Tortoise / turtle

Find Out the Differences Between a Tortoise and a Turtle!

Yes! The names Tortoise and turtle do not really represent the same animal! Read below to know how to identify a tortoise from a turtle!

The tortoise are recognized by their large shell, which offers them protection against predators and threats. They are among the only family of reptiles that have a shell!

Everyone knows the tortoise at one point in time. In fact, a study has shown most African school English books has a conniving tortoise essay in one chapter or the other.

However, a lot of people (especially young teens) often call all turtles tortoise.

People often use tortoise or turtle to refer to anything that has a shell on its back and walks on four legs. Nevertheless, this is incorrect.


All tortoise are turtles, but not all turtles are tortoises!

Turtle is the general name given to the species Testudines (reptiles with limbs, having bodies encased in a bony shell). Tortoise (testudinidea) is a sub-species of the family of turtles.

Think of it this way:

All lions are wild cats, but not all wild cats are lions. (We also have tigers, leopards, cheetahs, etc.)

All John in the building are boys, but not all boys in the building are john!

However, since they among the only species that stay on land, the other sea-dwelling Testudines are referred to as turtles.

How to know tortoises from other turtles?

It is easy to tell the difference between them


One major key difference is that tortoises spend most of their time on land. They can be found from desert regions to wet tropical forests.


Turtles on the other hand are adapted for a life spent in water. They are usually found in salt and fresh water habitats. Mostly spend most of their time in large water bodies, searching formate and food. They come up to the surface to breathe air and lay eggs.



Tortoiseshells are thicker and tougher. They are more rounded scaly looking.


Turtle shells have more slim, water-dynamic shells to aid them in swimming. Their shells are lighter in weight, so they do not drown from the weight of it.

Difference between a Tortoise and a Turtle


Tortoise has elephantine hind legs (looks exactly like that of an elephant) and have club-like forelegs. Tortoises are often larger and heavier, their elephantine hind legs help them move around and carry the extra weight of their shell!

Difference between a Tortoise and a Turtle

Turtles have more flipper-like legs, and their hind feet are webbed (connected by a flap of skin) to make it easier to Cruise through the water. They use their limbs to swim by paddling.

Difference between a Tortoise and a Turtle


Tortoises are generally vegetarians, only feeding on edible vegetation.

While other turtles are omnivorous. Feeding on plants and small animals alike.

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