Commercial farming with domesticated ostriches started in South Africa in the 1860's. Before the South African farmers domesticated local ostriches, feathers could only be obtained by shooting wild ostriches. This was not sustainable and led to the development of domesticated ostrich farming. Ostriches were farmed for their beautiful feathers, which at the turn of the century were the second largest export from the Cape Colony, second only to gold - a kilogram of prime feathers were worth the same as a kilogram of gold.
The feathers were very popular in Victorian Fashions at the time, especially as extravagant adornment on hats and clothing. A worldwide industry grew up around the farming of ostriches and the processing of feathers. Over 1 million domesticated ostriches were farmed for their feathers at the height of this period - referred to as the "Feather Boom" period. Ostrich farmers became millionaires overnight with the rearing and production of Ostrich Feathers.
The fashion demand for feathers declined when open-topped motorcars were invented, making feather hats impractical and the austerity of the First World War ended the Ostrich Feather Boom. Overnight the industry collapsed and ostrich farming almost disappeared until the 1960's when Ostrich Leather stated to be used by the fashion-handbag industry. Recently Ostrich Meat has become extremely popular as a delicious low-fat alternative to red meat. The modern ostrich farming industry is focused on the sustainable production of ostrich leather & meat, with only 10% of the value of the ostrich coming from feathers.