Tortoises cannot run. They are slow reptiles, so you will not be able to see one ‘running’ in the true sense of the word. However, they are able to move faster than usual at certain times, despite them not being able to reach a spot as fast as other species might.
You’ve almost certainly heard the fable of “The Tortoise and the Hare”, where the tortoise competes (slowly) in a race against a hare, and the hare is thought to be the winner. However, despite its slow speed the tortoise’s perseverance ultimately leads to its victory.
Tortoises are known to be very slow, and this fable is perhaps the main reason why people think this. If you put a tortoise somewhere in your garden or yard, they will likely not be too far away if you leave for a minute to do something and come back to check up on them.
Nevertheless, people may still be wondering if tortoises can run, or if they would be able to walk faster in different situations. Are tortoises really as slow as people say? Let’s find out!
How Fast Can Tortoises Usually Walk?
Tortoises are not the type of reptiles that run or travel long distances. Overall, they are pretty slow. But how fast can they usually walk?
Well, how fast a tortoise walks depends on the species. On average, tortoises walk at a speed of around 0.13 to 0.30 mph. It is possible for some tortoises to walk much faster, as it was proven by the one that made it into the Guinness World Records.
A British tortoise is the one that ended up being the fastest in the world. Its name is Bertie. Bertie managed to achieve a speed of 0.28 m/s. The tortoise was tested over a course of 5.48 m in his home in Brasside, Durham, U.K. He sprinted over his course, and it only took him 19.59 seconds to do so at a 1:12 gradient.
By doing this, Bertie actually broke the previous world record, which was held by Charlie, another British tortoise. The previous world record was 0.125 m/s, and it’s been that way since 1977, at least until Bertie became the new champion.
Why Are Tortoises So Slow?
What some people may find hard to understand is why tortoises are so slow compared to other animals. Well, there are different reasons for that.
- They Have no Reason to Run
Tortoises are herbivores, so they are not like animals that need to chase their prey. All they have to do is search for their food, and their food is not going to run away from them. Given they do not have to chase their food, it only makes sense the reptiles are slow. The plants they eat are stationery.
On top of that, tortoises are not prey, so there aren’t predators looking to catch them as it happens with other animals. So, they do not have to run away from anything like this, which is another reason why they’re so slow. Since they have those thick shells, predators have nothing to do with them considering they’d be unable to eat them.
- Slow Metabolism
Tortoises don’t have a fast metabolism, and this is another reason why they are so slow. The metabolism rate can influence the speed, and that is what causes these reptiles to move slower than other animals.
- Moving Fast May Be Dangerous
Another reason why tortoises don’t move too fast may also be that fast movement can be dangerous. Moving fast may result in falling, which in return will end up causing bruises or even damage to the shell.
What Factors Might Make a Tortoise Move Faster than Usual?
Even though people know tortoises for being one of the slowest species in the world, it was proven that they can spring or move faster. This is possible when the tortoise really has a reason to move fast. But what might cause the reptile to suddenly gain more speed?
Well, one of the main things that makes a tortoise speed up is – you guessed it – food. Even if tortoises don’t need to chase their food, that doesn’t mean they do not get excited when they see something they like.
For example, if the owner prepares something delicious for the reptile, the pet might be eager to eat it, which causes it to walk faster. Similarly, seeing a juicy dandelion outdoors may also make the tortoise so happy it will try to reach it faster.
Some tortoises also walk faster and reach longer distances when they want to attract an opposite sex tortoise. It’s usually normal during mating behavior to see the tortoise acting differently. If they notice a tortoise of the opposite sex, they may also end up walking faster towards it.
Zond 5 – When Tortoises Were Sent to the Moon and Back
Tortoises may not be able to run, but they can go to the Moon and back. This happened a while ago, in a mission that took place back in 1968.
So, in September 1968, Zond 5, which was a Soviet program spacecraft, was sent to the Moon. It was supposed to circle the Moon before coming back to our planet.
What made this mission special was the fact that the first terrestrial organisms were sent to the moon. These were some fruit fly eggs, plants, and two tortoises. Fortunately, nothing happened to the reptiles, and they were able to return to Earth safely. There were some biological changes, which may have been because of starvation. Other than that, nothing bad happened to them.
Given the circumstances, the two tortoises were the fastest ever. They were also the only tortoises that traveled the farthest away from our planet.
Although tortoises are not the reptiles you will ever see running, they can definitely walk faster when they find it necessary. Placing certain foods close to them is one way to make them walk faster. It’s just important to know that some species will reach different speeds than others, so you shouldn’t expect all tortoises to have the same speed.