Riding the Birds in South Pas

Aug 12, 2013

The South Pasadena Public Library staff has spent years digitalizing historical photos of this small town, south of big sister Pasadena, which are now on view to the public at Online Archive California. Perusing a few of the pics, we came across the picture to the right…

The Cawston Ostrich Farm was located in the Arroyo Seco Valley of South Pasadena—decorative pyramids were erected to reflect the animals’ native Africa.

The breeding farm covered nine acres and was opened in 1886 by Edwin Cawston. Shipping 50 birds via ship from South Africa to Galveston, Texas, Cawston traveled with the ostriches that had to endure “a treacherous train journey” to South Pasadena. Only 18 of the original 50 animals having survived.

From this original crew, Cawston was able to build his herd to over 100. The farm became a tourist stop and visitors were able to ride the ostriches, “be taken for ostrich drawn carriage rides,” and to purchase ostrich feathered hats, capes and fans from the store on the premises; the nearby factory also selling and shipping products around the world. (Source: South Pasadena Public Library and Wikipedia)


Image courtesy of










Quartette at the Cawston Ostrich Farm, 1899

Quartette at the Cawston Ostrich Farm, 1899



Thanks to the South Pasadena Public Library and





1 Response for “Riding the Birds in South Pas”

  1. I grew up in the house that Mr. Cawston built for his bride in South Pasadena. My parents purchased the house in 1938 and we lived there until 1949. My Father was killed in a terrible hunting accident and my Mother sold the house to Mr. Stanborough (an Englishman). He later sold the house and it was razed. There was a servants house, a tennis court and a sunken garden. The garden was overgrown, but we had a wonderful time playing in it. We had a small farm with a pony, pet lamb, pet calf and chickens. It was a very large house (at least in our childish memories). The was a half story that was partitioned into rooms and had flooring. We had our train set up there. A very steep stairway to that level. So many wonderful memories. Our last name was Behrens and our Father was a doctor in Los Angeles. My parents owned several pieces of property on Monterey Road. The house was at the corner of Monterey and Arroyo Verde.



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