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Horsfield’s tortoise

Scientific Name: Testudo horsfieldii

There are three subspecies of Horsfield’s tortoise, each identified by the patterning on their shell. They vary in colour from light brown to yellowish brown, with darker markings on the scutes (the scales making up their shell). They also have four toes on their front legs, unlike all other tortoises who have five.

During the winter the Horsfield’s tortoise will hibernate, waking in March to graze and mate. As the temperature heats up through the year they become more active at dawn and dusk. They will then aestivate (similar to hibernation) in a burrow up to two metres deep during the hottest part of the summer, becoming briefly active in the autumn before hibernating once again. They continue to grow until they are 30 years old.

During the breeding season the male will circle the female and then stop facing her. He will then jerk his head up and down, occasionally biting or head butting her. After the female has laid her first clutch of eggs she may then lay a further two clutches in a season. The hatchlings will emerge in the autumn although some stay in the nest until the following spring, depending on when they were laid.

The Horsfield’s tortoise diet consists of vegetation such as grasses, leaves and flowers. Almost all of the moisture they need comes from their food.

They are classed as Vulnerable by the IUCN as they are threatened by habitat loss and habitat degradation due to over grazing and the clearing of land for agriculture. They are captured for the pet trade and are also hunted for their meat by the local people.

Key Facts:

  • Conservation Status: Vulnerable
  • Distribution: Central Asia, West Asia
  • Habitat: Desert, Savannah, Scrublands
  • Diet: Flowers, Grasses, Herbs, Leaves
  • Weight: Variable
  • No. of young: 2 – 6
  • Life Span: 50 – 100 years

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