Are Tortoises Slower Than Turtles?

Are Tortoises Slower Than Turtles

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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The newbies often get confused over turtles and tortoises. To make you clear, though both these creatures look similar, they have distinct differences. For example, tortoises are more land dwellers, and the turtles prefer water habitats. Do turtles and tortoises have different speeds? Are tortoises slower than turtles?

The tortoises are slower than turtles. The fastest tortoise holds a record speed of 0.28 meters per second or 0. 62 mph. On the other hand, the fastest turtle on the land is a softshell turtle with a speed of 3 mph or 1.34 meters per second.

In this following article, I will discuss each factor that makes turtles faster than tortoises. If you have the slightest interest, read to the end.

Are Tortoises Slower Than Turtles? Why?

Turtles and tortoises both have reptile bodies and belong to the Chelonia order. But they have significant differences in habitat, body structure, longevity, diet, etc. Even in speed, both creatures exhibit dissimilarities. Turtles are faster than the tortoise.

Do you wonder what makes the difference between the speed of a turtle and a tortoise? I can think of 2 major factors that are responsible for the speed. Such as,

  1. Physique
  2. Metabolism

Let’s compare these 2 factors and conclude why tortoises are slower than turtles.


There is a little controversy on which one is bigger, the turtle or the tortoise. You can not say for sure as the size depends on the species. According to most experts and researchers, turtles are bigger in size.

An average turtle grows more than 12 inches. Adult turtles gain a length of around 3 to 5 feet depending on the species. On the other hand, an average tortoise is 10 to 12 inches in size. The large tortoise species grows about 3 to 4 feet.

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Tortoises may grow a bit shorter than turtles, but they weigh more. The heavyweight comes from the shell. Their shells are more rounded and domed shaped than the turtles. Apart from the shell, the average weight of the turtles is less than the tortoises. Check this article for more information on turtle weight.

Some of you may wonder why tortoises can not accelerate more speed. They have a stumpy and padded field, which helps them walk easily on the land. On the other hand, turtles have webbed feet or flippers. Instead of having muscled and developed legs, tortoises are slower due to the heavy body.

You can not expect a creature running at a full speed with a heavy shield on its back. I agree, turtles are slow on land but compared to them, tortoises are slower. The main reason is their heavier shells.


Are you wondering what is the connection between metabolism and speed? Well, there is a solid link. Science proves that metabolism affects the speed of any animal or even human. For example, you have a fast metabolism system and so you can move faster. It is the same for most animals like cheetah, rabbit, etc.

However, for turtles and tortoises, the metabolism is slow. It means they burn energy at a smaller rate. This is the reason they move slower than most other animals. If you compare the metabolism of turtles and tortoises, the tortoises own a slower metabolism. This is a reason why tortoises can not move as fast as turtles.

You know slow metabolism has a bright side. It blesses the animals with a long life. Compared to turtles, tortoises live a longer life due to the slower metabolism. Get a list of different turtle’s lifespan by clicking here.

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softshell turtles speed

Speed Chart Of Turtles

The average speed of turtles in water is 10 to 12 mph. On land, the speed decreased to 3 to 4 mph. Depending on the species, the speed may increase or decrease.

Here is a chart that includes a speed chart of different turtle species:

Turtle speciesAverage Speed
Hatchlings0.37 mps or 0.83 mph (Swimming)
Softshell turtle3 mph or 1.34 mps (Walking), 15 mph or 6.70 mps (Swimming)
Leatherback sea turtle35 kph or 21.75 mph (Swimming)
Green sea turtles1.5 to 30 kph or 0.93 to 18.65 mph (Swimming)
Loggerhead sea turtle24 kph or 15 mph (Swimming)
Snapping turtle2.4 mph or 3.87 kph (Walking), 10 to 12 mph or 16 to 19.3 kph (Swimming)
Wood turtle0.2 mph or 0.32 kph (Walking)
Box turtles0.17 to 0.25 mph or 0.27 to 0.40 kph (Walking)
Cooter1.07 mph or 1.72 kph (Walking)
leatherback turtles speed

Speed Chart Of Tortoises

You already know tortoises are slower than turtles. But some tortoise species can give neck-to-neck competition to the turtles.

Here is a chart that includes the speed of different tortoise species:

Tortoise speciesAverage speed
Leopard tortoise1 kph or 0.62 mph
Small desert tortoise3 to 5 kph or 1.86 to 3.10 mph
Gopherus0.13 to 0.30 mph or
Russian tortoise8 kph or 4.97 mph
Egyptian tortoise0.27 kph or 0.16 mph
Giant tortoise0.17 mph or 0.27 kph
Aldabara tortoise0.3 mph or 0.48 kph
Indian star tortoise0.3 mph or .48 kph
Giant galapgose tortoise0.16 mph or 0.27 kph

As tortoises can not swim, all these are their walking speed.

bog and box turtle speed

The Fastest And The Slowest Of Two Worlds

Ain’t you curious to find out which turtle and tortoise species stand out from the rest? Among the turtles, the leatherback turtles hold the record of being the fastest swimmers. They swim at a speed of 35 kph. On land, the softshell turtles are the undoubted king. They run at a speed of around 3 mph.

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There is confusion between two turtles being the slowest. The box turtle and the bog turtle, both move at a sluggish pace. They are considered slower than all other turtle species.

A leopard tortoise, named Bertie is considered the fastest tortoise on the earth. He holds the Guinness World Record of walking at a speed of 0.28 mps or 0.63 mph. Reports say that Bertie has always been fast and loves doing activities. On the other hand, the slowest tortoise is the Giant Galapagos tortoise. These creatures move at a speed of 0.16 mph or 0.27 kph.

fastest vs slowest turtles

Why Are Turtles And Tortoises Slower Than Most Animals?

Tortoises are slower than turtles, no doubt. But if you think individually, the speed of the turtles is not that great either. So, what makes both the turtles and tortoises slow?

Several factors are responsible for turtles and tortoises being slow. For example, metabolism, heavy shell, etc. Want to know more? Here are all the possible reasons that make turtles and tortoises move slowly:

1. Slow metabolism: I have already mentioned this factor. The slow metabolism of turtles and tortoises affects their moving or swimming speed. The slower the metabolism, the tougher it is to burn energy. This is why turtles and tortoises move at a slower speed than most other animals.

2. Food security: Tigers, leopards, and most wild animals have to hunt for food. While turtles and tortoises can live on herbs and small fishes, insects, and worms. As they do not have to run after prey, their body and speed have evolved this way.

3. Self-protection: You will run away with your life if you see a wild animal coming towards you. Of course, because you do not have a shell for protection. Turtles and tortoises know they can not run ahead of the predators. So, they use their shell for self-protection. As these creatures do not have to hunt or beat the predators, they do not need to move fast.

4. Physique: You already know turtles and tortoises can not move faster due to their heavy shell. According to records, the empty shells weigh around 5 to 25 pounds or even more depending on species. How can these animals move at a full speed with their weight on the back?

5. Self instinct: Another reason turtles and tortoises move slowly because of the fear of fall. If they move fast and have a fall, all the impact will be on the shells. It may cause crackings or shell damage. 


Turtles are faster than tortoises. This happens because their shells are a bit lighter than the tortoises’. However, some tortoises can give a good competition to the land turtles in running.

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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