Why Are Ostriches So Fast?

Did you know that ostriches can reach a running speed of about 43 miles per hour? On top of that, ostriches are considered to be the fasted land bird in the world and the fastest animal that only has two legs. They are excellent runners who can reach strides up to 12 feet. So why are they so fast and why are they, such great runners? 

Ostriches are the fasted creatures in the world that only have two legs (animals with only two legs are known as “bipeds”). Other two-legged animals aren’t nearly as fast. A duck can only run about 8 miles per hour, gorillas can only run about 25 miles per hour, and the average human can only run about 6 to 8 miles per hour (although the record is held by Usain Bolt who ran at 27.8 miles per hour). So what makes ostriches so much faster than other bipeds?  

Why Are Ostriches So Fast?
Why Are Ostriches So Fast?

RELATED: Can Ostriches Swim? (+ Emus, Chicken, Parrots…)

Scientists wanted to get to the bottom of this question, so they decided to complete a study on how ostriches run. Researchers from the University of Western Australia looked into the biomechanics of how ostriches run versus how humans run. Biomechanics are the rules around the movement of living creatures. 

In this study, the researchers recorded ostriches running on a track and humans running on a track. From there, they were able to create markers on both species’ leg joints.  

What was revealed was that ostriches have more of a spring to their step than humans do. When ostriches run, they create about twice as much power from the energy stored in their tendons as humans do. This means that ostriches need to use much less muscle power than humans do to run, which allows them to be able to run so fast. 


But this is not the only reason that ostriches are so fast! Another reason that ostriches can run so quickly is because of evolution. Ostriches have evolved to be digitgrade animals. This means that they walk and run on their toes. Humans are the opposite – we are plantigrade, which means that we use our entire foot to walk and run.

RELATED: Are Emus Dangerous Or Friendly?

Researchers have seen that light limbs make for a quicker run. So since the ostrich, which is a huge animal, runs on just their toes, they are faster than us humans who need to use our entire foot wheel we run.  

Another thing that the ostrich has going for them when it comes to their running speed is the length of their legs. Ostriches have very long legs. Long legs come in handy for a running animal because longer legs can swing longer and faster. This increases the animal’s length of their step as well as the frequency of their steps, both of which make them run faster.  

Ostriches also use their wings to help them when they run. Ostriches are flightless birds, but even though their wings cannot help them fly, they do come in handy when they run. This is because these big birds use their wings to steer and balance as they are going fast. Their subtle wing movements are similar to how an airplane keeps steady as it flies through the sky at a fast speed. 

Lastly, ostriches simply need to be able to run at such a fast pace. The speed of an ostrich helps them survive their harsh habitat. Ostriches live in the savannahs of Africa which is home to big and fierce animals such as cheetahs, lions, leopards, hyenas, and African wild dogs.

READ NEXT: Are Ostriches Mean And Dangerous?

All of these animals prey on ostriches and they can all run pretty fast (the cheetah is the fasted land animal in the world and can they reach speeds of about 80 miles per hour). Since ostriches cannot fly, they need another way to be able to escape from predators, and so they have their excellent running skills. Ostriches will use their speed and endurance to flee from hungry predators in the wild.  

They must also be able to run fast in order to find food. The ostrich’s habitat is harsh and arid. In order to find food, they must travel long distances to be able to find a pasture that has the fresh plants, roots, and seeds that they like to eat.