Leopard tortoises are South African tortoises that are known to grow to very large sizes. They are also popular tortoises to have as pets. However, before purchasing one your self you might want to know just how big leopard tortoises actually get.
Leopard tortoises are the fourth largest tortoise species and can grow up to 18 inches long and over 55 pounds. The largest recorded leopard tortoise weighed in at a 88 pounds.
Leopard tortoises get their name from the markings on their shell that look like leopard markings. Their skin and background color range in shades from cream to yellow.
Leopard tortoises have high, domed shells with pyramid-like shapes on them. Read on to learn more about these tortoises, including how big they get, their lifespans, where they live, and more!
How Big Do Leopard Tortoises Get In The Wild?
Wild leopard tortoises are bigger than the ones that you can buy as pets. Leopard tortoises that are up for purchase as a home pet are often medium-sized and much smaller than the ones you’ll find in the wild.
The leopard tortoise species tend to grow largest in the South African regions. They weigh closer to 20-25 pounds in the Eastern regions of Africa. That said, leopard tortoise size varies depending on what region they are from.
Here is some information about the different sizes of the African Leopard Tortoise:
- Large – The largest African Leopard Tortoise on record weighed 88 pounds.
- Medium – On average, most of these tortoises weigh closer to 55-60 pounds.
- Small – Household tortoises are often the smallest size, averaging between 25-45 pounds
Depending on region, lineage, and environment, the African Leopard Tortoise can range drastically in size. As a result, their species has diverged into multiple sub-species within the family of the leopard tortoises.
As these tortoises age, their patterns and skin color can change and morph. This does not happen to all turtles and tortoises, making it unique to this specific species. Being brown, yellow, and green, these tortoises can blend into their surroundings, which helps keep them safe and live longer.
Where Are Leopard Tortoises Found?
Leopard tortoises usually reside in the eastern and western parts of Africa. They thrive in hot savannas. Traveling from Sudan to the south cape, leopard tortoises typically live in grassy and thorny terrain.
Leopard tortoises can be found in the wild and in captivity – you can see them in national parks and zoos worldwide. However, their original home is in Southern Africa. Leopard tortoises love hot, dry climates, and this is why they are only found in very small and specific parts of the world.
Some places where leopard tortoises live include:
- Southern Cape
- Cape Town
- Eastern Africa
Leopard tortoises love savannas because they often stay at temperatures between 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and never reach temperatures lower than 65 degrees at night. These tortoises die at a quick rate if left in a cold environment for awfully long.
National zoos that house these animals must be well equipped to recreate a very similar climate to the leopard tortoise’s natural habitat. Furthermore, leopard tortoises are herbivores, which means they are vegetarians and do not eat any meat. Shrubs, grass, and succulents are leopard tortoises’ favorite types of food!
Are Leopard Tortoises Bigger Than Sulcata Tortoises?
If you are looking for a large pet tortoise but one that is not quite as large as a sulcata tortoise then the leopard tortoise might be right for you. Leopard tortoises do not get as large as sulcata tortoises.
Sulcata tortoises are the 3rd largest species in the world and are the largest tortoises commonly kept as pets. All leopard tortoises are smaller than sulcatas. That said, the most common leopard tortoises kept as pets are much smaller,
That said, the leopard tortoises are still very large and require ample space.
Can You Have A Giant Leopard Tortoise As A Pet?
Cold atmospheres are not conducive for leopard tortoises, so if you are thinking of having a leopard tortoise as a pet, make sure you live in a warm environment. For more on this check out my complete leopard tortoise care guide here.
Here is what you will need before you bring home a leopard tortoise:
- Lots of space
- Warm climate
- Places for the tortoise to hide
- Lots of plants and grasses for food
- Heat lamp
If you take a leopard tortoise into your home as your pet, make sure you have a nice little fenced area for them to walk around outside. You must include places for your tortoise to hide so that they have a safe place to retreat to if they feel unsafe or scared. Because of the size of a leopard tortoise, they do require adequate space to roam.
Baby tortoises are particularly fragile and require special care for the first two years of their life. After they are full-grown, they are capable of living for up to 100 years! Be sure you are ready for this commitment before purchasing one; you may end up having them for the rest of your life!
Because of their instinct to protect themselves, leopard tortoises are often defensive instead of offensive. They tend to hide in their shell or find an environmental location that has hiding capabilities so that they can retreat into a safe place.
If these tortoises do not have time to hide, they will hiss loudly and have even been known to bite, so look out!
Enclosure Size For Leopard Tortoises
If you are using an outdoor enclosure, you need to know that your tortoise will need a very secure environment. Leopard tortoises are quiet and shy. They may not feel comfortable with the environment and need a fence that keeps them away from predators.
You need to fence off a section of your yard of at least ten by 10 feet in size for an adult leopard tortoise. The area should be big enough to have multiple different areas of the enclosure.
There are a couple of different things that you need to consider when building your fence. First of all, you need to make sure the wall does not allow any predators into the enclosure. You can use either wood or wire mesh. When building a wall with these materials, make sure there are no holes in the fence or too low.
Large Indoor Enclosures
An inside enclosure should be about the size of 10 by 10 feet. It may be best to make a whole room into the enclosure to have the right amount of space. You can use fences or gates to keep the enclosure working.
Another possible enclosure you can use is a vivarium. The vivarium can be easily manipulated to be the right temperature and humidity. A wooden vivarium is even better because it will keep the heat in and keep your tortoise comfortable. You could also get a custom reptile habitat built as well if you don’t want try and build it yourself.
Leopard Tortoises Are Large and Require Ample Room
African Leopard Tortoises are some of the most breathtaking and unique tortoises in the reptile family. Due to the attractive spotting and marks on their shells and skin, it is hard to miss these animals’ beauty. Due to the size of a leopard tortoise, they do require the proper spacing.
These tortoises can grow to weigh as much as 88 pounds, or they can weigh under 25 pounds, depending on their environment and genetics. So, if you are considering getting an African Leopard Tortoise as a pet, make sure you are prepared with lots of space, hiding spots, and warm temperatures!