Even though tortoises only walk slowly, they still need to get around. This is essential for bone and shell development, appetite, fitness levels, weight control, and superior overall health.
You can take a tortoise for a walk, but it may not enjoy being out in the open due to people, animals, cars, and loud noises.
Instead, block off access to unsafe parts of your yard and supervise the tortoise while it roams and explores. Using a leash is unnecessary as tortoises move very slowly.
Walking a tortoise shouldn’t be necessary as your pet will already have a good-sized enclosure to explore with lots of enrichment toys.
How Fast Does a Tortoise Move?
Tortoises have an average walking speed of between 0.2 and 0.5 km/h.
According to the Guinness World Records, the greatest speed achieved by a tortoise is 0.28 meters per second, which was courtesy of Bertie, a leopard tortoise from the UK.
The average tortoise can only run at 3-4 miles an hour, and most move less than 1 mile per hour, making them one of the slowest land animals. A desert tortoise can move 20 feet per minute in a short sprint.
Tortoises are slow because they don’t have to chase their food as many other mammals do. They largely eat plant matter, which they find in abundance in their natural habitats during the warmer months.
Also, they’ve developed adaptations that keep them safe from predators, such as their:
Their metabolisms are slower than other mammals. While they can’t move as fast, they live longer.
The average speeds of tortoises are as follows:
|Tortoise Species||Average Speed|
|Leopard Tortoise||1 km/h|
|Indian Star Tortoise||0.5 km/h|
|Russian Tortoise||8 km/h|
|Hermann’s Tortoise||8 km/h|
|Red-Footed Tortoise||1 km/h|
|Pancake Tortoise||8 km/h|
|Gopher Tortoise||8 km/h|
|Desert Tortoise||0.5 km/h|
|Angonoka Tortoise||0.5 km/h|
|Radiated Tortoise||0.5 km/h|
|Aldabra Tortoise||0.5 km/h|
|Galapagos Tortoise||4.5 km/h|
How Far Can a Tortoise Walk?
Depending on the species and size, a tortoise can travel between 300 meters to 100 kilometers in a single day. Smaller tortoises tend to travel further than larger, heavier tortoises.
Rocks and other obstacles also pose a navigational challenge for tortoises, making it harder for them to travel great distances.
Also, the journal describes how researchers discovered that adults couldn’t travel more than 1 km without the risk of overheating, so they make shorter trips of 0.5 km between refuges.
Female tortoises cover larger surface areas than males.
While they don’t move far, you should still encourage your tortoise to exercise throughout the day. Captive tortoises enjoy roaming, climbing, and digging.
Do Tortoises Walk or Crawl?
Tortoises walk on all four limbs.
Their legs are relatively small and stumpy compared to their large shells, which sometimes makes it seem like they’re crawling along the ground instead of walking.
Tortoises can’t crawl because their hard outer shells are attached to their spine and rib cage, which doesn’t physically allow them to crawl.
How To Walk A Tortoise
Walking is a significant source of your tortoise’s daily exercise.
Tortoises need to move frequently to:
While your tortoise should have a large enough enclosure to roam around in, taking your pet tortoise for a walk is a great way to allow it to explore new, interesting areas.
Because tortoises are slow-moving, you don’t need to use a leash. However, doing so gives you further control over where they travel and what they do.
It’s not safe to walk your tortoise out in the open as there are too many stressors, including other animals, people, cars, and unfamiliar sights and sounds.
Instead, allow your tortoise to walk around your yard or outdoor space while supervised. To prevent them from traveling where they shouldn’t, block access using wooden planks or other materials to guide your tortoise’s journey.
Your tortoise won’t need to be out for long, and an hour is enough time to stretch its legs and enjoy roaming new surroundings. If a yard or outdoor space is unsuitable, allow them to roam a tortoise-proofed room instead.
Can You Let Your Tortoise Walk Around the House?
It’s not a good idea to let your tortoise roam around the house unattended.
Even though tortoises are slow-moving, they can burrow or hide in small spaces. Tortoises are in danger of getting lost and injuring themselves, which is a significant risk for smaller tortoise species.
Other reasons include the following:
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, tortoises carry salmonella on their shells and skin. While this doesn’t affect them, it can sometimes make humans sick.
The indoors isn’t a natural environment for tortoises because homes lack the substrate they need to perform their instinctual behaviors.
Things like ceramic tiles, soft furnishings, and laminate flooring can make tortoises feel uncomfortable as they’re unaccustomed to the feeling underfoot.
There are many dangers inside the home that pose a risk to tortoises, including:
- Sharp objects
- Other pets
- Trapping risks
- Floor heaters
If your tortoise comes into contact with any of them, it could get hurt.
Even with supervision, there will be times when you’ll need to redirect your tortoise’s journey. However, most tortoises dislike being handled and become stressed when picked up too often.
If you pick your tortoise up too much while it roams, it may urinate on you out of fear, which is an instinctual defensive behavior.
Tortoises are ectothermic, so you need to maintain a warm internal temperature so they can digest food. Certain rooms may be too cold for tortoises, decreasing their internal temperature.
Walking a tortoise isn’t always the answer to your tortoise’s exercise needs. If your tortoise seems stressed or bored in its enclosure, it may not be large enough.
Instead of prioritizing a walk, get a larger enclosure with a good substrate for burrowing. Also, climbing toys, plants, rocks, and ramps will be appreciated.