The Russian tortoise is also known as the Horsfield's Tortoise, Central Asian Tortoise, Afghan Tortoise or the Four-toed Tortoise. It is small in size and its length can reach from 15 to 25 cm. It has 4 toes per foot; each toe tipped with highly developed claws, which are used for digging. Their round-shaped carapace has a greenish shade, which can vary to an olive brown with patches of black. The females are always larger in size than the males. Another example of sexual dimorphism is that the females have flared scutes on their shells. Scutes are the bony external plates, which are found on the shell of the tortoise. They are considered to be very similar to scales, but the major difference in this remains to be that scutes are derived from the epidermis.
The Russian tortoise is found in Russia, Azerbaijan, North Western China, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc. When in the wild, these tortoises live in a dry environment. They are found along the rocky hillsides as these provide them with ample areas to hide for cover. During the winter season, the Russian tortoise is known to hibernate. They use their well-developed claws to burrow deep into the soil. Their large burrows are sometimes up to 2 meters long.
The Russian tortoise is under threat in the wild due to the loss of its natural habitat. Their survival is a major concern because they are bound to go on the verge of extinction because of human interference in their natural habitats. They are also bred in captivity, and turn out to be popular as pets due to their small size.
Russian tortoises are herbivorous animals that feed on various weeds and grasses. These are known to graze for a long period if the temperature of the place is suitable for them. When bred, they require a diet that is high in fiber and low in protein. This diet would also need to be rich in calcium as well. It is better to give them a diet that includes loads of edible grasses, romaine lettuce, cactus pods, hibiscus leaves, etc. They must have access to clean water at all times of the day. Fruits should always be fed in smaller quantities, as their diet needs to be high in fiber rather than protein.
Habits and Maintenance
The Russian tortoise generally loves to climb and dig a lot. This could also be because when they are in the wild, they need to move constantly. Burrows would be dug because they feel the need to hide in it. Therefore, you need to ensure that their habitat provides them space to move around, and is secure at the same time. Their enclosure needs to be at least 2 feet X 4 feet. There should be enough soil or sand, which would allow burrowing.
If you have added a tank as well, note that you would need to clean this tank at least once a week. While doing so, always place the tortoise aside in a safe place. You would need to scrub the tank with some bleach solution followed by a thorough rinse with water.
The temperature for the Russian tortoises should never be too extreme. The ideal temperatures would be at 70 degrees to 80 degrees F during the day, and around 65 degrees to 75 degrees F in the night. Fix an incandescent light at a safe distance, which can be used for basking.