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—  Town  —
Mountains of the Swartberg Pass near Oudtshoorn after a dusting of snow in July
Oudtshoorn is located in Western Cape
Coordinates: 33°35′S 22°12′E / 33.583°S 22.2°E / -33.583; 22.2Coordinates: 33°35′S 22°12′E / 33.583°S 22.2°E / -33.583; 22.2
Country South Africa
Province Western Cape
District municipality Eden
Local municipality Oudtshoorn
Time zone SAST (UTC+2)

Oudtshoorn is a town in the Western Cape province in South Africa. With 80,336 inhabitants it is the largest town in the Little Karoo region. The town is home to the world's largest Ostrich population with a number of specialized ostrich breeding farms such as the Safari Show Farm and the Highgate Ostrich Show Farm.



A historical building in the town

The area in which Oudtshoorn is situated was originally inhabited by the Bushmen, as evidenced by the many rock paintings that are found in caves throughout the surrounding Swartberg mountains.

The first European explorers of the area was a trading party led by a certain Ensign Shrijver, who were guided there by a Griqua via an ancient elephant trail in January 1689. The expedition reached as far as present-day Aberdeen before turning back and exiting the Klein Karoo valley through Attaquas Kloof on 16 March of the same year. However, it was only a hundred years later that the first farmers started settling in the region.

The first large permanent structure of the Klein Karoo, a church of the Dutch Reformed denomination, was first erected in 1839 near the banks of the Grobbelaars River. The village (and later town) of Oudtshoorn gradually grew around this church; it was named after Baron Pieter van Rheede van Oudtshoorn, who was appointed Governor of the Cape Colony in 1772 but died on the voyage out.

A small one-room school was opened in 1858, followed by the formation of a municipality and the founding of an Agricultural Society in 1859. During the same year work was also started on a larger church to replace the original small one.

Unfortunately, 1859 also signalled the start of a long and serious drought which severely depressed the national economy - by 1865 there was serious poverty. When the drought was finally broken by floods in 1869 the depression lifted and Oudtshoorn was transformed from a struggling village to a town of great prosperity.

At one time there was a large Jewish immigrant population mostly from Lithuania and the town was known in the Jewish world as "Jerusalem of Africa".


First Ostrich Boom

The main reason for the large rise in prosperity was the ostrich, whose feathers had become extremely popular as fashion accessories in Europe; they were especially popular for use on hats. Between 1875 and 1880 ostrich prices reached up to GBP 1,000 a pair. The farmers of the region, realising that ostriches were far more profitable than any other activity, ripped out their other crops and planted lucerne, which was used as feed for the ostriches. The rising wealth also finally allowed for the completion of the Dutch Reformed Church - it was opened on 7 June 1879.

Owing to overproduction, the ostrich industry experienced a sudden slump in fortunes in 1885; the town's misery was compounded when it was hit by severe flooding during the same year, which washed away the nearby Victoria Bridge which had been built over the Olifants River only the year before.

Second Ostrich Boom

The ostrich industry recovered only slowly and it was not until after the Second Anglo-Boer War of 1899 to 1902 that a second and bigger boom started. It was during this period that most of Oudtshoorn's famously opulent "Feather Palaces" were built. This boom peaked in 1913, before collapsing in 1914. As a result the region's economy was ruined and most farmers returned to more traditional crops.

Society and culture


C. J. Langenhoven, the town's most famous inhabitant, rose to prominence during the post-collapse period. Considered by many to be one of the fathers of Afrikaans, Langenhoven was a prodigious writer who provided much of the literature that formed the backbone of the Afrikaans language during its early development.


The Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees ("Little Karoo National Arts Festival"), South Africa's largest Afrikaans language arts festival{[fact}}, takes place in the town on a yearly basis.

Museums, momuments and memorials


Oudtshoorn is the start of the Route 62 wine route. Some of the best South African Port style wines are produced in the area surrounding Oudsthoorn.


Tourist information

Oudtshoorn and De Rust are managed by Greater Oudtshoorn Tourism.[1]

The tourism office is centrally situated in Baron van Reede Street.

Tourist attractions

Tourist attractions in Oudtshoorn and the surrounding areas include:

The area is also famed for its biodiversity, with the area home to an unusually large number of species of succulent plant. There are also several wine producers in the region.

Famous people


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Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Oudtshoorn is situated in the Western Cape in South Africa and world-known for its ostrich farms and the nearby Cango Caves.

Get in

By plane

There is no airport in Oudtshoorn. The nearest airports are in George (very small, local flights only), Port Elizabeth (domestic flights only) and Cape Town (domestic and international flights).

By bus

The main bus companies serve Oudtshoorn on regular schedules.

By car

It`s a scenic drive on the R62 from Montagu and the trip from George over the Outeniqua pass offers some spectacular views. Worth the drive!

By train

Up until a few years ago there was a regular train service east to Port Elizabeth as well as south to George, Knysna and Cape Town. However, these trains have been stopped and as of early February 2007 there are no scheduled passenger trains to or from Oudtshoorn.

The Cango Caves.
The Cango Caves.
  • Cango Caves, +27 (0)44 272-7410, [1]. The number one caves to visit in South Africa. From Oudtshoorn drive to the north. You will be there after approximately 15 minutes.  edit
Climbing near Oudtshoorn
Climbing near Oudtshoorn
  • Barons Palace Gaming Centre, +27 (0)44 279 1727 (), [2]. Gaming Machines, Casino Style Pub & Grub.  edit
  • Cango Wildlife Ranch, + 27 (0)44 272-5593 (), [3]. Not to be missed. Reptiles and wild cats are bred for conservation and where it is possible you can enter the enclosures and interact with the animals.  edit
  • Highgate Ostrich Farm, +27 (0)44 272-7115, [4]. The biggest and also offers ostrich rides for tourists  edit
  • Rock Climbing, (near the campsite about 12km outside of the town in the direction of the Cango Caves). Oudtshoorn has some of the best quality limestome rock climbing in the world.  edit
  • Safari Ostrich Farm, +27 (0)44 272-7311, [5]. Offers a similar experience as at Highgate, but smaller.  edit


As this is the ostrich capital, this is the place to taste everything one can get out of this species. Most of the ostrich (show) farms offer a restaurant or braai facilities.

  • The Barons Palace Hotel, Corner High & Hope Street, +27 (0)44 279-1727 (, fax: +27 (0)44 279-1747), [6]. Reveals to her guests an era of affluence and opulence. The Hotel was Built at the turn of the century by a wealthy Ostrich Baron. Lush drapes, high ceilings, ornate fireplaces and original ostrich plume showcases recreate an era of gracious elegance. Ascending the majestic staircase to the sweeping reception rooms and vast veranda, one imagines the lavish entertaining that took place in celebration of the flourishing ostrich feather industry. The hotel is ideally equipped to host weddings and other special functions.  edit
  • De Oude Meul Restaurant, Schoemanshoek (R328, 14km from Oudtshoorn en-route the Cango Caves), +27 (0)44 272-7308, [7]. 7 days/week. An a la carte rRestaurant, specializing in Ostrich & Venison dishes.  edit
  • Karoo Soul Travellers Lodge, 170 Langenhoven Road/ 1 Adderley Street, +27 (0)44 272 -330, [8]. Art, travel, peace, action, sharing, magic space, highest hill in Oudtshoorn with stunning views. Style, comfort and generosity. From R100pp.  edit
  • Straussennest, 46 Lategansvlei, +27 (0)44 279-1800, [9]. checkin: 2PM; checkout: 10PM. Enjoy the outdoors with us. You could utilize the beautiful surroundings for long walks and hiking trails. Has rooms in different sizes. All 3 of the rooms are stylishly and comfortably furnished. From R200pps.  edit

Get out

Go to the Garden Route and visit the Tsitsikamma National Park. Cape Town is also not far away (go there via the scenic R62).

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