The Myth of the Ostrich

By Bruce Farrow on May 19, 2015  

bruce farrow nlp trainer ostrichThe ostrich was indeed a fine ostrich.

It had shapely legs and a long elegant neck and was a very beautiful bird. It was, quite possibly, the finest bird in the world. It had, in fact, been told this many times by admirers, although the ostrich didn’t really believe what others said. It was, in its own opinion, just an ostrich and looked like other ostriches and behaved like them too.

As it ran across large expanses of desert, the ostrich did its thing, pecking in the dirt for leaves and roots and occasionally feeding on the odd unfortunate mouse.

Whilst being a particularly beautiful ostrich, it wasn’t the tallest of its kind and consequently, it did feel intimidated by other animals. That being said, it had its 3 defence mechanisms which were 1) run away, 2) kick its opponent and 3) stick its head in the sand and wait for the danger to pass.

One day it was way out in the desert when it came across a dingo which appeared threatening from its dishevelled appearance. It had been a tiring day and the ostrich did not have the energy to run away from the dingo or get involved in any energetic kicking. So it stuck its head in the sand.

After 20 minutes the ostrich pulled its head out of the sand, hoping the danger had passed but the dingo was sitting close by, looking curiously at the big bird.

“What are you doing? Why are you sticking your head in the sand?” said the dingo.

“I am hiding from you, of course” said the ostrich.

“That’s ridiculous!” said the dingo, “I can still see your entire body and neck and legs. That is a seriously dumb thing to do!”

“It is not dumb”, replied the ostrich “all ostriches do this. This is our defence mechanism. Everyone knows that!”

“I didn’t know that” muttered the dingo, “and I still think it’s dumb. It doesn’t solve anything for you and makes you, excuse the pun, a sitting duck!”

The ostrich dismissed the dingo and ran off.

A while later, the ostrich came across a minibus full of tourists on a safari and, not knowing what danger it posed, it promptly buried its head in the sand and waited.

It could hear muffled laughter and after about 10 minutes it pulled its head out of the sand and peered at the tourists who were all falling about with laughter.

“What are you laughing at?” the ostrich enquired.

“YOU! You are ridiculous. Why are you sticking your head in the sand and poking your bottom in the air? It looks really funny!”

“IF you knew anything about the animals of Australia, which you clearly don’t, you would know that the ostrich has 3 ways it can defend itself and one of those is to stick our head in the sand. It is a habit and behaviour that we ostriches have been doing since time began.”

“I have never heard that” said one of the tourists “are you sure you have got it right?”

“Yes, I AM sure, thank you very much. ALL ostriches do it.”

“Well it is a pretty dumb behaviour because it achieves nothing” said the tourist, “everyone can still see you, so you are not hiding and while you are standing there with your head in the sand, any old animal can come up and bite you. Seriously, Mrs Ostrich, you might want to consider doing something else in future because that cannot work for you!”

“I will have you know it works fine. Look, I am still alive so it must work and it has the advantage of me not having to deal with any danger. AND, Mr Tourist, you can’t just come along and change a behaviour in the ostrich – something that we have been doing for the whole of our existence.” At which point the ostrich broke into a trot and ran off.

The following day the ostrich came to a big barn, way out in the outback and wandered in out of curiosity.

The inner sanctuary of the barn was like a big room and in the middle of the room was an elephant, which somewhat surprised the ostrich. An elephant in a room is something to be avoided so the ostrich buried its head in the sand and waited.

He could hear the elephant moving about, so it waited and waited and waited.

You can imagine that it is quite hard to breathe when you have your head in the sand and finally, the ostrich had to come up for air, hoping that he had avoided the elephant in the room.

Regrettably, for the ostrich, the elephant was still there – sitting down looking at the ostrich.

“What are you doing?” enquired the elephant politely.

“Oh, don’t you start!” replied the ostrich, “Do I have to explain to everyone that ostriches stick their head in the sand when they encounter a situation that they can’t deal with and we then hope the problem goes away. Everyone knows that!”

“I didn’t know that,” said the elephant, “and I am wise. Are you sure you have got it right?”

“Yes, I AM positive, thank you very much. It is a behaviour that I have done all my life and I learned it from my mother and she told me that all ostriches do it”

“I really am not sure about this” said the elephant, “I think I am going to have to check it out because it seems such a dumb thing to do. I cannot believe that all ostriches do this!”

“Of course they do – what do you know anyway!” said the ostrich.

The elephant pulled out his Elepad and started tapping away on it with his trunk.

“What are you doing” said the ostrich.

“I am googling exactly what ostriches are meant to do” replied the elephant.

After a few moments the elephant sat down heavily, trumpeting with laughter. It trumpeted and trumpeted and finally, it caught its breath and said “oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! It says here that it is a total myth that all ostriches put their head in the sand when threatened. Apparently the myth comes from the fact that the ostrich lays its egg under sand and checks them every day so it gives the appearance that they stick their head in the sand!”

“I don’t believe you,” said the ostrich.

“It says it here. You can read it for yourself on the elenet and remember, everything on the elenet is true.” The ostrich read the article with some embarrassment. How could it have done this all its life and not known that only she was doing it? Ridiculous!

“I don’t know what to do now,” said the ostrich “I have lost one of my defence mechanisms. I’m ruined!”

The elephant looked the fine ostrich up and down and said “Mrs Ostrich, you are indeed a fine looking bird and strong too. Your legs carry you with great speed and you are very beautiful and generally very clever. What you have to do in future is simple. Observe the danger, assess the risk to yourself and if the animal is smaller than you fight it, if not, run like the wind but one way or another, deal with the problem!”