(יִעֲנָה, yaanah', always with בִּת, daughter of the ostrich, i.e. the female ostrich. See also the cognate יָעֵן, yaen, La 4:3. In Job 39:13, the word נוֹצָה , notsah, feathers, is wrongly rendered ostrich; while רנָנַים, female ostriches, is translated peacocks, in the A.V.; Sept.
στρουθός, De 14:15, but in Isaiah and in Mic 1:8, Sept. σειρῆνες; see Schleusner, Lex . s.v.). In Arabic the bird is called nea-mah, also thareds jammel, i.e. camel-bird; like the Persian sutur morgh; comp. Greek στρουθοκάμηλος (Diod. Sic. 2:50), and Lat. Struthiocamelus, in Pliny.
1. Names. —
(1.) It is now generally admitted that the word yaansh should be rendered ostrich; as the passages in which it occurs require us to understand some inhabitant of the remote desert, and seem thus to exclude the owl, the usual rendering in the English Version (Job 30:29; Job 39:13; Isa 13:21; Isa 34:13). SEE OWL. The etymology of the word also accords better with the former rendering. The wordn יִעֲנָה , yaanah', like רנָנַים, renanim', appears to refer to the habit of uttering loud-sounding cries; and the third name, bath-hayaanah, "the daughter of vociferation," or "loud moaning," is in conformity with the others, and an Oriental figurative mode of expressing the same faculty (which exists not, we think, in the females alone, but in the whole species); for the ostrich has an awful voice, which, when heard on the desert, is sometimes mistaken in the night, even by natives, for the sound of a beast. This, too, is the almost unanimous rendering of the old translators (Gesen. Thes. 2:609), while the reference of the word to the owl, supported by Oedmann (Samml. 3:35 sq.), rests on no 'early testimony. Bochart (2:830 sq.) would understand the male ostrich by תִּחמָס, in Le 11:16; De 14:15; but no ancient version supports this rendering. SEE NIGHT-HAWK. Gesenius (Thes. s.v. יִעֲנָה) refers the word to the root יָעִן, which signifies "to be greedy or voracious;" and demurs to the explanation given by Michaelis (Suppl. ad Lex. Heb. p. 1127) and by Rosenmüller (Not. ad Hieroz. 2:829, and Schol. ad Leviticus 11:16), who trace the Hebrew word yaanah to one which 'in Arabic denotes "hard and sterile land:" bath-hayaanah accordingly would mean "daughter of the desert." Without entering into the merits of these various explanations, it will be enough to mention that any one of them is well suited to the habits of the ostrich. This bird, as is well known, will swallow almost any substance, pieces of iron, large stones, etc.; this it does probably in order to assist the triturating action of the gizzard: so that the Oriental expression of "daughter of voracity" is eminently characteristic of the ostrich. With regard to the two other derivations of the Hebrew word, we may add that the cry of the ostrich is said sometimes to resemble that of the lion, so that the Hottentots of South Africa are deceived by it; and that its particular haunts are the parched and desolate tracts of sandy deserts.
(2.) Ya'en (יָעֵן) occurs only in the plural number יעֵנַים, ye'enim (Sept. στρουθίον, Vulg. struthio), in La 4:3, where the context shows that the ostrich is intended: "The daughter of my people is become cruel like the ostriches in the wilderness." This is important, as showing that theabove word, which is merely the feminine form of this one, with the addition of bath, "daughter," clearly points to the ostrich as its correct translation, even if all the old versions were not agreed upon the matter.
(3.) Ranan, רָנָן, in the plural form רנָנָים , renanim; Sept. τερπόμενοι; Vulg. struthio), alone occurs in Job 39:13; where, however. it is clear from the whole passage (13-18) that ostriches are intended by the word. The A. V. renders rehanim by "peacocks," a translation which has not found favor with commentators; as "peacocks," for which there is a different Hebrew name (תֻּכַּיַּים), were probably not known to the people of Arabia or Syria before the time of Solomon. SEE PEACOCK. The Hebrew renanins appears to be derived from the root רָנִן, randan, "to wail," or to "utter a stridulous sound," in allusion to this bird's nocturnal cries. Gesenius compares the Arabic zimar, "a female ostrich," from the root zamar, "to sing."
2. Description. — The head of the ostrich is small, and not composed of strong bones; the bill, in form somewhat like that of a duck, is flat, with a nail at the apex, and broad at the gape; the eyes, hazel-colored, have a clear and distinct vision of objects to a great distance, although when seen obliquely they have an opalescent appearance; the auditory apparatus is large and open, notwithstanding that in the pairing season ostriches are said to be very deaf; the neck, long and slender, is, together with the head, but scantiy clothed with whitish shining hairs, and in the pairing season becomes for a time pink or rosy red; towards the base it assumes the general color of the plumage, which, with the quill and tail plumes, is entirely composed of loose downy-webbed feathers, only differing in size and color; the wings, each from three to four feet long, exclusive of feathers, are entirely naked on the inner side, and are supplied towards the end of the pinion bone on each side with two sharp-pointed quills resembling those of a porcupine, and no doubt serving for defense; the thighs, nearly bare of plumage, and of a deep flesh-color, are as full and muscular as those of a strong man, and the tarsi or legs, of corresponding length with the proportions of the neck, are covered with broad horny scales, and terminate in two toes; the inner, being the longest, is armed with a broad, strong claw; and that on the outside, only half the length of the other, is without any. The great feathers, so much prized in commerce, are twenty in each wing, those of the tail being nearly always useless, broken, and worn. The cloven feet, long neck, and vaulted back of these birds are in themselves quite sufficient to suggest to the imagination an animal of the camel kind: but these external appearances are not the only points of resemblance; the stomach is so formed as to appear possessed of a third ventricle, and there are other structural particulars, such as a sternum not keel-shaped, as in birds, but in the form of a round buckler, to protect the chest, which, with the fact that they are without the muscular conformation to render them capable of flying, altogether approximate these birds to quadrupeds, and particularly to the order of Ruminantia.
3. Habits. — Ostriches are gregarious — from families consisting of a male with one or several female birds, and perhaps a brood or two of young, up to troops of near a hundred. They keep aloof from: the presence of water in the wild and desert, mixing without hesitation among herds of gnu, wild asses, quaggas, and other striped Equidae, and the larger species of Antilopidte. From. the nature of their food, which consists of seeds and vegetables, although seldom or never in want of drink, it is evident that they must often approach more productive regions, which, by means of the great rapidity of motion they possess, is easily accomplished; and they are consequently known to be very destructive to cultivated fields. As the organ of taste is very obtuse in these birds, they swallow with little or no discrimination all kinds of substances, and among these stones; it is also probable that, like poultry, they devour lizards, snakes, and the young of birds that fail in their way. One has even been known to snap a traveler's sketch-book from his hand, attracted to it by the sight of the white paper. It is not yet finally decided whether the two species are polygamous, though concurrent testimony seems to leave no doubt of the fact: there is, however, no uncertainty respecting the nest, which is merely a circular basin scraped out of the soil, with a slight elevation at the border, and sufficiently large to contain a great number of eggs; from twelve to about sixty have been found in them, exclusive of a certain number always observed to be outlying, or placed beyond the raised border of the nest, and amounting apparently to nearly one third of the whole. These are supposed to feed the young brood when first hatched, either in their fresh state, or in a corrupted form, when the substance in them has produced worms. These eggs are of different periods of laying, like those within, and the birds hatched form only a part of the contents of a nest, until the breeding season closes. The eggs are of different sizes, some attaining to seven inches in their longer diameter, and others less, having a dirty white shell, finely speckled with rust color; their weight borders on three pounds. Within the tropics they are kept sufficiently warm in the day-time not to require incubation, but beyond one or more females sit constantly, and the male bird takes that duty himself after the sun has set. It is then that the short roar may be heard during darkness; and at other times different sounds are uttered, likened to the cooing of pigeons, the cry of a hoarse child, and the hissing of a goose — no doubt expressive of different emotions; but that the roar is expressive of the feeling of anger may be inferred from the assertion that jackals and foxes (Canis Megalotis Caama?) have been found close to the nests of these birds, kicked to death. This fact is the more credible, as the last-mentioned animal is a dexterous purloiner of their eggs; and it may be here added, in proof of the organ of smelling not being quite so obtuse in the ostrich as is asserted, that Caffres and Hottentots, when they daily rob a nest for their own convenience, always withdraw the eggs by means of a stick, in order to prevent the female finding out the larceny by means of the scent which human hands would leave behind; for then they will not continue to lay, but forsake the abode altogether. This circumstance may account for the small number of eggs often found in their nests. Tristram states (Ibis, 2:74): "Two Arabs began to dig with their hands, and presently brought up four fine fresh eggs from the depth of about a foot under the warm sand."
4. Locality. — The ostrich roams over the whole of Africa from the Sahara to the Cape; but principally affects vast desert plains, over which its lofty stature gives it a great command of sight. It is still abundant in the Arabian peninsula, and extends into the waste and and regions that bound it on the north. It was predicted both by Isa 13:21 and by Jer 1; Jer 39 that ostriches should dwell at Babylon, than which there could scarcely have been devised a feature more strongly fitted to mark the silence and desolation, not merely of the city itself, but of the whole region in which it stood, and the utter contrast of this condition with that in which it sat the lady of kingdoms, and the center to which converged all the traffic of a plain that swarmed with towns and cities. The bird of the desert still strides over the Euphratean plains. Herbert says he saw it between Lar and Shiraz. Mr. Ainsworth also implies that it still exists in the and wastes of Mesopotamia and Assyria, though it has become rare. Dr. Kitto informs us that it "inhabits the great Syrian desert, especially the plains extending from the Hauran towards Jebel Shammar and Nejed. Some are found in the Hauran, and a few are taken almost every year, even within two days' journey of Damascus" (Phys. Hist. of Palestine, p. 407). Prophecy assigns it to Idumaea (Isa 34:13). Ostriches exist, not only in Africa, but in the region of Arabia, east and south of Palestine beyond the Euphrates; but it may be a question whether they extend so far to the eastward as Goa, although that limit is assigned them by late French ornithologists.
The two species appear promiscuously in Asia and Africa, but the troops or coveys of each are always separate. The gray is more common in the south, while the black, which grows largest in Caffraria, predominates to the north of the equator. One of the last mentioned, taken on board a French prize, and wounded in the capture, was brought to London, where it was able to peck its food from a cross-beam eleven feet from the ground. The enormous bird afterwards shown in Bullock's museum was said to be the same. The common-sized ostrich weighs about eighty pounds; whence it may be judged that the individual here mentioned may have been at least forty pounds heavier.
5. Scripture Notices, etc. — The ostrich is mentioned in the Old Testament among unclean birds (Le 11:16; De 14:15), less, perhaps, because of the voracity with which it swallows glass, metals, etc. (AElian, Anim. 14:7; Shaw, Trav. p. 389), than because it appeared to the Hebrews as a kind of hybrid, half bird and half beast (comp. Sommer, Bibl. Abhdl. 1:257), or because the ideas of desolation and terror were naturally associated with its home in the desert. Indeed, the Arabians and Ethiopians eat the flesh of the ostrich with delight (see Diod. Sic. 3:28; Strabo, 16:772), and in India, and even in Rome, it was considered a delicacy (AElian, Anim. 14:13; Lamprid. Vit. Heliogab. p. 27). But it is only when young that it could be palatable to a modern taste; and it is always dry and hard (see Aben-Ezra, on Ex 23:29; Galen, De Aliment. Facult. 3:20). African Arabs, says Mr. Tristram, eat its flesh, which is good and sweet. Ostrich's brains were among the dainties that were, placed on the supper-tables of the ancient Romans. The fat of the ostrich is sometimes used in medicine for the cure of palsy and rheumatism (Pococke, Trav.
1:209). It is mentioned as living in the desert in Isa 13:21; Isa 34:13; Isa 43:20; Jer 1; Jer 39; La 4:3; comp. Theophrast. Plant. 4:4, p. 322; Jerome on Isaiah 14. This is so notorious of the ostrich that the Arabian zoologists suppose that it never drinks. It is said to be hardened against its young (La 4:3). This is confirmed of the ostrich by travelers (comp. Shaw, Trav. p. 388). Yet the common statement that the ostrich deposits and leaves its eggs in the nests of other birds cannot be supported. Elian even speaks of the ostrich as peculiarly fond of its young (Anima. 14:7). "As a further proof of the affection of the ostrich for its young" (we quote from Shaw's Zoology, 11:426), "it is related by Thunberg that he once rode past a place where a female was sitting on her nest, when the bird sprang up and pursued him, evidently with a view to prevent his noticing her eggs or young." A mournful cry or scream is attributed to it (Mic 1:8; Job 30:29; comp. Bochart, Hieroz. 2:811 sq.). Shaw testifies to the lugubrious voice of this bird: "During the lonesome part of the night they often make a doleful and hideous noise, which would sometimes be like the roaring of a lion; at other times it would bear resemblance to the hoarser voices of other quadrupeds, particularly of the bull and the ox. I have often heard them groan, as if they were in the greatest agonies" (2:349). Dr. Livingstone refers to the loudness and lion-like character of the sound: "The silly ostrich makes a noise as loud [as the lion] . I have been careful to inquire the opinions of Europeans who have heard both, if they could detect any difference between the roar of a lion and that of an ostrich; the invariable answer was that they could not when the animal was at any distance. . . To this day I can distinguish between them with certainty only by knowing that the ostrich roars by day, and the lion by night" (South Africa, p. 141). The name רנָנַים (Job 39:13) is given in allusion to this cry, as is sufficiently clear from the context. The following is a close translation of the poetical description of this bird in the passage just cited (Job 39:13-18), which aptly delineates its chief characteristics "The wing of the ostrich [is] flaunted: [Is her] pinion perchance [like that of the] pious [stork, or [her] feather? [Nay], for she will leave to the earth her eggs, Even upon [the] dust will she warm them; While she has forgotten that a foot may crush it, Even the living [thing] of the field trample it. She has harshly taken her young for [those] not [be longing] to her. In vain her labor [of parturition, since as to hatching she is] without dread. For God has made her oblivious of wisdom Nor apportioned to her [a share] in Understanding. [Yet] whenever aloft she may lash [herself for flight] She will laugh at the horse and at his rider." The waving of the wing is well illustrated by the description of Leo Africanus (Descr. Afr. 9:55) and of Elian (Anim. 2:27), while the fact that the plumage is dark (gray or black) on the back, shoulders, and wings, and elsewhere white, is a striking resemblance to the stork. The statement in the 14th verse, that the ostrich leaves her eggs in the sand carelessly, arises probably from the fact that a few eggs are often found at a short distance from the nest, supposed to be placed there as food for the young when hatched (comp. Leo Afric. ut sup.; Vaillant, Reis. nach. Africa, 2:210; Bochart, p. 863). As to the folly spoken of in ver. 17, 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;" and Bochart (Hieroz. 2:865) has given us five points on which this bird is supposed to deserve its character. They may be briefly stated thus:
(1) Because it will swallow iron, stones, etc.;
(2) Because when it is hunted it thrusts its head into a bush, and imagines the hunter does not see it;
(3) Because it allows itself to be deceived and captured in the manner described by Strabo (16:772. ed. Kramer);
(4) Because it neglects its eggs;
(5) Because it has a small head and few brains. Such is the opinion the Arabs have expressed with regard to the ostrich; a bird, however, which by no means deserves such a character, as travelers have frequently testified.
"So wary is the bird," says Mr. Tristram (Ibis, 2:73), "and so open are the vast plains over which it roams, that no ambuscades or artifices can be employed, and the vulgar resource of dogged perseverance is the only mode of pursuit." Dr. Shaw (Travels, 2:345) relates as an .instance of want of sagacity in the ostrich, that he "saw one swallow several leaden bullets, scorching hot from the mould." We may add that not unfrequently the stones and other substances which ostriches swallow prove fatal to them. In this one respect, perhaps, there is some foundation for the character of stupidity attributed to them (Pliny, 10:1; comp. Diod. Sic. 2:50). Mr.
Tristram, however, remarks, "The necessity for swallowing stones, etc., may be understood from the favorite food of the tame ostriches I have seen being the date-stone, the hardest of vegetable substances" (Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 239). The statement that when erect "she scorneth the horse and his rider," may be referred both to the height and the swiftness of the bird. The ostrich is the largest of all known birds, and perhaps the swiftest of all cursorial animals. The capture of an ostrich is often made at the sacrifice of the lives of two horses (Ibis, 2:73). Its strength is enormous. The wings are useless for flight, but when the bird is pursued they are extended and act as sails before the wind. The ostrich's feathers so much prized are the long white plumes of the wings. The best come to us from Barbary and the west coast of Africa. The ostrich belongs to the family Struthionidae, order Cursorses.