The Greek Tortoise is a small to medium-sized tortoise species native to northern Africa, the Mediterranean region and Asia. There are ten subspecies, the largest of which can weigh more than five kilograms and reach a shell length of about 14 inches.

Land tortoises have existed for about 250 million years. However, we bipeds only began to evolve into humans six million years ago slowly. As a result, the famous Greek Tortoises have a really quaint look: just as if they’ve been through an incredible amount. Would you like to have a truly extraordinary pet? Then it would be best if you get to know the Greek Tortoise.

Greek Tortoise – Fact Sheet
Size6-11 inches
Life spanup to 100 years
Care levelmedium
Origin Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and Southwest Asia
Foodwild and meadow herbs
Keepingoutdoor enclosure (in warm temperatures)
Animalsat least two females

The Greek Tortoise, also known as the Spur-Thighed Tortoise, is a popular choice for a pet due to its small size, low maintenance, and docile personality. While Greek Tortoise are generally easy to care for – it is essential to understand their needs and provide a suitable environment to ensure their well-being.

Description of the Greek Tortoise

Adult Greek Tortoises have a smooth, curved dorsal carapace, a narrow, elongated nuchal shield, and a primarily undivided caudal shield. Large specimens reach a carapace length of up to 35 centimeters and a weight of more than 5 kilograms. However, how big and heavy the animals actually become depends not least on the respective subspecies.

The coloration of the dorsal carapace can vary significantly depending on the habitat and can vary from light gray to sandy yellow to olive and light brown. The older Greek Tortoises become, the more washed out the coloration of the dorsal carapace appears. The front clearly thickened abdominal carapace has a movable hinge at the rear end and typically has a dark coloration.

Subspecies of the Greek Tortoise

The vast range of the Greek Tortoise has led to the existence of numerous subspecies of this tortoise species. Current studies assume a total of 10 varieties, divided into western and eastern subspecies.

Western subspecies of the Greek Tortoise:

  • Testudo graeca moroccensis (Moroccan Tortoise).
  • Testudo graeca cyrenaica (Cyrenaica tortoise)
  • Testudo graeca graeca (Greek Tortoise)
  • Testudo graeca nabeulensis (Tunisian tortoise)
  • Testudo graeca soussensis (Sous Valley tortoise)

Eastern subspecies of the Greek Tortoise:

What makes Greek Tortoise unique?

The Greek Tortoise – also known as the Spur-Thighed Tortoise, is a species of tortoise native to the dry, rocky regions of Greece and the surrounding countries. The Greek Tortoise are known for their small size – with adults typically reaching a maximum length of around 10-12 inches. They are also well-known for their docile personality and low maintenance requirements – making them a popular choice as a pet.

One of the most notable physical characteristics of the Greek Tortoise is the spur-like growths on the inside of their hind legs – which give them their common name. These spurs are more prominent in males and are used for mating-rituals and territorial displays.

In the wild – Greek Tortoises are herbivores and feed on a variety of grasses, herbs, and other vegetation. They are also known for their ability to survive prolonged periods of time without any access to water – due to their ability to store water in their bladder.

The Greek Tortoise is a very unique and interesting species – that can make a great pet for individuals or families looking for a low maintenance, docile companion.

spur-thighed Greek tortoise

Keeping the Greek Tortoise as a Pet


The eastern subspecies of the Greek Tortoise are more suitable for keeping as pets than their western conspecifics. This is because the latter have significantly higher requirements due to the conditions in their natural habitat. They are, therefore, less stress-resistant and more susceptible to disease.

Regardless of this, Greek Tortoises need a sufficiently large outdoor enclosure for species-appropriate keeping in summer. Furthermore, since the animals prefer pretty high temperatures, the tortoise enclosure should be located in a sunny place. Apart from that, a heated shelter and a cold frame belong to the indispensable basic equipment.

A fence about 40 centimeters high ensures that the animals can not run away. It is also advisable to install a wire mesh cover for young animals to protect them from predators such as birds and martens.

Greek Tortoises are native to the dry, rocky regions of Greece, so they require a dry, well-ventilated enclosure. A single adult tortoise can be housed in an enclosure at least 4ft by 8ft, with a height of 2ft. It is essential to provide plenty of space for your tortoise to roam and explore, as they are active and enjoy foraging for food.


A suitable substrate for a Greek Tortoise enclosure is a mix of sand, soil, or coconut coir. Avoid using wood chips or shavings as a substrate, as these can cause respiratory problems for your tortoise.

It is also important to provide a hiding spot, such as a small hut or a pile of rocks, for your tortoise to retreat to when they feel threatened or need a place to rest.

Temperature and Lighting:

Greek Tortoises require a basking area in their enclosure that provides a temperature of at least 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be achieved with a basking lamp or ceramic heater. It is also important to provide a cool area in the enclosure, with a temperature of around 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit, for your tortoise to retreat to when they need to regulate their body temperature.

Greek Tortoises require UVB lighting to properly metabolize calcium and prevent metabolic bone disease. Therefore, it is essential to provide a UVB lamp or a natural source of UVB, such as sunlight, for at least 12 hours a day.


In their native countries, Greek Tortoises go into what is called “hibernation” for three to five months each year. This involves your tortoise burrowing into loose, moist soil when temperatures are low. If you want to keep a Greek Tortoise, be sure to offer it the opportunity to hibernate in a terrarium with deep soil substrate.


As herbivores, the Greek Tortoise feeds on many types of grass, plants and fruits. Depending on which subspecies you let move in with you, the range of food you should provide your little darling varies. If there is a large food supply, grasses, flowering plants and clover are preferred.

In particular, fruits with seeds, buds, young shoots, and flowers are considered the main food. Animals originating from dry habitats feed on low-quality plant parts and, in exceptional cases, on insects and invertebrates.

In addition, lime, for example, in the form of a cuttlebone, must also be considered. Lime is essential for metabolism, growth, bone formation and egg formation. The animals themselves know how much lime they need. It is best if they always have the opportunity to nibble on the shell.

You can supply all flowering plants, such as pansies, poppies, wild violets, evening primrose, hollyhocks and lilies, and hibiscus. All wild-growing herbs include clover, dandelion, ribwort, plantain, thistle, deadnettle, fence, chickweed, and coltsfoot.


Greek tortoises, also known as Spur-thighed tortoises, are generally hardy animals and can live for several decades with proper care. However, like all living beings, they are susceptible to certain health problems. Some common health issues that Greek tortoises may experience include:

  1. Respiratory infections: Greek tortoises can develop respiratory infections due to a variety of factors, including poor husbandry, high humidity, and overcrowding. Symptoms include nasal discharge, coughing, and difficulty breathing.
  2. Shell problems: Greek tortoises can develop shell problems – such as shell rot, which is an infection that causes the shell to become soft and discolored. Shell rot can be caused by poor diet, improper housing, and exposure to damp conditions.
  3. Worms: Greek tortoises can be infected with worms, which can cause weight loss, diarrhea, and other digestive issues.
  4. Metabolic bone disease: This is a condition that results from a calcium deficiency in the diet. It can cause the tortoise’s bones to become weak and brittle, leading to deformities and other health problems.
  5. Overgrown beak: Greek tortoises can develop overgrown beaks if they do not have access to enough roughage in their diet to wear down their beaks naturally.

It is essential to provide your Greek tortoise with a healthy diet and proper housing to help prevent these health problems. Regular check-ups with a veterinarian who is familiar with reptile care can also help identify and treat any potential health issues early on.

Greek tortoise in the garden


The Greek Tortoise can make a great pet for individuals or families looking for a low maintenance, docile companion. You MUST provide them with a suitable enclosure, a proper diet, and proper lighting and temperature to ensure their well-being.

Regular handling and bonding with your tortoise can also help strengthen the bond between you and your pet. While they do not require a lot of medical care – it is important to have a veterinarian – who is familiar with reptiles on hand in case of any health issues.

With proper care and attention – the Greek Tortoise can be a rewarding and enjoyable pet for many years to come.

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Marco Heitner

Hello, my Name is Marco. My family has had pets since I can remember. Today we have a large aquarium and, since recently, a four-month old Labrador. I am the owner of this website, and it is my great pleasure to provide helpful knowledge about pets. Our team is constantly working hard to publish well-researched reports here.


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