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15 Amazing Fun Facts About Tortoises

Check out these top tortoise facts and find out all about these shelly special reptiles and their weird habits, diet and lives! What will you find out?

Beano Team
Last Updated:ย  January 17th 2023

How much do you know about everyone's favourite slow reptile, the tortoise? We've put together the most interesting facts all about tortoises just for you! Check out these fun tortoise facts and learn all about these rocking reptiles, including how long they've been around, how many skeletons they have and just how old they can get (Clue: VERY old).

And if you liked this, we've got way more animal facts here! Including these cool cheetah facts and these awesome octopus facts!

1. The Name For A Group Of Tortoises Is A 'Creep'

Yes, a creep! It's probably a reference to the fact that they creep slowly along the ground, and not because they're scary! Although it's unlikely you'll find a big group of tortoises - they prefer their own company.

2. They've Been Around For A VERY Long Time

We're talking millions of years. About 200 million, in fact! Tortoises were around long before humans, when dinosaurs were a much more frequent site in your local neighbourhood, and they haven't changed much since then! They've even been around longer than other reptiles like crocodiles and snakes!

3. They Can Get Very, Very Old

Older than your dad. Older than your nan. Older than your GREAT nan! Older than...well, the oldest known living tortoise (and land animal) is Jonathan, who was born in 1832 and is STILL ALIVE! Yes, you read that right! He's 190 years old and has lived through Queen Victoria's entire reign, the invention of the telephone, World War II and every Walkers crisp advert Gary Lineker has ever been in!

4. They Are (Mostly) Herbivores

Tortoises mostly eat plants, including fruit, vegetables and flowers! Yes, they love to eat flowers, although only certain types of flower are suitable for tortoises. Very very rarely, in the wild, they will eat meat if they really have to, but for the most part, they are vegetarians!

5. They Lay Eggs

Tortoises are reptiles and reproduce by laying eggs. In the wild they tend to lay about 4-8 at a time, and they like to dig nests out of the dirt in the ground. Their eggs tend to be almost round and about the size of ping pong balls!

6. They Can Feel Their Shells

Yes, they have feeling in their shells! So every time you pat, prod or poke a tortoise, they can feel it! Which is why it's extra important to be very gentle if you ever handle one!

7. Tortoises Have Two Skeletons

They have an inner skeleton and an outer skeleton. Or, to be more scientific, an endoskeleton and an exoskeleton. The shell is part of the outer skeleton, and it's the reason they are so slow - shells are heavy!

8. They Live All Over The World

You can find tortoises pretty much everywhere except the poles! They live in all sorts of environments, from dry deserts to forests and tropical jungles! The fact that they can live just about anywhere is probably why they have survived on earth for so long!

9. They Can Hold Their Breath For Ages

Unlike other turtles, tortoises can't swim, but they can hold their breaths for a very long time - about 30 minutes! Turtles can hold theirs much longer, but considering a human can't do it for more than a couple of minutes, that's very impressive!

10. They Can Travel Up To Four Miles A Day

That's about 0.2 miles an hour! So it's probably best not catch a ride on one if you are going anywhere in a hurry! Tortoises are slow because of their heavy shells, and because they do not need to hunt food - basically, they're not trying to get anywhere!

11. They Can Weigh Up To 200lbs

Giant tortoises can get really big. The Galapagos Giant Tortoise can weigh up to 200lbs and grow to about 1.2m in length! They can also be really tiny, growing to only a few inches!

12. It's Hard To Tell The Girls And Boys Apart

Tortoises all look pretty much the same for most of their life - only when they reach sexual maturity can you tell them apart. Female tortoises are generally smaller with shorter tails, and the bottom of their shell is usually flatter. Now you know!

13. They Are A Type Of Turtle

Yes, if you're confused; a tortoise is a type of turtle, but a turtle isn't a type of tortoise. A tortoise is basically a terrestrial (land dwelling) turtle. They might live near water but they can't swim and don't go in!

14. Some Of Them Hibernate

Tortoises can hibernate for up to 16 weeks, depending on the species. They do this in winter to preserve energy during the colder months. It can be dangerous for tortoises to get too cold, so it's important to know exactly what they need if you have a pet tortoise!

15. The Temperature Can Decide Their Gender

You can actually determine what gender a baby tortoise will be simply from the temperature! When it's colder, more males are born, and when it's warmer, more females! Why is this? Well, to get super sciencey, an enzyme called aromatase can convert male hormones to female hormones if its warm enough! Isn't nature wild?