Types of tortoises
Tortoises are some of the slow, easy going animals known to man. Tortoises differ in size, habitat, dietary needs as well as behavioral activities such as preference to light. However, tortoises differ in one major aspect, that is, they can either be wide or domesticated. Domestic tortoises are kept by individuals as pets. Under this category, there are seven major types of tortoises. They include:
- Leopard tortoise
- Herman tortoise
- Horsefield tortoise
- Egyptian tortoise
- Sulcata tortoise
- Marginated tortoise
- Spur-thighed tortoises
The horsefield tortoise is one of the common tortoise kept as pets. It is known by different names such as four clawed tortoise, Russian tortoise, central Asian tortoise, afghan tortoise, testudo horsefield or Russian steppe tortoise. This type of tortoise is indigenous to the north in countries such as Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Notably, the horsefield tortoises thieves in hot climatic conditions. There are three major types of the horsefield tortoise namely:
- Testudo horsefieldi horsefieldi
- Testudo horsefieldi Kazachtanica
- Testudo horsefieldi Rustmovi
Its four claw characteristic on each foot and its preferred habitat give this tortoise its names, four clawed tortoise and Russian steppe tortoise respectively. The horsefield is also characterized by a green-brown carapace dotted by black blotches of different shapes and sizes. The plastron mimics a similar color to that of the carapace. The body of the tortoise has a lighter hue in comparison with its shell. Living in arid areas, this tortoise has thicker forelegs for the purpose of digging and burrowing into the ground as well as climbing.
In comparison with other tortoise species, the horsefield tortoise is ranked as one of the smallest tortoise species. The female tortoises are placed between 20-25 centimeters long in maturity. Most of the female tortoise reach a maximum length of approximately 20 centimeters. However, there are cases where some females surpass this length to reach an overwhelming 23-25 centimeters. Female tortoises have a smaller tail with a flat plastron.
On the other hand, male horsefield tortoises are approximately 15-20 centimeters long. They have thicker, larger tails with a concave plastron. Naturally, the male tortoises are generally smaller than the female tortoises.
How long do they live
The horsefield tortoise species is expected to live for about 50 years. The care an owner gives to his pet tortoise will determine how long the tortoise will live for. A healthy tortoise with good housing and a good diet will live longer than that which lacks such conditions.
Where do they come from
The horsefield tortoises are known to originate from Asia. They live in arid and semi-arid areas where temperature are high. Similarly, soils in these areas are composed mainly of clay or sand. These allows the tortoises to burrow through the ground to find a cooler environment and to hide from predators who pose a threat to their existence.
Best ways to buy one
The small size of these tortoises make them the perfect type for pets. Although they can easily be acquired from the wild, it is advisable to purchase one from a reputable pet store. This is done to ensure that the tortoise is healthy on acquisition. The pet store will ensure that the tortoise is disease free to prevent contamination or further spread of the disease. The store will also be in a position to give you comprehensive information about the tortoise. This information may include its dietary needs, conditions in which the tortoise is most comfortable in, steps to care for the tortoise among other useful information.
How to take care for them
The horsefield tortoise requires a lot of care especially in its housing requirements and dietary needs. As stated, this tortoise lives in arid areas. It is therefore necessary to ensure that temperature in the area are relatively high especially if the owner lives in a cooler area. Lack of high temperature would increase the humidity levels that may lead to the tortoise having pneumonia.
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Besides the temperature requirement, the tortoise requires adequate space for it to move around especially if it is kept indoors. Its housing facility should be strategically positioned to gain access to sunlight. It should be fully stocked with a water tray and a food tray. Cleanliness and proper ventilation should be observed at all times.
If the tortoise is kept outside, the drainage ability of the soil should be ascertained before building the housing facility. well drained soil is key to reduce the level of humidity in the facility. To prevent the tortoise from burrowing away, the owner should dig a hole of about 45cm deep and lay it with two layers of mesh. The soil is then returned into the whole. By doing so, the tortoise gets enough space to dig without escaping.
What to feed them
The horsefield tortoise is a herbivorous animal. In that sense, the diet is strictly vegetarian. Fruits and such like foods should not be included in the diet. As a pet, the horsefield tortoise requires diversity in its diet. The tortoise should not be restricted to grass alone. This limits the amount of nutrients the tortoise receives from its diet. Owners of this type of tortoise should include the dandelion as part of the diet. The leaves and the flowers of this plant are of nutritional value to the tortoise. Dandelion leaves and flowers are rich in calcium. The consumption of plants rich in calcium assist in the strengthening of bones and the development of a strong shell. Tortoises are known to lay eggs. The consumption of calcium goes a long way in aiding the formation of eggshells.
In addition to foods high in calcium, tortoises require foods rich in fiber. This is meant to boost up the proper functioning of the body. Vitamins and minerals are a good way of strengthening the body and its immune system. Since fruits are a no-no, these supplements are produced specifically for reptiles including tortoises. If any of the essential nutrients are lacking in the natural diet, supplements from the pet shop are a good may of incorporating them into the diet.
Feeding habits of the horsefield tortoise are affected by the climate. It is therefore important for the owner to observe these habits during different seasons. In the event that the weather is too cold for the tortoise to be outside, the owner should feed the tortoise indoor. Lack of a healthy diet could lead to health problems such as the pyramiding of the tortoise shell.
How much care and attention is needed for this pet
Although the horsefield tortoise is easy to maintain and take care of, keen attentions should be given. This will help in identifying any changes in the tortoise whether behavioral or otherwise. In turn this will help detect a problem at its early stages and make amends. Be sure not to overfeed the tortoise. Observing the temperature and maintaining it to the tortoise’s preference will prevent the tortoise from getting sick. All pets require care and attention and the horsefield tortoise is no different.