Since ancient times, ostriches have aroused people’s interest. Apart from being hunted for their flesh and plumes, ostriches were kept in captivity, tamed and semi-domesticated by the early Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Egyptians and Roman women of noble birth rode ostriches on ceremonial occasions. There are descriptions in Tutankhamen’s tomb of the king hunting the birds with a bow and arrow; a privilege that apparently was kept for the Pharaohs. In the Arabian Peninsula, ostriches were hunted for their meat, while their skin was used to make protective clothing. Unlike those of other birds’ feathers, the barbs of the ostrich feather are equally long on both sides of the central shaft. This is why the ostrich feather was adopted in ancient Egypt as a symbol of justice and truth.
The first commercial ostrich farm was established in South Africa in about 1860 solely for harvesting the feathers every six to eight months. Ostrich farms began to spread gradually to other countries, particularly Egypt, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Argentina, until the total number of ostriches raised commercially reached over 1 million by 1913. With the First and Second World Wars, however, the ostrich feather market crashed and the number of ostrich farms dropped significantly.
Excerpts from “Recent developments in ostrich farming” by M.M. Shanawany on UNFAO website