The Russian tortoise is an interesting pet to keep due to its small size and active character. It is a popular choice for kids due to its docile nature. However, beware, because this is an excellent burrower that can spoil your garden by digging voraciously.
The life span of the Russian tortoise is very long, and it will probably live with you your entire life. The approximate life span according to experts may be well over 100 years. However, most of the captive Russian tortoises live up to 50 years on an average under optimum living conditions.
The Russian tortoise is called Agrionemys horsfieldii or Testudo horsfieldii. It has recently obtained its own genus Agrionemys. However, it is still commonly referred as Testudo horsfieldii. The common names of the Russian tortoise include the following.
- Afghan tortoise
- Afghanistan tortoise
- Central Asian tortoise
- Four-toed tortoise
- Horsfield's tortoise
- Steppe tortoise
The habitat of the Russian tortoise includes southern East Russia, eastern Iran, northwest Pakistan, and Afghanistan. It usually lives in dry areas that have sparse vegetation. The habitat also includes rocky and hilly areas, and regions with hot summer seasons and cold winter seasons. This tortoise makes a home in abandoned animal burrows or digs its own burrows that are 2 meters long.
Russian tortoises are mostly imported to North America as the captive production is very low. When you buy a Russian tortoise, it should be assumed that it has been caught in the wild. The captive bred tortoises are mostly babies and are sold at a cheaper price than the imported tortoises.
The main reason why a Russian tortoise is popular as a family pet is due to its size. The hatchlings are about 1 inch in carapace length. The maximum length a Russian tortoise can reach is just 8 to 10 inches. The females are a bit larger in size than the males when fully-grown. The females become sexually active and produce eggs when they are about 6 inches in length. Most of the Russian tortoises imported are just about 4 to 5 inches in length, which means that they are young adults.
The ideal Russian tortoise housing should be an outdoor enclosure if you live in a warm climate. The enclosure or pen should be about 2 feet by 4 feet in size. The walls should be dug at least 6 to 12 inches below the ground. This is because this tortoise is a good digger and you do not want it to escape by burrowing a hole. It tends to go underground to insulate itself, especially in hot or cold climates. You can provide your pet tortoise with underground hide boxes to help it maintain a stable temperature and prevent it from burrowing too much.
The tortoise that lives in an outdoor pen is active in 60 to 90 ºF temperature. Anything over 100 ºF is too hot for it. It hibernates by digging underground before winter sets in. When kept indoors, it does well at room temperature that is about 60 to 80 ºF. You should provide it with a basking lamp with a temperature of about 90 to 100 ºF. You should also keep a UV light source in the enclosure as it helps in processing the calcium in your pet's diet. The indoor tortoise does not need to undergo hibernation. Its housing should be maintained at stable temperatures and follow a strict day and night cycle by keeping the lights on for 12 to 14 hours. Turn off the light and heat sources at night to keep the tortoise healthy.
The Russian tortoise is not a fussy eater and eats a variety of things. It loves eating leafy green vegetables and spring mixes. You can offer it turnip greens, collard greens, kale, or dark lettuce. You should provide it with a clean water dish at all times. It may tend to defecate in the shallow water tray when standing in it whilst drinking. Therefore, do not allow it to stand in the water, and change it several times a day.
You need to be ready to take complete responsibility of a pet that may live with you for life. This creature grows to a ripe old age and may serve as a pet for your grandchildren as well.