[emu]So, what is an emu?[emu]

Emu are pretty cool birds that originated in Australia.  They are part of the ratite family of birds.  Living ratites include emu, ostrich, cassowary and kiwi.  Emu weigh up to 150 pounds and stand about 5 feet tall although they can easily stretch up and look over a 6 foot high fence when they wish to.  They don't fly... and with wings that are about 6 inches long they can't.  Neat wings though... there is a claw at the end.  They can sprint to about 35 miles per hour.  They are gentle animals and will run away if able.  If they can't, well, watch out for the feet!

Emu feathers don't smoothly "hook together" like those of birds that fly.  Emu feathers are "ruffled" and "bushy" in appearance and remind me more of hair than feathers.  In addition, the emu feather is the only "double quill" bird feather with two feathers per follicle.

Emu are thought by some to be living dinosaurs.  It is interesting to note that the fossilized bones of the earliest known ratites have been interpreted by some as those of dinosaurs.  Not surprising... as ratites and dinosaurs have identically structured leg bones and joints.  Ratite leg bones grow in a manner as did those of dinosaurs and different from those of typical birds.  Comparisons of tracks left by ratites and dinosaurs show that they had like ways of walking and standing.  Tracks made by the three-toed ratites correspond to those of most theropod dinosaurs, while examples from the rarer two-toed theropods look like those made by ostriches.  Ratites have retained the posture and gait characteristics of dinosaurs for over 180 million years and were used to model the movements of the smaller dinosaurs in the motion picture "Jurassic Park" because the fossils are so much alike.

I do have to say that my birds walk "smooth", not "jerky" like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.

Bill Dingley had a good page of information about emu at his site  His site is gone, but I have a copy of the page HERE.

For what it is worth, my web site logs show a lot of hits for "venomous emu claw".  There is no such thing!  If the bird has stepped in dung, kicks and wounds you, and you get an infection, that's not a claw of venom, that's just poor hygiene.

And on a lighter note. . .  a report from the Australian wilderness.

Emus are Australian birds, rather larger than an ostrich, which run very fast, and eat almost anything, including dingoes and the sunglasses of unwary people who get too close in zoos. They are part of the Australian coat of arms, along with the kangaroo, because they are said to be the only two Australian animals which do not go backwards. Emus are particularly dangerous because the males have a backward pointing spur on the foot which is often venomous because the emus go stamping in snakes' nests, so as to collect the snake poison -- the fangs cannot penetrate the tough lower leg.

I wear emu feathers in my Akubra, in honour of the Australian Light Horse (which was not, in fact, a very small white pony, but the last major cavalry force in the world -- except for a few Poles in 1939). I always take my hat with me when I fly anywhere, because emu magic is strong, emus being flightless.

The emu feathers worn in the hat like this are commonly described as "kangaroo feathers" -- this is an attempt to confuse foreigners, and should not be taken seriously, as kangaroos do not have feathers: they actually have fine scales, superficially resembling fur, being a highly-developed form of reptile, according to the most recent zoological theories here in Oz -- a view which I can understand, but do not entirely subscribe to for technical reasons to do with the coracoid bone's role in marsupials, but that is a specialist argument.

Paul is well aware of this zoological feud which is going on here in Oz, and he finds it amusing to raise the issue in a frisky sort of way.

We have herds of emus in Australia, the way other people have chickens, and a well-known Oz curse is "I hope yer chooks turn into emus and kick yer dunny down" -- this generally only happens in the spring, and right now, my school is plagued with wandering emus who have come bobbing in through the Heads, up the beach, trampling the penguin nests, and attacking the garbage bins in the school (they leave the garbage and eat the bins).

These are not domesticated emus, such as Paul raises on his ranch in Texas, but full-strength wild Australian emus, which are able to regenerate the legs we take from them to make a truly memorable coq-au-vin. This is why we do not accept new boys at the school until next year, once the emus are gone for another season. This is also why we have a Sydney-Hobart yacht race that starts on December 26, because this is the first day of summer on which we can be sure there will be no emus in the water off the Heads, where they prey on passing sharks, and occasionally attack a slow-moving boat.

That is what the emu business is about.

By the way, the term "dunny" may be unfamiliar -- it is an Australian term meaning "a large and majestic building".  You cannot impress a Sydneysider more with your command of Oz-speak than by saying of our Opera House, "that looks like a really nice dunny".  An elegant person is spoken of as being "built like a brick dunny", and this is one of the nicest things you can say about an Australian.

Visit Peter's site.  It's educational and all...  Really.  Would a Texan lie?