The largest of birds, and a sort of connecting link between fowls and quadrupeds, termed by the Persians, Arabs, and by Greeks, the "camel-bird." It is a native of the dry and torrid regions of Africa and western Asia. The gray ostrich is seven feet high and its neck three feet long; it weighs nearly eighty pounds, and is strong enough to carry two men. The other species, with glossy black wings and white tail, is sometimes ten feet high. The beautiful plumes so highly valued are found on the wings, about twenty on each, those of the tail being usually broken and worn. There are no feathers on the thighs, or under the wings; and the neck is but scantily clothed with thin whitish hairs. The weight of the body and the size and structure of the wings show that the animal is formed for running rather than flying.
The ostrich is described in Job 39:13-18; and in various places where our translation calls it the "owl," Job 30:29; Jer 50:39; or "daughter of the owl," Isa 13:21; 34:13; 43:20; Mic 1:8. In these and other passages it figures as a bird of the desert. Shy and timorous, it is occasionally driven by hunger to visit and ravage cultivated fields; but is usually found only in the heart of the desert, in troops, or small groups, or mingling familiarly with the herds of wild asses, gnus, and quaggas. Its food is often scarce and poor, plants of the desert "withered before they are grown up;" also snails, insects, and various reptiles; for it has a voracious and indiscrimination appetite, swallowing the vilest and the hardest substances. Job speaks particularly of the speed of the ostrich," She scorneth the horse and his rider." So Xenophon, the biographer of Cyrus, says of the ostriches of Arabia, that none could overtake them, the baffled horsemen soon returning from the chase; and the writer of a voyage to Senegal says, "The ostrich sets off at a hard gallop; but after being excited a little, she expands her wings as if to catch the wind, and abandons herself to a speed so great, that she seems not to touch the ground. I am persuaded she would leave far behind the swiftest English courser."
She scoops out for herself a circular nest in the sand, and lays a large number of eggs; some of which are placed without the nest, as though intended for the nourishment of the young brood. The mother bird, with the help of the sun in the tropics, and of her mate in the cool nights, performs the process of incubation; but her timidity is such that she flies from her nest at the approach of danger, and as Dr. Shaw remarks, "forsakes her eggs or her young ones, to which, perhaps, she never returns; or if she does, it may be too late either to restore life to the one, or to preserve the lives of the others. Agreeably to this account, the Arabs meet sometimes with whole nests of these eggs undisturbed; some of them are sweet and good, others are addled and corrupted. They often meet with a few of the little ones no bigger than well-grown pullets, half starved, straggling and moaning about, like so many distressed orphans for their mother. In this manner the ostrich may be said to be 'hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers; her labor,' in hatching and attending them so far, 'being vain, without fear,' or the least concern of what becomes of them afterwards. This want of affection is also recorded in '/Lamentations/4/3/type/isv'>La 4:3, 'The daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness;' that is, apparently by deserting her own children, and receiving others in return."
When the ostrich is provoked, she sometimes makes a fierce, angry, and hissing noise, with her throat inflated, and her mouth open; at other times she has a moaning and plaintive cry; and in the night the male repels prowling enemies by a short roar which is sometimes taken for that of a lion, Mic 1:8.
(La 4:3), the rendering of Hebrew pl. enim; so called from its greediness and gluttony. The allusion here is to the habit of the ostrich with reference to its eggs, which is thus described: "The outer layer of eggs is generally so ill covered that they are destroyed in quantities by jackals, wild-cats, etc., and that the natives carry them away, only taking care not to leave the marks of their footsteps, since, when the ostrich comes and finds that her nest is discovered, she crushes the whole brood, and builds a nest elsewhere." In Job 39:13 this word in the Authorized Version is the rendering of a Hebrew word (notsah) which means "feathers," as in the Revised Version. In the same verse the word "peacocks" of the Authorized Version is the rendering of the Hebrew pl. renanim, properly meaning "ostriches," as in the Revised Version. (See Owl .)
So translated for "owl" (Le 11:16), bath haya'anah "daughter of greediness" or "daughter of wailing." Isa 34:13 translated "a dwelling for ostriches," not "a court for owls" (Isa 43:20, margin). Feminine to express the species. Some Arabs eat the flesh. It will swallow almost any substance, iron, stone, etc., to assist the triturating action of the gizzard. The date stone, the hardest of vegetable substances, is its favourite food. Its cry resembles the lion's, so that Hottentots mistake it. Dr. Livingstone could only distinguish them by the fact that the ostrich roars by day, and the lion roars by night. Rosenmuller makes the derivation "daughter of the desert." (Mic 1:8), Job 30:29 - "I am a companion to ostriches" (not "owls"), living among solitudes. In La 4:3, yeenim, "cruel like the ostriches in the wilderness." renanim; Job 39:13, "peacocks." Rather, "the ostrich hen," literally, "cries," referring to its dismal night cries, as in Job 30:29. Translated: "the wing of the ostrich hen vibrates joyously.
Is it like the quill and feathers of the pious bird (the stork)? (surely not.)" The quivering wing characterizes the ostrich in full course. Its white and black feathers in the wing and tail are like the stork's feathers; but, unlike that bird, the symbol of parental love, it deserts its young. If the "peacock"(which has a distinct name, tukiyim) had been meant, the tail, its chief beauty, not the wings, would have been mentioned. Ostriches are polygamous. The hens lay their eggs promiscuously in one nest, a mere hole scratched in the sand, and they cover them with sand a foot deep. The parent birds incubate by turn during the night, but leave them by day to the sun's heat in tropical countries. Hence, arose the notion of her lack of parental love: "which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust." But in non-tropical countries the female incubates her eggs by day, the male takes his turn on the nest at night. There they watch the eggs so carefully that they will even kill jackals in their defense.
Moreover, she lays some of her eggs on the surface around the nest; these seem to be forsaken; "she forgeteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beasts may break them." They are actually for the nutriment of the young birds. It is a shy bird. The only stupidity in the ostrich which warrants the Arab designation "the stupid bird" at all is its swallowing at times of substances which prove fatal to it, for instance, hot bullets, according to Dr. Shaw (Travels, ii. 345); also its never swerves from the course it once adopts, so that hunters often kill it by taking a shortcut, to which it only runs faster. Livingstone calculates its stride at 12 ft. on an average, and 30 strides in every 10 seconds, i.e. 26 miles an hour. "She is hardened against her young ones as though they were not hers," i.e. to man she seems (Scripture uses phenomenal language, not thereby asserting the scientific accuracy of it) as if she neglected her young; but she is guided by a sure instinct from God, as much as animals whose instincts seem (at first sight) to be more provident. At a slight noise she forsakes her eggs, as if hardened toward her young; but it is actually a mark of young sagacity, since her capture might be the only result of returning.
Her labour (in producing eggs) is in vain, (yet she is) without fear, unlike other birds who, if one and another egg be removed, will go on laying until the full number is restored. "Because God hath deprived her of wisdom," etc.: the argument is, her very seeming lack of wisdom is not without the wise design of God, just as in the saint's trials, which seem so unreasonable to Job, there lies hidden a wise design. Her excellencies, notwithstanding her seeming deficiencies, are enumerated next; "she (proudly) lifteth up herself on high (Gesenius, 'she lasheth herself' up to the course by flapping her wings), she scorneth the horse." The largest and swiftest of cursorial animals. Its strength is immense; the wings are not used for flying, but are spread "quivering" (see above) as sails before the wind, and serve also as oars. The long white plumes in the wing and tail come to us from Barbary; the general plumage is black, the head and neck is bare. Their height is more than eight feet. Zoologically, it approaches the mammalian type. Its habitat is the desert here and there, from the Sahara to the Cape of South Africa, and in the Euphratean plains (Isa 13:21, margin).
1. bath ya'?n
This name occurs but twice in the A.V.
1. yaen, La 4:3, where its cruelty is referred to. A kindred Hebrew word (preceded by bath, signifying the female), bath yaanah, 'daughter of howling,' is eight times translated 'owl.' Le 11:16; De 14:15; Job 30:29; Isa 13:21; 34:13; 43:20; Jer 50:39; Mic 1:8. It is classed among the unclean birds, and is characterised by dwelling in waste places, and also by its wailing cry, which well agree with the habits of the ostrich. Though some passages may seem to point to the owl, doubtless the ostrich is referred to in all the above passages.
2. notsah, signifying 'plumage,' is translated ostrich in Job 39:13-18; the ostrich, however, is referred to in Job 39:13 by the word renanim, pl., which signifies, 'a crying or wailing,' but in the A.V. is translated 'peacocks.' The passage is obscure, but Job 39:13 may be better translated thus: "The wing of the ostrich beats joyously: but is it the stork's pinion and plumage?" The passage then speaks of the ostrich leaving its eggs unprotected, and being hardened against its young. The ostrich leaves its eggs in the sand, well covered up. The sun keeps them warm by day, and the parent sits upon them at night. Other eggs are left unprotected near by for the young birds when hatched to eat, and these may be trampled on. As to the indifference of the parents to their young, it is asserted that when a hunter approaches they will leave their nests and then often they cannot find the place again in the wide desert; but dead jackals have been found near the nests, which have been killed by the parent birds. Some suppose that Job 39:16 refers to other birds laying eggs in the ostrich's nest, from which are hatched birds that are 'not hers.' Job 39:18 refers to the speed of the bird, which has often exceeded that of the best horses. The ostrich is of the family Struthionidae, order Cursores.
a large bird, native of African and Arabia, nearly ten feet high, having s long neck and short wings. It seeks retired places,
and has a peculiar mournful cry that is sometimes mistaken by the Arabs for that of the lion.
will be found a description of the bird's habits. Ostriches are polygamous; the hens lay their eggs promiscuously in one nest, which is merely a hole scratched in the sand; the eggs are then covered over to the depth of about a foot, and are, in the case of those birds which are found within the tropics, generally left for the greater part of the day to the heat of the sun, the parent-birds taking their turns at incubation during the night. The habit of the ostrich leaving its eggs to be matured by the sun's heat is usually appealed to in order to confirm the scriptural account, "she leaveth her eggs to the earth;" but this is probably the case only with the tropical birds. We believe that the true explanation of this passage is that some of the eggs are left exposed around the nest for the nourishment of the young birds. It is a general belief among the Arabs that the ostrich is a very stupid bird; indeed they have a proverb, "stupid as an ostrich." As is well known, the ostrich will swallow almost any substance, iron, stones, and even has been known to swallow "several leaden bullets scorching hot from the mould." But in many other respects the ostrich is not as stupid as this would indicate, and is very hard to capture. It is the largest of all known birds, and perhaps the swiftest of all cursorial animals. -The feathers so much prized are the long white plumes of the wings. The best are brought from Barbary and the west coast of Africa.
OSTRICH. ????; in Arabic neamah; in Greek ??????????????, the camel bird; and still in the east, says Niebuhr, it is called thar edsjammel, "the camel bird," Le 11:16; De 14:15; Job 30:29; Isa 13:21; 34:13; 43:20; Jer 50:39; La 4:3; Mic 1:8; ?????, Job 39:13. The first name in the places above quoted is, by our own translators, generally rendered "owls." "Now it should be recollected," says the author of "Scripture Illustrated," "that the owl is not a desert bird, but rather resides in places not far from habitations, and that it is not the companion of serpents; whereas, in several of these passages, the joneh is associated with deserts, dry, extensive, thirsty deserts, and with serpents, which are their natural inhabitants. Our ignorance of the natural history of the countries which the ostrich inhabits has undoubtedly perverted the import of the above passages; but let any one peruse them afresh, and exchange the owl for the ostrich, and he will immediately discover a vigour of description, and an imagery much beyond what he had formerly perceived." The Hebrew phrase ?? ?????, means "the daughter of vociferation," and is understood to be the female ostrich, probably so called from the noise which this bird makes. It is affirmed by travellers of good credit, that ostriches make a fearful, screeching, lamentable noise.
Ostriches are inhabitants of the deserts of Arabia, where they live chiefly upon vegetables; lead a social and inoffensive life, the male assorting with the female with connubial fidelity. Their eggs are very large, some of them measuring above five inches in diameter, and weighing twelve or fifteen pounds. These birds are very prolific, laying forty or fifty eggs at a clutch. They will devour leather, grass, hair, stones, metals, or any thing that is given to them; but those substances which the coats of the stomach cannot act upon pass whole. It is so unclean an animal as to eat its own ordure as soon as it voids it. This is a sufficient reason, were others wanting, why such a fowl should be reputed unclean, and its use as an article of diet prohibited. "The ostrich," says M. Buffon, "was known in the remotest ages, and mentioned in the most ancient books. How indeed could an animal so remarkably large, and so wonderfully prolific, and peculiarly suited to the climate as is the ostrich, remain unknown in Africa, and part of Asia, countries peopled from the earliest ages, full of deserts indeed, but where there is not a spot which has not been traversed by the foot of man? The family of the ostrich, therefore, is of great antiquity. Nor in the course of ages has it varied or degenerated from its native purity. It has always remained on its paternal estate; and its lustre has been transmitted unsullied by foreign intercourse. In short, it is among the birds what the elephant is among the quadrupeds, a distinct race, widely separated from all the others by characters as striking as they are invariable." "On the least noise," says Dr. Shaw, "or trivial occasion, she forsakes her eggs, or her young ones; to which perhaps she never returns; or if she does, it may be too late either to restore life to the one or to preserve the lives of the others. Agreeably to this account the Arabs meet sometimes with whole nests of these eggs undisturbed: some of them are sweet and good, others are addle and corrupted; others again have their young ones of different growth, according to the time, it may be presumed, they have been forsaken of the dam. The Arabs often meet with a few of the little ones no bigger than well grown pullets, half starved, straggling and moaning about like so many distressed orphans for their mother. In this manner the ostrich may be said to be hardened against her young ones as though they were not hers; her labour, in hatching and attending them so far, being vain, without fear, or the least concern of what becomes of them afterward. This want of affection is also recorded, '/Lamentations/4/3/type/isv'>La 4:3, 'the daughter of my people is become cruel, like ostriches in the wilderness;' that is, by apparently deserting their own, and receiving others in return." Natural affection and sagacious instinct are the grand instruments by which providence continues the race of other animals: but no limits can be set to the wisdom and power of God. He preserveth the breed of the ostrich without those means, and even in a penury of all the necessaries of life. Notwithstanding the stupidity of this animal, its Creator hath amply provided for its safety, by endowing it with extraordinary swiftness, and a surprising apparatus for escaping from its enemy. They, when they raise themselves up for flight, "laugh at the horse and his rider." They afford him an opportunity only of admiring at a distance the extraordinary agility and the stateliness likewise of their motions, the richness of their plumage, and the great propriety there was in ascribing to them an expanded quivering wing. Nothing certainly can be more entertaining than such a sight, the wings, by their rapid but unwearied vibrations, equally serving them for sails and oars; while their feet, no less assisting in conveying them out of sight, seem to be insensible of fatigue.