Feather Palaces, Boas and Hats- Oudthoorn- South Africa

I write of South Africa, where my heart sometimes resides, and my mind often drifts back to, across the distance of lands and oceans. An Africa that always beats with a strong heart of different people, languages and cultures, who irrefutably call this land their home.”South Africa

From Mossel Bay in the western cape on the Indian Ocean,  we will travel inland 84 kms by road to Oudtshoorn, about 1 hour and 20 min.

Feather Palaces, boas and hats, the common denominator has to be Oudtshoorn in the Cape Province of South Africa, the home of the Ostrich.Ostriches  With the Swartberg mountains in the distance, the farms in this rural area, which were only part of a village surrounding a church at the time, first grew large and prosperous, selling feathers between 1875 and 1880; back then the fashion for wearing feathers was so O La La and big in Europe, U.K. and America. 

Farmers ripped out their other crops, herded the ostiches into pens and grew lucerne to feed them.

HatFeathered hat

Ostriches stand about 9ft tall and weigh 350 lbs, fully grown; they can run 30 mph; and sprint 43 mph.  Their chicks hatch from huge eggs the size of 24 hen eggs; they leave the nest after 4 days and are fully grown within 18 months.Old picture of Ostrich Farmer

In 1885 the area was hit by an unforgetable flood, which crippled the stocks, but things soon recovered, to hit a second boom; as after the Second Anglo Boer War the feather fashion soared in 1902. 

Farmers became wealthy and that was when the “Feather Palaces” sprang up. 

 Beautiful homes were built.


This boom in feather sales peaked to 1913.


The blame for the slump in 1914 was put squarely on Henry Ford’s shoulders. 

Yes The Henry Ford who invented the motor car!


Ladies could no longer wear large elaborate hats while travelling in a motor car. 

And wealthy ladies who could own cars, also wore feathers!


Feathers were ruffled! 

Orders stopped and income waned.  Banks turned the farmers away so they had to return to growing food crops to stay alive.


It was a sad day for the Oudtshoorn district.  Ostriches could still be of use for their hide and their meat. 

But feathers were worth feathers!


They are still around, these palaces, a reminder of how Oudtshoorn made a name for itself on the map of South Africa.

Ngorongoro nov 77 DB

When you do visit: I dare you to have a ride on an ostrich, only don’t get too close with the camera, as they love shiney objects.

Ostrich mouth

It isn’t true, that they will eat almost anything, but they do eat stones, this helps with their digestion, apparently!

They don’t bury their heads in the sand either.

And they really would love to meet YOU!

Visit Oudtshoorn!!

This is for Jenny’s Alphabe Thursday Challenge- Letter ‘O’.


About liz2you

Life just happens when you plan something else. 50 years spent in Africa and relevant stories.
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5 Responses to Feather Palaces, Boas and Hats- Oudthoorn- South Africa

  1. joanfrankham says:

    Such wonderful photos, love the houses, not too sure of getting too close to these big birds, have a few of the eggs as ornaments and they are huge!

  2. Tracy says:

    Dare I confess that I have eaten Ostritch and it was very tasty . fab pics

  3. That last picture of the ostrich made me laugh!

    My husband and I went to an ostrich farm once and they kept trying to bite me over the fence.

    Ostriches and horses don’t like me for some reason.

    But I completely liked your post about them!

    Thanks for linking.


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