14 Little Known Care Tips & Facts About Russian Tortoises

Have you ever thought about purchasing a Russian Tortoise? If so, this is the article for you! There are many things that you need to know about this unique animal before driving to the pet store with all intention of bringing home a new companion. Some things about the Russian Tortoise may surprise you, some may not, but these are the main things that you definitely need to know.


The 14 Things!

First things first, what are the things that you could possibly not know about a Russian Tortoise? Assuming you’ve done some sort of research before going to pick out your new scaly friend, some of these may just be fun facts or they may all be new to you. Read the 14 below!

  1. The first thing you should know is that Russian Tortoises are used to a dry desert-like setting, however they do like any sort of patch of grasses and/or vegetation. Be sure to have all things necessary to make your new pet as comfortable as possible.
  2. These interesting creatures are typically found in Iran, China, Pakistan, and Russia, hence the name “Russian tortoise”.
  3. Males are surprisingly smaller in size than females, ranging from 13-20 centimeters in length whereas females can range anywhere between 15-25 centimeters.
  4. You probably already know what colors a tortoise typically possesses, but in order to be certain that you have a true Russian tortoise, their coloring will be reddish brown or even black.
  5. Here’s a fun fact; they have four toes!
  6. These fascinating reptiles are herbivores, given they like having areas of vegetation in their habitat. They typically eat anything from flowers to weeds, grasses, or just about anything that’s green.
  7. Clean water is crucial for proper health and a water bowl needs to be present at all times for whenever they need a drink. Do not let them ever go in the bowl for a dip or to bathe because the water will get dirty but they also typically urinate when they go in water.
  8. Russian Tortoises are very active animals, you’ll often see them digging or climbing around their cage. So make sure they have some good hiding places!
  9. Russian Tortoises are grazers, their behavior includes eating a very large portion of leafy greens or weeds before going back into hiding, so they don’t eat as often as one might assume.
  10. They are incapable of digesting meat so do NOT feed this to them!
  11. They have a very accurate biological clock, they thrive at their best when they have an equal 12 hours of light as they do 12 hours of darkness, kind of like humans!
  12. Food that contains oxalic acid or phytic acid are poisonous for these creatures.
  13. Russian tortoises hibernate when it becomes cold, usually between around October and March.
  14. Tortoises are known for aestivation, which is very similar to hibernation. They have this sort of behavior when their habitat is too hot or they’re lacking sufficient amounts of food or water.



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Food Guide

Given all of the facts above, you should have a pretty well understanding of the Russian tortoise diet. Just to recap, they are herbivores and cannot digest meat, so they really enjoy patches of grasses and weeds, aloe and dandelion plants, and even English daisies! Always make sure that there is enough food and water in their habitat, as they typically eat large amounts at one time and absolutely need a sufficient amount of water in their daily diet. This includes asparagus, beans, brussels sprouts, many different herbs, spinach, nuts, wheat, etc. Be sure to educate yourself as much as possible before introducing new foods to your pet.



The anatomy of a Russian tortoise is incredibly interesting, as they’re unlike a lot of other creatures. The underside, or belly of the tortoise is called the plastron, while the part of shell nearest to their neck is called the nuchal. Each part of their rings on the tops of their shell each have a different and unique name. For example, the rings lining the shell on the bottom are called marginals, on the side they’re called scutes, and up top by their head is called the carapace. Their backside is called the supracaudal. Looking at a diagram of each component of the Russian tortoises anatomy makes it look so much more interesting, but in scientific terms, it’s important to know what’s what when referring to your new friend!

Take a look at our Russian Tortoise Infographic below! It summarizes the above text.