ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Giant Tortoises: The Sulcata Tortoise or African Spurred Tortoise

Updated on July 17, 2014
African Spurred Tortoise
African Spurred Tortoise | Source

The Sulcata Tortoise, or African Spurred Tortoise is the third largest species of tortoise and spends most of its long life continually growing.

The African Spurred Tortoise at the Monte L Bean Life Science Museum at Brigham young University weighs in at about 70 pounds and is probably in his teens (he was about 40 pounds two years ago when I first wrote this!). When he is full grown, he will be much older and could possibly weigh anywhere between 100 and 200 pounds! He's one of the most popular animals and when I work at the museum, I receive many requests to bring him out to show to people.

Most people won't have the opportunity to see a Sulcata Tortoise and get to learn more about them, so this Hub provides as much information as possible about them as well as a video of the Bean Museum's tortoise eating one of his favorite snacks!

Turtles VS. Tortoises

There are three types of turtles:

  1. Turtles
  2. Tortoises
  3. Terrapins

You can tell the difference between the three types based on their habitats, and based on where they live, you can tell what they eat. Turtles live in the ocean or sea and feed on fish and underwater vegetation. Terrapins live near ponds and small bodies of water and spend just as much time out of the water as in. They feed on similar diets as turtles, but also eat insects.

Tortoises spend their whole lives on land, mostly in desert or grassland environments. As such, they feed almost exclusively on vegetation. Because the tortoise moves about a half mile an hour, it's very unlikely that he will ever get the opportunity to eat much else.

Oatis, the giant tortoise at the museum munches mostly on a mixture of veggies and grass, but his favorite snack is crunchy lettuce or celery.

Video of a Giant Tortoise Eating

Facts about the African Spurred Tortoise

The Sulcata Tortoise has two spurs beneath his chin which he gets his name from. When he is ready to mate and finds a female, he will use those spurs to try to flip over a competing male tortoise. You can imagine how this would be effective, because it is very difficult for a large, heavy tortoise to right himself.

However, this can also be deadly, because the tortoise's lungs are located just beneath the top of his shell. If he is flipped over, all of his weight will be pressing down on his lungs and he has a high chance of suffocation.

The sulcata tortoise also has very armored-looking legs. When he is threatened, he will pull into his shell and wrap his legs around his face to protect them. The back of his shell curves down into a flap that covers and protects the back of the turtle and his back legs, which are not as protected as his front legs.

The African Spurred Tortoise is the third largest tortoise in the world, and one of the largest to live in Africa. They regularly grow over a hundred pounds, and have pretty long life spans, although the oldest in captivity is not more than 60 years old. Their shells are a part of their body, so they do not shed their shells as some people may think. Their shell is similar to bone or keratin and grows with their body.

Fun Fact About the Turtle Family: Did you know that turtles (remember they live in large bodies of water) cannot pull their heads and legs inside their shells? If they did this, they would sink and be unable to escape their predators. Instead, turtles can swim up to 12 miles an hour!

Children's Books About Giant Tortoises


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Jacob Wittrock profile image

      Jacob Wittrock 

      7 years ago from Lake Ozark, Missouri

      This article is great! I just bought a baby Sulcata a couple months ago. Love them!

    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 

      7 years ago from California

      That is one giant tortoise! What a fun amd informative article. As you can see I am obsessed with this animal.;-)

    • Matt Weeks profile image

      Matt Weeks 

      8 years ago from Burlington, NJ

      Interesting read. Those are some powerful jaws!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 

      8 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Thanks it was nice to read about something different

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow, that loud CRUNCH was all I needed to witness what kind of power this tortoise has. I would have never guessed a tortoise's lungs are right below the top of their shell. Very interesting. Thank you for sharing this!


    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      8 years ago from North-East UK

      I had a tortoise when I was a little girl called Fred. He didn't do much really, other than eat lots of cabbage and poop occasionally but we seemed to like him anyway.

      Voted up and shared.

    • profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 

      8 years ago from Germany

      It sounds like the tortoise has a really strong and sharp bite - I wouldn't want it to catch my finger!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      8 years ago from New York

      This was very interesting. Everyone is always amazed at the size and 'lack of speed' of tortoises but we really don't know that much about them. You really explained things well and made reading interesting. Your pictures and video are great too! Voted up and interesting.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)