Can Tortoises Walk Backwards? [Myth?]

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

Last week my friend sent me a video of a tortoise walking backward. He claimed the clip is edited in reverse mode because he believed tortoises could never walk backward. Is he right? Can a tortoise really walk backward?

Tortoises can walk, run, and climb in any direction they need. Taking back steps is difficult for tortoises because of their bulky shell and inflexibility to turn their heads quickly. But they will walk backward when stuck in a position, escaping danger, laying eggs, and getting out of the bath.

How do tortoises walk backward? Read more below.

A Quick Peek Into Tortoise’s Movement

Tortoises have bulky figures, which is why we often doubt the efficient movements of these creatures. But in reality, tortoises can walk faster than we imagine, and under some circumstances, they will even run. On average, tortoises will run at a 0.13 to 0.3 mile per hour rate.

Well, these reptiles are so flexible that climbing walls or inclined surfaces is nothing for them. The big tortoises can easily climb 8-foot trees with zero support.

Of course, tortoises are no Spiderman or cheetah. They can not climb buildings or run meters. But tortoises are quite efficient with their movements considering their physical weight, elephant-like feet, and shorter limbs.

Do Tortoises Walk Forward Or Backwards?

Well, of course, tortoises can walk forward. We all have seen it. But what about the backward movements? Is it a myth that tortoises are incapable of walking in reverse?

Honestly, there are some animals who can not walk backward. Take kangaroos and emus as examples.

However, rumors are that penguins, alligators, and tortoises are also incapable of walking backward. But those are just myths. Tortoises can walk in any direction they want.

I understand the root of such rumors. Tortoises are big and have bulky shells. The weight and the shell surely get in their way of walking backward.

Again, it is important to know what is out there before taking a step back. Right? But for tortoises, they can not just turn their head to have a look. Their bulky and inflexible bodies act as an obstacle.

Therefore, walking backward pushes the tortoises into uncertainty. It is why the creatures barely move in reverse.

Generally, tortoises depend on their intuition to sense the surroundings when walking backward. They will use their strong and powerful front legs as anchors to push the stumpy hind legs from the ground. The jerking motion will help the tortoises to take a step back.

In short, though tortoises can walk backward, it is a tiresome act. However, small tortoises can move more swiftly and quickly than the heavy and big ones. For example, Pancake tortoises will have less trouble walking backward than Sulcata tortoises.

Why In The World Do Tortoises Need To Walk Backward?

It is obvious that walking in reverse is not an easy task for tortoises. No wonder why you will barely notice your pets backpedaling. Well, tortoises only take back steps when they are in absolute need. For example,

1. Getting Out Of The Spot

Tortoises may get stuck in a tight area between rocks or trees. Walking backward will save them from becoming wedged in the corner.

2. Altering The Route

As you see, tortoises have a different physical structure than most other animals. So, they can not simply turn left or right in a congested area. Scooting backward will help the pets to turn in their desired direction.

3. Soaking Time Is Over

The customized tortoise pools are built with only one entrance. As the tub is not spacious, the pet has to walk backward to get out of the bath. Similarly, tortoises also take back steps when they are done drinking water.

4. Weak Legs

Experts suggest that weak and underdeveloped limbs can be why your tortoise is walking backward. According to them, the pet fails to secure a solid grip on the ground. As a result, it will wobble and take a few steps backward.

5. Nesting & Laying Eggs

How will you differentiate a tortoise nest and a burrowing hole? Apparently, if the tortoise uses her rear legs to get into the chamber, she is nesting.

6. Escaping Danger

Tortoises have to survive harsh weather and scary predators in the wild. Well, running and withdrawing inside the shell are definitely good defense techniques from these creatures. Sometimes, they will walk backward to avoid any danger ahead.

Before You Go…

While walking backward is a typical behavior from tortoises, pacing is not. If you notice the pet stepping back and forth, it is likely to suffer from a neurological disorder. The attached article reveals 5 reasons for tortoise pacing and treatments.

Why Is My Tortoise Pacing? [5 Reasons]

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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