The Beginners Guide To Spur Thighed Tortoises

Are you looking for an out of the ordinary pet? Reptiles might be the best option for you. They are unconventional but keeping them is fun and fulfilling. There are a bunch of great reptile pets to choose from. If you plan on keeping tortoises as pets, you should consider the spur-thighed tortoise.

Children can enjoy spur-thighed tortoises because they are relatively easy to care for and maintain. They are also active during the day, which one might prefer over nocturnal pets. Like other reptile pets, tortoises can be a good conversation starter when a friend visits your home.

If you want to keep a spur-thighed tortoise as a pet, this article is for you! We will discuss what you need to take care of your pet. It will not only be an excellent pet for the present but also prepare you to take care of other tortoises in the future.


The spur-thighed tortoise, especially those found in Greece, can also be called the Greek tortoise. Its scientific name is Testudo greaca. Greek tortoises, on average, grow between 5-8 inches as a fully grown adult. It has an oval shell similar to other tortoises in the Testudo genus. Its shell is formed by plate-like bones arranged in a definite manner. 

The carapace of spur-thighed tortoises can vary from yellow, gold, and tan. Its scuta are very interesting. If you look closely, you will notice that it features hues of brown, and it can go as dark as black. This unique scuta pattern looks like Greek mosaics. This similarity is what gave them the name “Greek tortoises” and not because of their geological location. Meanwhile, they’re called spur-thighed tortoises for their pointy scales on both sides and their inner thighs. This detail makes it look like they have spurs.

Their body, heads, and legs are all covered in thick scales. The thickest scales of these tortoises are in their leg area. These tortoises have sharp claws, which are efficient for digging in the ground.


Spur-thighed tortoises can be naturally found in North Africa, southwest Asia, and southern Europe. They live in habitats such as rocky hillsides and forests, among many others. 

Greek tortoises in North Africa can be found in the semi-arid scrub brush, while some are in the Atlas Mountains. They also live in coastal dunes, brushy hillsides, and marshland borders. A considerable portion of the area, from the Middle East to Eurasia, has also been home to these excellent tortoises. They prefer to live in mountains and plateaus. Surprisingly, they can stay even on wastelands and dry open steppes. The vegetation in these areas is typically scrub thorns and sea dune grasses.

Many of these tortoises were imported into the United States over the past few decades. They are imported for the pet trade. Unfortunately, some of them died due to parasites and diseases. But many of them are now thriving in captivity thanks to proper care and attention. Today, there is a vast number of captive-bred tortoises in the United States of America, which could be a better choice for reptile keepers. As a result, many reptile keepers give this fantastic pet a positive review.

What they eat

Did you know that spur-thighed tortoises don’t require a special diet? These reptiles fall under the herbivore category. It means that the best diet for them is one that’s low in protein and high in fiber. It is recommended that for the majority of your pet’s diet, you feed them with dark, leafy greens and other vegetables. These vegetables can also include collard greens and endive. You can also prepare fresh parsleys and dandelion greens to satisfy your pet. 

If you want to diversify your pet’s diet further, you can consider adding broccoli, shredded carrots, and zucchini to the vegetables you feed them. In this way, they can enjoy a different meal daily and get the food nutrients they deserve to grow strong and healthy.

You can also include fruits, if they won’t take up more than 10% of their diet. Fruits tend to be high in sugar, and they can make reptiles obese. For example, you can chop a few apples and pears for your pet occasionally.

Other tortoise keepers add commercial feeds to their pet’s diet along with a dusting of the calcium powder to make sure your tortoise is getting adequate calcium and other nutrients. You can contact your local vet to make sure you choose the best feed for your spur-thighed tortoise. 

How long do they live

Like other small reptiles, Greek tortoises do not live too long in the wild. Their small size makes them vulnerable to predators and other harmful conditions. Even in adulthood, their shells can be crushed by a striped hyena. More predators, such as jackals and crows, can eat the young ones. Because of all these, spur-thighed tortoises live only up to 20 years in the wild.

While 20 years might seem to be a very long time, it is relatively short compared to the lifespan of their captive counterparts. These excellent pets can live for about 50 years when taken care of properly. There have also been records of Greek tortoises living past their hundreds.

A spur-thighed tortoise is an easy pet for beginners, but it can be a lifelong commitment. That is why it is essential to be dedicated before deciding to own one. Keeping them well fed and healthy is vital so they can live as long and as healthy as possible. Sometimes, a Spur Thighed tortoise can be the family’s pet across multiple generations.

Type of enclosure

Spur-thighed tortoises prefer to live in warm or hot climates. You can place your pet Greek tortoise in your garden area if it is warm enough day and night. However, if you live where the temperature gets cold at night, it would be better to place your pet inside your home. While your pet may be able to tolerate a little drop in temperature, it is vital to avoid it entirely as it can trigger hibernation. If you keep your tortoise inside, you should install a UVB lamp into the enclosure. This lamp replaces the sun rays, which are essential for your pet’s digestion.

If you want your pet Greek tortoise to be healthy, make sure that their enclosure provides them with space to exercise. Tortoise-keeping veterans recommend rectangular sections at least 6 inches high with a width of 2 inches and a length of 3 inches. For the material, it is recommended to use untreated wood exclusively. 

These cute pets love to burrow, so make sure to put at least 2 inches depth of substrate. You can play with mixing organic soil with coconut husks and sand to emulate their natural habitat.


A tortoise’s sexual maturity is measured by size rather than age. Captive Greek tortoises have better food access and grow much faster than their wild counterparts. Therefore, they also become sexually mature at a younger age. Many wild tortoises do not reach sexual maturity until they are about 15 years old. Some captive tortoises begin breeding as early as four years old. However, breeding too early may be detrimental to your pets. Even if they can mate young, it would be better to postpone the mating for a few more years.

Male tortoises often prefer more prominent women, so if you plan to breed multiple females with one male, see that the females are similarly sized. When Greek tortoises get older, they often have trouble with their fertility. The chances of genetic defects in their offspring are also amplified.

Greek tortoises begin their mating rituals after hibernation. The males court the females by biting their backs before climbing on her to start mating. Females lay eggs between May to July. Over this period, the female can lay about four eggs.

Final Thoughts

Pets are more than just cute living things you keep in your house. They all require a commitment of a certain degree. If you want unique pets that can help you develop a sense of responsibility and other positive attitudes, you should start keeping reptiles.

Taking care of tortoises can be a significant first step if you want to go deep on being a reptile keeper. If you want to begin, spur-thighed tortoises are your best pet. They are relatively easy to keep and will help you become accustomed to the practice. If you start with an easier pet like this, you will begin to hone the skills necessary to keep your pets healthy.

Even if you don’t intend to get serious about reptile keeping, having a Spur Thighed tortoise can be great for you. Just like with other pets, having them around can be very relaxing and fun, too.Taking care of it can be a relaxing activity. You will also unwind as you watch it burrow into the enclosure. Plus, these tortoises can make your house more appealing and exciting.

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