Hiding Your Neck in the Bushes

A few months ago I saw a discussion about the origin of the ostrich burying its head in the sand trope. There are misdirections here and there, but some see it reflected in Pliny

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 10                                                  

“The nature of birds comes next. The largest—and also nearly of the class of wild beasts—is the ostrich of Ethiopia or Africa. They exceed a seated horseman in height and surpass them in speed. They have wings only for help in running. But are not for flight and do not rise from the earth. The ostrich’s talons, used as weapons, are similar to a deer’s hooves: they are split in two and are useful for picking up the rocks they throw with their feet at anyone who pursues them. They have a marvelous capacity for digesting whatever they swallow, but an equal amount of stupidity for believing that they they have completely hidden themselves when they put their neck in bushes, regardless of the great height of their bodies.

Ostrich eggs are amazing because of their size: some use them as bowls and use their feathers too for decorating the crests and helmets of armor.”

Sequitur natura avium, quarum grandissimi et paene bestiarum generis struthocameli Africi vel Aethiopici altitudinem equitis insidentis equo excedunt, celeritatem vincunt, ad hoc demum datis pinnis ut currentem adiuvent: cetero non sunt volucres nec a terra attolluntur.1 ungulae iis cervinis similes quibus dimicant, bisulcae et conprehendendis lapidibus utiles quos in fuga contra 2sequentes ingerunt pedibus. concoquendi sine dilectu devorata mira natura, sed non minus stoliditas in tanta reliqui corporis altitudine cum colla frutice occultaverint latere sese existimantium. praemira ex iis ova propter amplitudinem quibusdam habita pro vasis, conosque bellicos et galeas adornantes pinnae.

 

An “ostrich” from the Medieval Bestiary (Grootseminarie Brugge, MS. 89/54, Folio)

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