Understanding Tortoise Lifespans

Among the many amazing characteristics that tortoises share, the one that sets them apart is their age. Tortoises are known to live longer than most animals on the planet, some even reach the age of 200 years. 

But, the ability to live long is not common among terrapins, it depends on the species of the tortoise. Sometimes, the living conditions can also play a crucial role in the life expectancy of the tortoise.
To give you a clearer picture of the variation in the lifespan of different tortoises, we have prepared a list that combines terrapins of different species and their average lifespans. 

Tortoises and their lifespans: 

Sulcata (African Spurred) Tortoise: (70-80 years)

Some tortoises are not only famous for their long life but also their huge size, Sulcatas are one of them. These tortoises are also known as African Spurred tortoises and are the third largest tortoise species.

Sulcatas are also the most common large breed tortoises that are kept in captivity. 
With basic care, the Sulcatas can live for 70 years, but if you provide them with the right nutrition and living conditions, they can even surpass 80 years. 
The best thing about this breed is they are pretty strong and low maintenance. They eat the grass that grows around their home and do not hibernate. Sulcatas are recommended to beginners who are looking to adopt large-sized tortoises. 
Even though Sulcatas are low maintenance, there are some important things you need to take into consideration before bringing them home. 
They need large spaces to live, so unless you have a sizable backyard, bringing a Sulcata tortoise might not be a good idea. They are docile tortoises but can get ravenous when it comes to biting or clawing things.
A Sulcata named ‘Jonathan’ was the oldest and the most famous one to ever live. He was born circa 1832 and turned 187 years old in 2019. 

Hermann’s Tortoise: (50-60 years)

Hermann’s Tortoise is a type of mediterranean tortoise that typically originates from the rocky hillsides and oak & beech forests of Mediterranean Europe. They are highly preferred by tortoise lovers, as they are excellent at adapting to any environment. 

They can live up to 50-60 years in basic conditions, but with proper care, they can live much longer. One particular Hermann’s tortoise lived for 110 years in captivity in the UK. 
Hermann’s Tortoises are also famous for their commendable beauty. They have a yellow and brown carapace with thick scales and short legs. Moreover, they have a calm temperament that also makes them safer. 
It is easy to care for these tortoises, but we recommend that you keep them outdoors. These terrapins love to run, dig, and forage. They don’t like to be handled and prefer staying on the ground. 
These tortoises have a simple diet that includes leafy greens and grasses. You can also supplement it with broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, and carrots, apples, apricots, and more. 
The oldest Hermann’s tortoise was named ‘Thomas’ who lived between c.1882 – 2013 (130 years old). 

Russian Tortoise: (100 years)

Russian tortoises are also known as Afghan tortoises, and they are famous for lifespans, that can go up to 100 years. These terrapins are very popular among tortoise lovers as they are strong and make great house pets. 

Earlier Russian Tortoises had to be imported from Russia, but with efficient captive breeding, they are readily available around the world. 
It is recommended to keep Russian Tortoise outdoors only if you can spare sufficient space indoors. You can keep them in enclosures that are at least 2 feet by 4 feet and have 12-inches walls. 
Russian tortoises are notorious burrowers, and with their sharp claws, they can burrow into almost anything. So, if you are planning to keep them indoors, you need to keep their enclosure away from the walls and fill it with the substrate. 
They are more active as compared to other tortoises and eat everything they find. Russian tortoises are herbivorous and enjoy eating leafy green vegetables. Additionally, they also eat garden grass and flowers like dandelions. 
These tortoises are very active and can be a great source of entertainment. 
Owing to their adaptive nature, they can bear high temperatures and can be an ideal alternative for beginners. 

Greek Spur Thigh Tortoise: (100 years)

Greek Tortoise belongs to the Testudinidae species of the tortoise family. They are one of the five species of the mediterranean tortoise. These tortoises are also known as spur-thighed tortoises, and they are famous for their long life.  

In the wild, Greek Spur Thigh Tortoise can live for 100 years or more. However, when bred in captivity and the right conditions, they can live for more than 50 years. 
These tortoises originate from Greece and Turkey, but they are now commonly found in the regions of North Africa, Southern Europe, and Southwest Asia. The size and age of these tortoises also depend on the regions they come from. 
They have a brownish-yellow carapace with spots that grow darker as they age. There are sharp claws on their hands and feet that help them with digging the ground and substrate.

The Greek Spur Thigh Tortoise can grow up to a size of 30 cm and weigh around 6kgs.
Greek spur thigh tortoises have an omnivorous diet. In the wild, these tortoises feed on grass and flowers, but to meet their protein requirements, they also eat mollusks and small insects. When housed as a pet, you can feed them leafy vegetables with some fruits.

The oldest Spur Thigh Tortoise to ever live was a female terrapin named Timothy. She lived from c.1844 – 2004 (160 years). She was named Timothy as people not able to determine the gender of the terrapins in the 18th Century.  

Red Footed Tortoise: (30-50 years)

These tortoises are known for their commendable beauty and their incredible red-colored foot. The Red-Footed Tortoise originated from northern parts of South America. They are closely related to the yellow-footed tortoise found in the Amazon basin. 

Due to over-collection, the Red-Footed tortoises have reached near extinction. 
Red-Footed Tortoises come at an affordable price, and they are relatively easy to manage. With basic care and a healthy diet, these terrapins can live up to 50 years. 
These tortoises can be kept both indoors and outdoors. However, the diet for both environments differs massively. When they are kept outdoors, they can find bugs, flies, and small mice to meet their protein intake and hence should be fed only vegetables and fruits. 
When indoors they need some amount of help for growth and health. You need to create an environment that is similar to their natural habitat in the terrarium. The temperature should be kept at 27 to 30 °C (81 to 86 °F). 
Apart from the temperature setting, you need to create a basking area that will help with digestion and other bodily functions. The terrarium should have a UVB light too that can help metabolize calcium and make their bones stronger. 

Indian Star Tortoise: (80 years)

The Indian Star Tortoise is preferred widely due to its unique patterned shell that has a star-like shape. These tortoises are found in the dry areas of India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Due to its high demand all over the world, these terrapins have reached a point of extinction. 

Indian Star Tortoises are known to live for 80 years in ideal conditions, but with basic conditions and minimal they can live for 30-55 years.
These tortoises prefer living outdoors and can adapt to the different types of climatic conditions. They are not territorial and socialize well with other terrapins, and owing to their small size you can keep several of them at once. 
Indian Star Tortoise doesn’t like being handled and can fall ill. Therefore, it is advised to keep them away from children. They rarely bite anyone but often nip things that look or smell like food. 
To keep them safe, you will need an enclosure that protects them from kids and other animals. Moreover, caring for the Indian Star Tortoise might need some efforts such as creating a basking spot, fixing a UVB light, and a humidity monitor.
Indian Star Tortoise belongs to the herbivore class and can be fed fruits and vegetables regularly. You can feed them timothy hay, Bermuda grass, orchard grass, ryegrass, alfalfa, and fescue.

Leopard Tortoise: (100+ years)

Leopard tortoises are the most attractive type of tortoise that you can get your hands on. These terrapins have large spots like leopards on their shell, and they are found in the Savannah of eastern and southern Africa. 

In the right condition and basic care, these terrapins can easily reach a mark of 100 years. If they are provided with the best care they can reach the age of 125 years or more.
They are the fourth largest tortoise species in the world. An adult Leopard Tortoise can reach a length of 16 inches and weigh 13 kgs. Some specimens in the northern regions are known to reach a height of 28 inches and can weigh up to 40kgs. 
Leopard tortoises have a high dome-shaped carapace with almost vertical sides. The juveniles and young adults have black spots, even dashes on a yellow background. In mature adults, the marking turns brown or grey after reaching a certain age. 
They have a herbivorous diet that consists of forbs, thistles, grasses, and succulents when they are in the wild. You can feed them with green vegetables and fruits to help them get the essential nutrients. 
Owing to their large size, Leopard tortoises are normally bred outdoors. This also helps them to get sunlight and UVB light for better health. To protect them from harsh weather, tortoise owners keep them in pens and enclosures that are modified according to their needs. 

Pancake Tortoise: (25-30 years)

The tortoise gets its name due to the shape of its shell that is round and flat. A Pancake Tortoise’s shell can grow up to 7 inches in length and is soft as compared to other terrapins. These tortoises are famous for their fast and active behavior which makes them fun pets. 

Pancake tortoises live fairly well in all kinds of conditions. Their lifespan depends on the kind of environment they get. For instance, in the wild where they have access to sunlight, food, and large spaces they can reach their maximum age of 30 years. 
They look very attractive even with their unusual shaped shell. The top shell is brown with a variable pattern of dark lines on both sides of the scute. Whereas, the plastron is pale yellow with dark brown seams and light yellow rays. While the head, limbs, and tails are yellow-brown. 
Just like most tortoises, pancake tortoises have an herbivorous nature. In the wild, they eat grass, berries, and other small plants. When housed indoors they can be fed with fruits, vegetables, and succulents like aloe vera. 
Due to their unusual looks and active behavior Pancake tortoises are the most sought after tortoises. It has also led to their extinction in the wild. 

Galapagos Tortoise: (80-100 years)

The Galapagos tortoises are famous for their huge size and long life. They are also the largest tortoise species in the world and they are found on the Galapagos Islands and the Aldabrachelys gigantea of Aldabra. 

They were once close to extinction but with careful breeding, their numbers have risen in recent years. Under favorable conditions, they can live for 100 years but with basic care, their lifespan can limit to 80 years. 
Their humongous size makes them weigh around 400kgs. Naturalist Charles Darwin described these tortoises as “These animals grow to an immense size … several so large that it required six or eight men to lift them from the ground.”
The shell shape of the Galapagos tortoise tells a lot about the biogeographic history of the species group. There are two types of carapaces, ‘Saddleback’ and ‘Domed’. When a saddleback tortoise removes its head and forelimbs from the shell, it shows a large unprotected gap over the neck. 
They are cold-blooded and need 1-2 hours of basking after dawn to absorb the sun’s heat through their dark shells. The Galapagos tortoises rest in mud wallows or rain-formed pools, for a thermoregulatory response and to protect them from parasites. 
The oldest known Galapagos tortoise was named ‘Lonesome George’ who lived from 1910 – 2012.  

Aldabra Giant Tortoise: (100-250 years)

These are the only species of terrapins that have crossed the age number count in centuries. Aldabra giant tortoises are also the largest in the world. They were historically found on the islands of the Indian Ocean, Madagascar, and there are traces of their existence in Australia and Antarctica.

Aldabra tortoises are strong and can withstand numerous adversities. With basic care, they can live for 100 years and with ideal conditions, they can live for around 250 years. 
They have a brown or tan color carapace that is high and has a domed shape. The heavily scaled and stocky legs support the body of the tortoise. It has a very long neck that is greater than its body. This helps the tortoise to reach tree branches that are as high as a meter for food. 
The size of the Aldabra tortoise makes them highly unsuitable for indoor housing. They are raised on special grazing pastures that are known as tortoise turf that comprise 20+ species of grasses and herbs. 
An Aldabra Giant Tortoise named Adwaita is known as the longest tortoise that ever lived i.e. 250 years. He was born around the year 1750 and was brought to India as a gift to Lord Clive. Adwaita died in the year 2006 due to infection and liver failure. 

Why do tortoises live for so long?

The gift of long life that these tortoises possess has caught the fancy of many experts and tortoise breeders. But, there is no particular explanation that can justify their ability of long existence, however, there are known contributing factors that extend the life of these tortoises. 

Slow Growth: 

One of the many reasons that contribute to their long life is their slowness. Turtles grow very slowly throughout their lives, this prevents them from aging the same way birds and mammals do. 
Their slow metabolism enables them to survive long stretches without food or water giving them a greater chance of survival in harsh conditions. 


Effective reproduction is an evolutionary advantage that aids their long life. Wild Tortoises tend to live in harsh environments that help them to breed easily. Their extensive lifespan gives them more opportunities to procreate. 
Tortoises are also protected by their thick and tough shells. This shell works like an armor, that protects them from becoming prey and gives them the luxury of being able to take their time reproducing.


The Galapagos tortoises are the longest living tortoise species, and their diet contains strict vegetarian food that is full of greens and is free of fat and cholesterol. They move very slowly and gently. Galapagos tortoises are docile and peace-loving creatures and live a stress-free life.  


The lifespan of tortoises does make them special, but you need to provide them with care and protection to help them reach there. You have to understand their nature and take measures that are suitable for them.

We hope you enjoyed our guide to the life span of Tortoises, if you have any questions regarding this article please be sure to reach out in the comments below.

If you did enjoy it we hope you will check out some of our others such as our guide to the best tortoise enclosure.

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