How Do Ostriches Run So Fast? (Explained for Beginners)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

When we think of birds, we picture them flying at high speeds.

However, there are some species of birds that do not fly, and interestingly, they happen to be some of the best runners in the wild.

Ostriches are one of the flightless birds in the world; however, they are compensated with amazing running speed.

These birds aren’t just the largest birds but they’re also the fastest birds. 

In this article, we will go over some reasons why ostriches run so fast. If this is of interest to you then keep reading. 

How Do Ostriches Run So Fast?

How Do Ostriches Run So Fast

1. Ostriches have spring tendons

Research shows that ostriches also have spring tendons.

The spring tendon is what supports the talus head from medial subluxation and planter against the body weight when you stand. 

The presence of the spring tendons enables ostriches to run very fast.

The tendons store recoil of elastic energy which enables ostriches to generate twice as much energy than humans. As a result, they can run faster with less physical force. T

his explains why ostriches run faster than humans. 

This doesn’t mean their wings are of no use. The wings of an ostrich are super important as well. This is because they use their wings as rudders.

This enables them to change direction while running. 

2. Center of gravity

You might be wondering how an ostrich running fast is related to the center of gravity. 

Well, ostriches have a center of gravity between their legs and their wings too.

This enables them to be perfectly balanced when running at high speeds. It also enables them to focus all of their leg power on running instead of keeping balanced.

Despite being flightless, ostriches use their large wings to help stay balanced at high speeds, which is essential to ensure that they don’t easily fall and injure themselves when running.

3. Predators 

The speed of an ostrich is critical because most of its predators are also extremely fast.

Cheetahs, lions, leopards, wild dogs, hyenas, and crocodiles are all the predators of ostriches, and, these animals are great runners. 

Running for an ostrich may result from a predatory attack. Normally, an ostrich will hide or flee from a predator, however, if forced to fight, it will most likely fight back. 

In cases where an ostrich’s speed fails, it will usually resort to using its powerful kicks.

An ostrich’s legs are not only used for running, they can also be used as a strong defense to kick their predators.

Here is an article I wrote on why do ostriches lay in the rain?

How Fast Can An Ostrich Run?

Despite weighing more than 100 kg and being Africa’s largest flightless bird, the ostrich has a top speed of 70 km/h (44 mph).

It is one of the fastest animals on the African savannah, covering five meters in a single stride. 

Even more impressive, ostriches can maintain a constant speed of 60 km/h over long distances.

They can complete a 42-kilometer Olympic marathon in or within 40 minutes. 

Ostriches have incredible stamina and can maintain speeds of 30mph to 38mph for up to half an hour or more. That means they can complete a 26-mile marathon in 35 to 40 minutes.

In comparison, the human marathon record is slightly more than 2 hours.

Can A Human Outrun An Ostrich?

A human outrunning an ostrich is completely impossible.

No human, past or present, can outrun an ostrich, not even over a short distance, let alone a long one. 

Ostriches can outrun humans by more than twice their speed.

Their top speed of 45mph is well above the human sprint world record of around 27mph. 

It is strongly advised that humans never approach an ostrich in the first place. It’s best to maintain a safe distance of about 100 meters away from this bird. 

However, what would you do if an ostrich approaches you?

Well, in this case, back away slowly, but, if it gets too close, shrink yourself by lying on your front and protecting your head.

At all costs, avoid the kick. This is because ostriches are not very intelligent birds, and they will interpret a harmless movement from a human as a threat.

Can A Lion Outrun An Ostrich?

Over a long distance, an ostrich will easily outpace a lion, but lions have similar sprint speeds to ostriches, though they can only sustain them for short periods.

However, if the lion was close enough, a well-timed attack can easily take out an ostrich.

Nonetheless, ostriches are not easy prey for lions or other predators.

An ostrich, with its excellent eyesight, strength, speed, and endurance, is more than capable of defending itself against one or more lions.

Ostriches typically live in groups of 10 to 12 ostriches, making them even more difficult to attack.

Are Ostriches Faster Than Cheetahs?

Ostriches are extremely fast runners, however, they are not as fast as cheetahs.

Cheetahs are the fastest land animals on the planet, reaching speeds of 75mph, which is much faster than an ostrich even at maximum speed. 

Ostriches would not beat cheetahs over 100 meters, but unlike these cats that get tired after about a minute, an ostrich can maintain a speed of about 50 kilometers per hour for up to 30 minutes. 

Cheetahs would rarely hunt ostriches because they are far too large and powerful to kill with a single kick. 

Also check out this article I wrote on what are ostriches good for?

Why Can’t Other Birds Run As Fast As Ostriches?

Ostriches are the fastest land birds because of their makeup.

They have powerful legs that run at an incredibly high pace. Other birds do not have this make which is why they are not as fast as ostriches. 

However, note that all birds have their unique abilities and strength. Most birds are the best when it comes to their flying games.

There are several birds also have incredible running speed although not like ostriches. Here is a list of them;

1. Rheas

They are ratites, just like ostriches, so their physical appearance is unsurprising. These birds, like their cousins, cannot fly but can run at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour.

Rheas, on the other hand, are much smaller than ostriches, standing about five feet tall and weighing 60 pounds.

Darwin’s rhea is a much smaller species of rhea that stands only 3 feet tall and weighs 30 pounds.

2. Cassowary

The cassowary‘s sharp claws, which can grow to be four inches long, are one of the reasons it is so dangerous.

Because their claws are only found on the middle toes of each foot, it is a highly specialized killing machine.

When attacking, they will use their claw first to injure their attacker. 

However, because these birds can run at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, catching them is difficult.

3. Emus

Emus are the second-largest birds on the planet, after ostriches, with an average height of 5.7 feet.

Emus are native to Australia’s forests, woodlands, and sand plains. They are part of the group of flightless birds.

These enormous birds have powerful legs that allow them to run at a high speed of 31 miles per hour.

They are also known to be tough birds that can travel long distances.

4. Guam rail

The Guam rail is another bird with incredible running abilities. This bird, which is native to the United States, is also known as the Koko bird.

It is a small bird, standing about 11 inches tall. 

The Guam rail has a small compressed body, particularly in the neck and breast areas, which allows it to move quickly in small steps. 

This is why it can reach speeds of up to 15 miles per hour in short bursts.

Furthermore, they have a distinct screeching call that can be heard from a long distance.


Ostriches are the fastest running birds in the world.

These birds have a top speed of 70 km/h (44 mph). Interestingly, they can cover five meters in a single stride.

They achieve all of these with the aid of their spring tendon and center of gravity. 

The presence of a predator is one of their strongest motivations.

Ostriches would rather run to avoid attacks from predators. Other birds that have incredible running speed include emus, cassowary, rheas, and Guam rail.

Photo of author

About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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