The Aboriginal art symbol for an emu footprint is like an arrow that represents its distinctive three-toed track.
The emu is the largest bird on the Australian continent reaching up to 6ft in height and capable of achieving speeds of 30 miles per hour. They are flightless birds with small wings of about 8 inches long that they use for balance when running. On each foot they have three large toes with sharp claws which are its main means of self defence.
Aboriginal Australians have traditionally hunted the emu as a source of food. They only hunt out of necessity and with a respect for their ecosystem. None of the prey is wasted: the bones are formed into tools and weapons, the skin into leather, the tendons into string, the fat used for lubrication and bush medicine, and the feathers for ceremonial dress. The large eggs of the emu are also an important source of bush tucker.
The emu features in many Dreaming stories and the artworks that depict them. One story reveals that he lost his wings in a bush fire which explains how he lost his ability to fly. Another relates how Wej, a female emu, flew into the sky and became Wej Mor, the dark sections of the Milky Way known to Aboriginal peoples as 'The Emu in the Sky'.