© 2004-2017

Patagonia Bookshelf

Ostrich Tales — an Anthology
Observations of Darwin's rhea in southern Patagonia

"The captive in Patagonia: or, life among the giants, a personal narrative",
Benjamin Franklin Bourne, London 1853
Benjamin Bourne and companions were on their way from Connecticut to the California Gold Rush, stopping on May 1st, 1849 for fresh supplies in the Strait of Magellan, where Bourne was taken prisoner. He was held for three months, before escaping to the safety of an island in the Santa Cruz estuary, occupied at the time by a group of guano diggers. In his book he describes his experiences accompanying a native band: this piece sketches an ostrich hunt.

[emphasis added]

Some ostriches were soon started up. The chief drew out his bolas, put spurs to his horse, and darted away. His mantle fell from his shoulders; his long, straight black hair, so coarse that each particular hair stood independently on end, streamed in the wind ; his hideously painted face and body loomed up with grotesque stateliness, and the deadly missile whirled frantically over his head. The whizzing weapon is suddenly hurled at his victim, the chief still sitting erect in his saddle to watch its effect. His horse suddenly stops, he dismounts nimbly, seizes the entangled bird by the throat, and swings it violently around till its neck is broken. As I rode up he deposited the great bird on my horse, remounted, and rushed in pursuit of another. That was killed and also placed in my keeping, making me a kind of store-ship. Others pursue the guanaco with equal success, till they are satisfied with their booty. We ride up to a convenient thicket, a fire is lighted, a portion of the prey is cooked and eaten, the remnants of the feast and the residue of the game are duly packed up, and the whole troop is under march for the camp.

[end of extract]