The Russian Tortoise 
Agrionemys horsfieldii ( Testudo horsfieldii)  

Russian Tortoises in the UK

Photos by Jane Nicoll

©Jane Nicoll,

These are photographs of a few of the Horsfields tortoises I know and love. 
I have kept Horsfields for 6 years and find them endlessly fascinating, each being an individual character with his or her own personality and
preferences.  Most of the photos are of my tortoises, although two belong to a friend whose animals I help to care for.  They have been chosen to illustrate some of the variations in shape and size found among these charming tortoises.

This lovely female is believed to be a distinct and larger Horsfield species from Afghanistan. Colouring in this species is much more uniform, and there is less sexual dimorphism in terms of tail size. Very rare in the UK, these may be known in the USA as Blonde Russians.

Darwin, a small adult male, with atypical shell markings comprising dark speckles on a honey brown background. He is likely a regional variation rather than a different species. Darwin is also unusual in that he doesn't dig burrows, only scrapes, and enjoys grazing on fresh grass. He is just over 11 cm, and has only grown 2mm in 6 years, so this would appear to be his natural size..

Dmitri, my first Horsfield hatchling at one week old. A large and bold baby, he has very striking colouring.

Hatchling Horsfield taking a look at the big world

This female has an overgrown beak, and shows that such deformities occur in the wild also. This beak does not inhibit her eating normally.

Two males (Darwin and Toby) battling for dominance in their outdoor garden. This was a prelude to mating with females for the first time, and may be necessary in raising hormone levels. Even if they seem intent on murder in this photo, these two get along fine together 99 per cent of the time.

Kiva, a large light coloured female, who was originally rescued from a group of Horsfields seized as illegal imports in London. This photo shows the cream coloured new growth, in addition to her naturally light coloured shell and skin. Although one of my largest females, she is very shy with people.

Moriarty, demonstrating Horsfields' climbing ability and curiosity as he easily scales a 15 inch high log roll wall.

An older, larger long-term captive female Horsfield, thought to be at least 40 years old. She is markedly broad and flattish, and her shell shows wear of time. Possibly a t.horsfieldi horsfieldi.

Sam, my first Horsfield (left and right photos), a young adult female. She grew too fast and is very domed and round like a ball. Her shell is hard and healthy and she is a successful mother. An example of deformity nonetheless.

Juvenile Horsfields enjoying a specially landscaped garden, which provides variety, interest and many edible plants.

Victoria, a sub adult female, with deformed marginal scutes. The likely cause is calcium deficiency when very young, but there may be other factors. This abnormality can occur, to some degree, in the wild also.


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