingbird are all species that are known to be faster than the common ostrich.

Of course, comparing a flying bird to a flightless bird is a bit unfair. If we compare Ostriches to other flightless birds and most non-flying animals, the ostrich speed will always win!

In fact, the cheetah is known for being the fastest land animal in the world with a top speed of about 68 to 75 mph (109.4 to 120.7 km/h).

Ostriches are the second fastest land creature with a top speed of 60 to 70 mph. It’s also significantly faster than emus (50 mph or 80 km/h)  and rheas (40 mph or 64.3 km/h).

What Should You Do If an Ostrich is Chasing You?

aggressive ostrich

One of the most curious questions that people like to ask is whether ostriches can attack humans, and what to do in those situations.

One thing you should know is that the top speed of an average human is around 5 to 7 mph (8 to 11.2 km/h).

Author Note: Even the human with the fastest recorded speed in history, Usain Bolt, had a top speed of 23.4 mph (37.6 km/h), which is nowhere near half the top speed of an ostrich.

In other words, trying to outpace an ostrich is never going to work, and it’s always recommended that you don’t approach an ostrich or get too close to one if you’re not a skilled handler.

However, in the circumstance that an ostrich is close to you, the best thing to do is to get back as carefully as possible to not startle the bird. If the ostrich is chasing you, the best thing to do is to avoid their deadly kicks by lying flat on the ground with your belly and covering your head.

Luckily, while ostriches are quite aggressive and should always be appreciated from a safe distance, they don’t unleash this character if you don’t provoke them or get too close.

Photo by Adriaan Greyling

Wrap Up

With that said, you now have a brief guide that walks you through everything you need to know about the speed of ostriches and how they’re capable of sustaining a long run at such high speeds.

As you can see, their strong leg muscles and tendons along with the highly balanced wings allow them to sustain maximum stress of about 240 kilo Newton square meters, which grants them a very wide stride!

These excellent characteristics make them one of the fastest birds in the world, despite being the largest and heaviest, and therefore, not able to fly!


How long do ostriches live?

In the wild, ostriches might live for 30-40 years. In captivity, this could be much longer.

Do ostriches love their owners?

Yes, and this has caused problems. Researchers in the UK have found ostriches have been falling in love with their keeps instead of each other. Bit of a problem if they are being farmed!

Are ostriches smart?

Not really, just look at the size of their head. The brain is very small to fit inside it. However, they do have exceptional eyesight and can see over 2 miles away.

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