Can Turtles Actually Jump?

Can Turtles Actually Jump

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

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“Get a fool-proof enclosure or your turtle will jump out of it” I am sure you have heard or seen this line at the beginning of your turtle keeping journey. Considering the physique and speed, can turtles actually jump?

The turtles can jump. Depending on the species and size, turtles will cover 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) with a hop. However, the big turtles are not very good at jumping due to the heavyweight.

How do the turtles jump? Which turtle species is the master of jumping? Are you thinking about the same questions? This article will answer all. So let’s hop in.

Can Turtles Actually Jump?

By jumping, if you are imagining the athletic activity of a Red Kangaroo, then stop right there. For turtles, you have to bend the definition of the jump a little bit. Or you can say like most people that all the turtles do is hopping. Well, that is true for some turtles, whereas, most turtles can actually jump.

You will barely notice a turtle jumping. Also, compared to other animals, turtles’ jumping record is not so impressive, not in either covering height or distance. But considering their body size and a bulky shell on the back, what else can you expect from these little creatures?

The shell of a turtle weighs 5 to 25 pounds depending on the species. It is almost 25 to 35% of the total body weight of the turtle. Apart from the heavy shell, the leg limbs of these creatures are not flexible enough to jump. They can not bend their torso like most animals and we do.

Considering all the incapabilities, the experts claim that the little hopping or the leap the turtles take can be considered as a jump.

How Do Turtles Jump?

Turtles are quadrupedal animals, and yet, jumping does not come to them naturally. Do you wonder how turtles manage to jump with their heavy shell and inflexible body?

Turtles start by bending their rear legs and keeping the front legs extended and slightly bent. When they get stable at this position, they push their body to generate a thrust for moving forward. With the help of all four leg muscles, these creatures manage to propel forward in the air a little bit.

Due to the inflexibility, turtles can not bend their leg muscles much. As a result, they can not produce enough thrust for jumping. Also, they get more of a horizontal jump, rather than a vertical one. Some may consider it as hopping because of the short covered distances, and the way of jumping.

Comparison Of Jumping: Turtles Vs Humans And Other Beings

Do turtles adopt the same jumping mechanism as other animals, and us, humans? In a way, yes. The physics behind the jump is almost the same.

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We basically bend our knees, generate a thrust with the leg muscles by pushing them against the ground. This action lifts us in the air. How high or how far we will go, totally depends on the power we apply at the moment of the jump. If you want to jump high, you need to use more muscle power.

In the case of us, humans, different muscles are involved in a single jump. Such as leg muscle, arm muscle, back muscle, core muscle, shoulder muscle, calf muscle, etc. The interesting fact is, humans can jump in five different directions. For example, up, left, right, forward, and backward.

Which direction will we land? It depends on the angle at which we initiate the jump and the direction of the thrust. On the other hand, the turtles can jump only horizontally.

Other animals also use their legs for jumping, adopting the same mechanism. Their leg muscles add kinetic energy to their body and aid to generate enough thrush to drive up in the air. The height and distance, the animals will cover with a jump depending on the muscle, launching velocity, and the length of the legs.

Yes, the leg lengths can be a great help while jumping. Experts claim that long legs are the secret of a powerful jump. Take frogs as an instance. Their legs are long compared to their body size. These parts act as a spring while jumping.

Animals like frogs and kangaroos have the special power to jump higher and cover more distance. They have an extra elastic wind up ability, which adds more power to a jump. In simple words, these creatures store energy in their tendons and activate them in the time of need. This is more like the mechanism of an elastic rubber band or a spring.

How Far Can Turtles Jump?

A turtle’s jump definitely depends on its size and weight. A medium turtle manages to jump about 7 to 10 centimeters or 3 to 4 inches. On the other hand, a short turtle covers around 2 inches or 5 centimeters with a jump. If you ask about the big sized turtles, they can not jump at all due to their bulky body.

Is “2 to 4 inches” even a jump? Well, if you look up the definition, it is. While jumping, turtles stay completely in the air and their body does not touch any surface at that time. Isn’t that called a jump?

However, a turtle may jump a bit farther under some conditions. For example, a run before the jump will add more strength and thrust. So, the turtle will be able to cover a little more distance than usual.

Why Can’t Turtles Jump High?

Turtles can not cover a huge distance with a jump. Still, you need to know which factors decide how well a turtle will do in a jump, right? Their body mass is the main thing that matters in case of a jump.

You already know that a big sized turtle can not jump. Because their leg muscles are not developed enough to dive in the air with that bulky body. I agree shells are heavy and so are their flesh, bones, and muscles. The lighter the turtle, the more powerful the jumps will be.

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For example, the red eared sliders, box turtles, painted turtles, etc. These species are medium sized and they do not have a heavy body. So, they can jump better than other species.

However, the inflexible body and leg muscles also affect a turtle’s jump. The turtles can barely manage to run with their physique. Imagining a huge jump is next to impossible.

What Makes A Turtle Jump?

You know jumping is not a cup of tea for the turtles and they do not perform it often. These creatures do not have long legs or enough muscle power to initiate a good jump. Also, in case of an attack, the turtles prefer running towards the water source instead of hopping. So, why in this world, a turtle would jump?

Turtles may not jump to save their lives or reach for food but they have other reasons. Such as,

  1. Turtles jump off the cliff or boulder to dive into the water.
  2. To get to a higher place, like rock or log, turtles will jump.
  3. Sometimes turtles jump when they are scared or sense danger.

Turtles Do Not Jump Very Often: Why?

I have already mentioned that turtles do not jump very often. Do you know why? All the creatures, including us, jump for good reasons. For example, to reach inaccessible places, to collect food, or to fight a threat.

When it comes to turtles, they do not need jumping for survival. It is something they can live without anyway. In the previous section, you have seen turtles only jump to get to something or to dive in the water from a rock. Other than these tasks, they do not have to jump.

So, jumping is a negligible characteristic for the turtles. Even though they are able to jump, they do it less often.

The Best Turtle Species In Jumping

Turtle’s jump is something we do not see every day. So, it was hard for the researchers to find out the king jumper turtle species. But with the available resources, they have concluded the winner. Yes, the common snapping turtle is by far the best jumping turtle species on this earth.

You know snapping turtles feel vulnerable around predators due to their exposed necks. To escape any danger, they try biting the opponent and then run off from the place. For covering more distance and in a short time and to take a lead, these turtles often jump while under attack.

Experts claim that a snapping turtle can jump higher than the usual standard and their own height. Isn’t it interesting? Snapping turtles also jump when they sense any threat.

Remember, I am referring to the common snapping turtles, not the alligator species. The alligator snapping turtles are heavy in weight and can not jump.

Compared to other animals, the common snapping turtles are not good jumpers. But among all the turtle species, they are the best. Some other turtle species that jump are,

  • Red eared sliders
  • Painted turtles
  • Box turtles
  • Softshell turtles, etc
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Why Do Turtles Jump Out Of The Enclosure?

Have you ever woken up and noticed your pet turtle missing from the tank? Wondering how the little pet managed to get out? Of course, a jump is all it takes for the turtle to escape the enclosure if the walls are low and the habitat is not covered. But what makes the turtle do so?

There are several reasons why a turtle jumps out of the habitat. Such as,

  1. Inadequate space
  2. Improper heating light
  3. Dirty water
  4. Bad water quality
  5. Stress and anxiety

Inadequate Space: You know turtles love to live like a king. The more space you provide them, the better it is. While raising multiple turtles, we often ignore the tank size. Even sometimes we think a 10 gallon tank is enough for a medium sized turtle. But that is not the case.

Turtles hate congested areas. They can not swim or move in a small tank. It will stress them out and in some cases, they try to escape the tank. So, make sure the tank size is suitable for your turtles and the wall height does not allow the pets to get out.

Improper Heating Light: Basking light and heating lamps not only cause health issues but also force the turtles to jump out of the enclosure. The shell and skin color of the pets start fading away in lack of proper basking light and heat. Thus the turtles try getting out in search of sunlight.

As a responsible turtle owner, you must set up quality UV light and heating bulbs in the tank. In case of guidance, follow this article.

Dirty Water: Freshwater turtles can not stand dirty tanks. If you avoid cleaning for weeks, the turtle will fall sick. You may notice them spending time on the land or basking area. Eventually, the pets will jump out of the habitat if there is any chance.

Installing a water filter will reduce the chance of escape. Besides this, you need to change the water thrice a month and clean the whole tank at least once a month.

Bad Water Quality: Turtles spend most of their time swimming or playing in the water. If the water quality is bad, then they will avoid the source. It will be no surprise if the pets try jumping out of the tank several times. You can ensure water quality by maintaining the pH, nitrate, ammonia, and chlorine level.

Stress And Anxiety: Most escape cases are observed among the new babies. The turtles do not like changes. So, when you put them in a new environment or a chaotic, disturbing situation, they will get stressed. To get out of the stress, the turtles try jumping out of the tank and hide somewhere safe.


Turtles are anything but good jumpers. The short and medium ones can somehow manage to jump about their height but the big turtles can not jump at all. Any threat may lead the turtle to jump and sometimes, the improper habitat will force the turtle to jump out of the enclosure.

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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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