ISSN 2398-2985  

Horsefield tortoise


Vetstream Ltd

Siuna Ann Reid

Synonym(s): Agrionemys horsfieldii, Russian tortoise, Afghan tortoise, Central Asian tortoise


Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia.
  • Phylum: Chordata.
  • Class: Reptilia.
  • Order: Testudines.
  • Suborder: Cryptodira.
  • Family: Testudinidae.
  • Genus: Agrionemys.
  • Species: horsfieldii.

Distribution and habitat

  • Native to many countries, including Russia, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran, China, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and others.
  • Most commonly found in sand and clay deserts with sparse grasses and bushes.
  • Generally prefers a dry climate with seasonal temperature variations.
  • Usually found around water, including grasslands and savannahs.
  • They are good diggers and will burrow if given the opportunity.
  • They have one of the highest tolerances for extreme temperatures.
  • They will sometimes hibernate through the cold temperatures and estivate through the hot season.
  • In the wild they face many threats, including grazing competition, pet trade and habitat destruction.

Species status

  • Listed under the IUCN as vulnerable.
  • It is also listed on CITES Appendix II.

Life span

  • Can live for >40 years.
  • In captivity, individuals kept in low-stress conditions, raised on the correct diet, have higher life expectancies.


In captivity
  • Typically consists of leafy greens, flowers, grasses and leaves Chelonia nutrition.
  • The diet should be varied.


  • Sexual maturity is usually reached at about 10 years of age.
  • Males court a female through head bobbing, circling and biting Chelonia reproduction.
  • Reproductive efforts take place in early spring; usually March to April.
  • Females can lay around 3 clutches of about 5 eggs.
  • Hatchlings are usually incubated for between 56-84 days.

As pets

  • Can be kept as pets.
  • Sand is not a recommended substrate for indoor Horsefield tortoises as it can cause impaction if ingested Gastrointestinal obstruction.
  • They do not need a heat source at night as long as they are heated properly during the day.
  • Outdoor pens are preferred if possible.

Biological Data

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

Other sources of information

  • Reptiles magazine (2018) Russian Tortoise. Website: Last accessed 30th January 2018.
  • Reptiles magazine (2018) Russian Tortoise Care Tips. Website: Last accessed 30th January 2018.
  • Uetz P & Hošek J (2018) The Reptile Database (version Dec 2015). In: Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life, 30th June 2018. Eds: Roskov Y et al. Website: Naturalis, Leiden, The Netherlands. ISSN 2405-8858.
  • Wikipedia (2018) Russian Tortoise. Website: Last accessed 30th January 2018.
  • Tortoise Protection Group (2014) Horsefield Care Sheet. Website: Last accessed 15th July 2018.
  • Pollock C (2015) Basic Information: Russian Tortoise Testudo Horsfieldii. Website: Last accessed 15th July 2018.
  • Chitty J & Raftery A (2013) Biology. In: Essentials of Tortoise Medicine and Surgery. Wiley-Blackwell, UK. pp 37-38.
  • Mosier  (2009) Horsfield (Russian) Tortoise (Testudo Horsfieldii). In: Unusual Pet Care Volume 3. 3rd edn. Zoological Education Network Limited, USA. pp 96-99.
  • Marschang R & Chitty J (2004) Infectious Disease. In: BSAVA Manual of Reptiles. Eds: Girling S & Raiti P. BSAVA, UK. pp 331.
  • Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group (1996) Testudo horsfieldii. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Website: Last accessed 15th July 2018.

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