Tortoise Species and Types + Fun Facts

Looking for information regarding tortoise species and types? Read ahead to find out!

Tortoises are often explained as “Land Turtles.” They belong to the turtle family of “Testudinida.” They were given the name “Tortoise” to refer to them as terrestrial turtles.

Their distinct hind-like limbs and feet can easily identify the Tortoises. Their limbs resemble elephant feet, but few of them are as small as a dot and as big as the tortoise itself. The hind feet and forefeet of the tortoise have at least two phalanges.

The shell or the carapace of the tortoise is doom-like with a variation of texture and strength. The only expectational tortoise is the Pancake Tortoise with a flat shell and body.

Kinds of Tortoise

There are 21 different types of tortoises along with different species and sub-species. An interesting fact is that they all are not Herbivores; few kinds of tortoise are Omnivores too. They are often differentiated by the size, shape, and color of their shells. From coin-sized tortoises to gigantic ones, here is a quick guide with some fun facts you need to know about the different species of tortoise.

1. Speckled Cape Tortoise

Speckled tortoises are the smallest tortoise. Their shell or carapace has speckled yellow and black spots, giving them a camouflage look. Thus, they are very hard to find due to the shell. Even though they are herbivores, still taking care of them is hard due to the size.

Speckled Cape Tortoise
Binomial NameChersobius signatures or Homopus signatus
Other NamesSpeckled Cape or Speckled Padloper
Size2.4 inches to 3.9 inches
Color AppearanceGoldish Beige with black spots
InhabitantSouth Africa and Southern Namibia
Lifespan100 years or more

Fun Fact:

  • Female Speckled Tortoises are slightly larger than the male.
  • The Female speckled cape tortoise lays eggs in between the rocks and soil. These eggs roughly hatch in 100 to 120 days.

2. Egyptian Tortoise

Speckled tortoises are one of the Critically endangered tortoise species since the 1990s. They are mostly found in the deserts and salt ranges or marsh margins of the Mediterranean Sea, including Egypt, Israel, and Libya. Even though they are endangered, they are an amazing choice of home pets and comparatively easy to be taken care of.

Egyptian Tortoise
Binomial NameTestudo Kleinmanni
Other NamesLeith’s Tortoise or Kleinmann’s Tortoise or Negev tortoise
Size15 inches
Color AppearanceBrown, yellowish color with black outlines.
InhabitantEgypt, Israel, and Libya
Lifespan70 to 100 years

Fun Facts:

  • Egyptian Tortoises are often called neck hidden tortoises because of the extended carapace at the front.
  • A Female Egyptian Tortoise can lay up to 5 eggs in shallow and rodent burrows.

3. Russian Box Tortoise

Russian Tortoises are the friendliest yet docile in nature. They are usually found in Central Asia, especially in China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. Russian Box Tortoise are often exported to Northern America and kept as pets.

Russian Box Tortoise
Binomial NameAgrionemys Horsfieldii
Other NamesHorsefield Tortoise or Afghan Tortoise
Size5 inches to 10 inches
Color AppearanceBlackish brown shell with yellowish spots
InhabitantCentral Asia
Lifespan40 to 50 years

Fun facts:

  • Russian tortoises love to dig deep holes in the ground.
  • The female Russian tortoise lays eggs in the sandy areas and forgets about them. The eggs hatch in twelve months.

4. Greek Tortoise

Russian Tortoises are medium-sized tortoise and amazing as an indoor and outdoor pet. They are usually found in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean, with almost 12 sub-species. In winters, they hibernate.

Greek Tortoise
Binomial NameTestudo Graeca
Other NamesSpur Thigh Tortoise
Size5 inches to 11 inches
Color AppearanceBrown shell with yellow spots
InhabitantNorth Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean
Lifespan100 to 130 years

Fun facts:

  • They are called Greek tortoises because of the Greek-style Mosaic on their carapace.
  • This tortoise breeds are called Spur thigh tortoise because of their short yet strong front legs. They love to dig deep holes in the ground.
  • The female Greek tortoises are usually a few inches longer than the male.

For more information on Greek tortoise, click here.

5. Hermann’s Tortoise Species

Hermann’s Tortoises are medium-sized tortoise. They are strictly herbivores and like to eat flowers and cactus. They are usually found in Italy, France, and Spain. It has almost three sub-species named Dalmatian tortoise, western Hermann’s tortoise, and eastern Hermann’s tortoise.

Hermann’s Tortoise
Binomial NameTestudo hermanni
Other NamesNone
Size7.5 inches to 9 inches
Color AppearanceBlack shell with golden-yellow spots
InhabitantSpain, Southeast France, Italy, Sardinia, Sicily, Majorca, Minorca, and Corsica.
Lifespan70 to 75 years

Fun facts:

  • Hermann’s Tortoises love human interaction. They show their likeness by clinging on to the human.
  • Improper diet can make their shell weak, and it can break.
  • The female Hermann’s tortoises are usually a few inches longer than the male.

6. Pancake Tortoises

Pancake tortoises are the fast ones among all the tortoises. Their shells are soft and flexible; therefore, it is easy for them to adapt wander around in the narrow rocky areas. They are strictly Herbivores, and a large number of them are found in East Africa, Tanzania, and Kenya, and a few are also located in Zimbabwe.

Pancake Tortoises
Binomial NameMalacochersus tornieri
Other NamesTornier’s Tortoise
Size7 inches to 8 inches
Color AppearanceFlat carapace with brown and yellow colors
InhabitantEast Africa, Tanzania, and Southern Kenya.
Lifespan23 to 25 years

Fun facts:

  • Pancake tortoises are the fastest due to their lightweight carapace.
  • Their shells are doomed shaped at the time of birth; with time, the shell becomes flat as the name suggests.
  • Due to their structure and being light in weight, they escape predators very easily, but at the same time, they are vulnerable also.

7. Gopher Tortoise

Gopher tortoises are one of the tough tortoises that inhabit dry and hot deserts. Their shell can survive hot weather, and they hibernate all through the winter in their burrows. Their bladder is almost 40 percent of their body and has the capacity of storing water.

Gopher Tortoise
Binomial NameGopherus Polyphemus
Other NamesDesert Tortoise
Size7.5 inches to 11 inches
Color AppearanceDark brown and Blackish-grey shell
InhabitantMojave and Sonoran Desert of California
Lifespan100 years or more

Fun facts:

  • Gopher tortoise can live in the extreme temperature of 41 degrees Celsius.
  • They die because of dehydration, usually during hibernation or in drought.
  • The female Gopher tortoise lays eggs up to 15 years after mating.

8. Hinge-back Tortoise Species

Hinge-back Tortoises fall in the category of the Omnivores. In their natural inhabitant, they eat insects, dead frogs, snails, and slugs along with vegetations around them. It has almost five species, based on the different parts of Africa.

Hinge-back Tortoise
Binomial NameKinixys Belliana, Kinixys Humana, and Kinixys Erosa
Other NamesNone
Size9 inches to 13 inches
Color AppearanceBrown to the black shell with yellow spotting
InhabitantAfrica, Kenya, Uganda, Botswana, Tanzania, and Madagascar
Lifespan18 to 20 years

Fun facts:

  • They need to have an almost 50 percent diet of vegetables and fruits and a 50 percent diet of meat like wet cat food, cooked fish, or insects for pet care.
  • Hinge-back Tortoise have five species that may have different binomial names too.
  • They love the winter season, so they are very friendly and active. They seem sad and lazy in the summers.

9. Indian Star Tortoise

Indian Star Tortoises are not territorial species. They are amazing house pets, kind of tortoise that like humidity, sun, and monsoon. They are usually found in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Being exotic kinds of pets, they at risk of extinction due to trade.

Indian Star Tortoise
Binomial NameGeochelone elegans
Other NamesNone
Size8 inches to 12 inches
Color AppearanceBlack shell with a yellow star-like pattern
InhabitantForests of India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan
Lifespan30 to 80 years

Fun facts:

  • Indian Star tortoise love the humid and monsoon season. They are prone to get ill when the environment is not right.
  • They are very shy.
  • This tortoise breeds are not climbers.

10. Elongated Tortoise

Elongated tortoises, as the name suggests, have long bodies with a brownish-yellow shell. They are native to South East Asia and especially Nepal. They are usually found in forest and humid regions. For now, they are at risk of extinction due to illegal trades.

Elongated Tortoise
Binomial NameIndotestudo Elongata
Other NamesYellow-Headed Tortoise
Size9 inches to 12 inches
Color AppearanceBrownish-yellow carapace with golden-yellow spots
InhabitantSoutheast Asia
LifespanUp to 50 years

Fun facts:

  • Elongated Tortoises love human interaction and very fun to play around with.
  • Male Elongated Tortoises have long and thick tails, while females have short and thin tails.
  • Their shells are very sensitive to touch.

11. Red-foot Tortoise

Red-foot tortoises are one of the most beautiful and exotic ones in tortoises. They are native to the forests of South and Central America. As the name suggests, they have red spots on their legs as if they have scales.

Red-foot Tortoise species
Binomial NameChelonoidis carbonaria
Other NamesSavanna Tortoise, and Red-Leg, or Red-Foot Tortoise
Size11 inches to 16 inches
Color AppearancePale yellow with bright red markings on shell and legs
InhabitantCentral and South America
LifespanUp to 50 years

Fun facts:

  • Red-Foot Tortoises are shy, yet they have a strong sense of surrounding and locate predators easily.
  • Red-Foot Tortoises have no teeth, but they have a strong beak and can attack when feeling vulnerable.
  • They have the possibility of spreading Salmonella.

12. Marginated Tortoise

Marginated tortoises are like cousins of Hermann’s Tortoises; thus, it is a medium-sized reptile with 13 to 14 inches. Like Hermann, they are also strictly Herbivore. They are famous for their beautiful shell and outer ring of the shell.

Marginated Tortoise Species
Binomial NameTestudo Marginata
Other NamesNone
Size13 inches to 14 inches
Color AppearanceBrown carapace with golden-yellow spots with an outer ring of alternating colors
InhabitantItaly and Greece
Lifespan100 years or more

Fun facts:

  • Marginated Tortoises dehydrate easily and often die because of it.
  • This tortoise breeds are particularly outdoor pets and love the sun and wet grass.

13. Burmese Star Tortoise

Burmese star tortoises are also medium-sized tortoise found in the dry regions of Burma. They are one of the most beautiful tortoises because of the contrast of grey shells with the yellow star-like pattern. They are nearly facing extinction now. 

Burmese Star Tortoise Species
Binomial NameGeochelone playtona
Other NamesNone
Size12 inches to 14 inches
Color AppearanceGrey shell with golden-yellow star pattern
LifespanUnder study

Fun facts:

  • Burmese star tortoises are near to extinction because native Burmese eat them.
  • The female Burmese star tortoises are usually a few inches longer than the male.

14. Impressed Tortoise

Impressed Tortoises are medium-sized Forest tortoises. They are spread around Asia, and a wide species of them are found in Thailand, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, and India. They have flattened shells with a serrated edge and red-yellow pattern all over the carapace and legs.

Impressed Tortoise Species
GenusManouria impressa
Binomial NameManouria
Other NamesNone
Size12 inches to 14 inches
Color AppearanceBrown shell with a reddish-yellow pattern
InhabitantBurma, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and India
LifespanUnder study

Fun facts:

  • They are named impressed tortoise due to their shape and size. They have a sharp serrated edge.
  • Impressed Tortoises like to spend their lives in nearly trees and green areas.
  • The Impressed female tortoise always lays 12 to 15 eggs and guards them until they are hatched.

15. Angonoka Tortoise

Angonoka Tortoises are also medium-sized kind of tortoise. They are native to Madagascar and have a distinct appearance with a brown shell and yellow pattern. Their shell is very smooth to touch, unlike any other tortoise.

Angonoka Tortoise Species
Binomial NameAstrochelys yniphora
Other NamesMadagascar tortoise, plowshare tortoise, Ploughshare tortoise
Size14 inches to 17 inches
Color AppearanceBrown shell with yellow pattern
LifespanUp to 200 years

Fun facts:

  • Angonoka Tortoises are strictly herbivores and like to eat bamboo.
  • Angonoka male Tortoise is a fighter. They use their beak to fight predators too.
  • The Male Angonoka tortoises are a few inches larger than the female.

16. Yellow Foot Tortoise

Yellow Foot tortoise is native to South America and is usually found in the suburbs of Amazon. The heavy, strong, and heavy black carapaces with a blend of golden yellow color. They are the strongest ones in the medium-sized tortoise category.

Yellow Foot Tortoise Species
Binomial NameChelonoidis Denticulatus
Other NamesNone
Size12 inches to 16 inches
Color AppearanceBlack and golden-yellow
InhabitantBasin of Amazon, America
Lifespan50 to 60 years

Fun facts:

  • Yellow Foot Tortoises have strong carapace and heavy claws to protect themselves from predators.
  • Yellow Foot tortoise coos loudly in a raspy voice.
  • They hunt for their food.

17. Radiated Tortoise

Radiated tortoises are yet another most beautiful and fascinating tortoise. They have black shells with lined markings in orange and yellow color. They are also Tropical and Forest tortoise that is an inhabitant in Madagascar.

Radiated Tortoise species
Binomial NameAstrochelys radiata
Other NamesNone
Size12 inches to 16 inches
Color AppearanceBlack carapace with orange and yellow pattern
Lifespan100 years or more

Fun facts:

  • Radiated Tortoises have the softest legs and a strong shell.
  • They are named Radiated because of their voice. If captured, they cry with a high-pitch voice that echoes. They can cry for hours.
  • They have smooth shells, too, and live in herds.

18. Leopard Tortoise

Leopard Tortoises are dry environment Tortoise. They are native to Savannahs in Africa. They are strictly Herbivore. Leopard tortoises have a strong and sharp beak that helps them to eat cactus too.

Radiated Tortoise species
Binomial NameStigmochelys pardalis
Other NamesNone
Size15 to 28 inches
Color AppearanceBlack carapace with golden-yellow leopard print
LifespanUp to 100 years

Fun facts:

  • They are named Leopard due to the Leopard styled yellow markings on their shell and body.
  • Leopard Tortoises love dry and hot weather. They are very active in the sun.

19. Sulcata Tortoises

Sulcata Tortoises are first in the Largest tortoise in the world. They are an inhabitant of a dry, hot, and deserted area like Sahara and Africa. They have a huge black and yellow carapace with a rough feel when touched.

Sulcata Tortoises species
Binomial NameCentrochelys sulcate
Other NamesAfrican Spurred Tortoise
Size24 inches to 36 inches
Color AppearanceBlack and Yellow carapace
InhabitantAfrica and the Sahara Desert
Lifespan65 to 70 years

Fun facts:

  • Sulcata carapace alone weighs 50 percent of the total weight, i.e., around 50 to 100 pounds.
  • Rings are formed on their shell as they age. The number of rings is used to determine their ages.
  • They like to live in burrows and away from wet and cool areas.

20. Aldabra Tortoise Species

Aldabra Tortoises stand among the largest turtles and tortoises. They are strictly herbivores and hunt for their food themselves. They are native to the islands of Aldabra Atoll in Seychelles; therefore, they are named Aldabra. There are more than 20 different species of tortoise Aldabra.

Aldabra Tortoise species
Binomial NameAldabrachelys Gigantea
Other NamesSeychelles Giant Tortoise
Size30 inches to 55 inches
Color AppearanceBrown and Tan
Lifespan200 years or more

Fun facts:

  • The largest Aldabra Tortoise was recorded at almost 670 pounds.
  • They have a long neck that helps them reach the barks of the tree to eat.
  • The male Aldabra tortoises are larger than the female.

21. Galapagos Tortoise Species

Galapagos Tortoise is the ultimate large tortoise recorded till now. They currently have 15 tortoise species that all have a different size with the same doom-like carapace. They have scaled legs with a hard shell. As the name suggests, they are native to the Galapagos Islands. But their many species are endangered, and few nearly extinct.

Galapagos Tortoise species
Binomial NameChelonoidis Nigra
Other NamesYellow-Headed Tortoise
Size23 inches to 60 inches
Color AppearanceBlack and grey
InhabitantGalapagos islands
Lifespan100 years or more

Fun facts:

  • Galapagos Tortoise’s carapace is part of their skeletal structure.
  • They are alive for a year without any food and water.
  • They are extremely slow and a bit lazy as well.

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