Testudo graeca ibera
The Greek Tortoise, also called the spur-thighed tortoise, is found North Africa, southern Europe, and southwest Asia. It is prevalent in the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus (from Russia Anapa to Abkhazia Sukhumi to the south), as well as in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, France and England. The Greek tortoise inhabits a variety of habitats, including some that are particularly arid: rocky hillsides, Mediterranean scrub, forests, fields and meadows are all occupied by the Greek tortoise subspecies. A highly domed carapace joins the singly hinged plastron by a thick bridge. The coloration ranges from yellow-gold to dark brown or black. Flecks, borders, rays and spots on the shell produce a pattern reminiscent of a Greek mosaic, hence the common name.


Males differ from females in six main points. Firstly, they are generally smaller. Their tails are longer and taper to a point evenly, and the cloacal opening is farther from the base of the tail. The underside is somewhat curved, while females have a flat shell on the underside. The rear portion of a male's carapace is wider than it is long. Finally, the posterior plates of the carapace often flange outward.

Over the last few decades, many Greek tortoises, particularly Ibera and goldens, were imported into the United States for the pet trade. Many of these animals harbored parasites and diseases and, sadly, many did not survive.  Those that received medical attention

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and appropriate care, however, are now thriving in captivity. This founder stock has produced a high number of captive-bred babies, some now grown up and producing offspring of their own, and these USA-born tortoises have proven to be an excellent choice for the reptile keeper. A rather responsive species, the Greek tortoise has gotten rave reviews from those who have attempted to keep it long term, the right way.

Depending on the subspecies, Greek tortoises will grow to between 5 and 8 inches. Some examples of T. g. ibera may attain 10 or 11 inches, but this is rare. At hatching, most Greek tortoises are no more than an inch in length. They can grow rapidly when overfed and reports of them reaching 4 inches in less than two years is common, but not recommended

Similar to most turtles and tortoises, Greek tortoises do not like to be held. They should be picked up only when absolutely necessary, such as prior to being soaked, cleaning of the enclosure and health checks. While they tend to become very responsive to their keepers and will approach for food, they should not be over-handled by any means.

Greek tortoises are easy-going, friendly and interactive, but like all reptiles, they should never be overly stressed.


Several subspecies of the Greek tortoise are recognized, which has enabled a high amount of confusion in regard to proper identification of captive specimens. Familiar forms of the Greek tortoise are:

  • Ibera Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca ibera)
  • Libyan Greek tortoise (T. g. cyrenaica)
  • North African Greek tortoise (T. g. graeca)
  • "Golden" Greek tortoise (T. graeca ssp.)
  • Tunisian Greek tortoise (T. g. nabulensis)

The Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca ibera) is often confused with Hermann's tortoise (Testudo hermanni). However, notable differences enable them to be distinguished.
Greek tortoise                                                                                  Hermann's tortoise
Large symmetrical markings on the top of the head                           Only small scales on the head
Large scales on the front legs                                                            Small scales on the front legs
Undivided carapace over the tail                                                       Tail carapace almost always divided
Notable spurs on each thigh                                                               No spurs
Isolated flecks on the spine and rib plates                                          Isolated flecks only on the spinal plates
Dark central fleck on the underside                                                   Two black bands on the underside
Shell somewhat oblong rectangular                                                    Oval shell shape
Widely stretched spinal plates                                                           Small spinal plates
Movable posterior plates on underside                                               Fixed plates on underside