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Care Sheet for Horsfield (Testudo horsfieldii) Tortoises

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Taylor and Marshall Veterinary Surgeons

45 High Street

Shifnal Shropshire, TF11 8BL

Phone 01952 460781 S M Taylor BVMS MVM MRCVS

Fax 01952 461938 C J Marshall MA Vet MB MRCVS

Care Sheet for Horsfield (Testudo horsfieldii) Tortoises
This guide is designed primarily for Horsfield (Russian) tortoises. Sadly the majority of these are collected from the wild rather than captive bred as they don’t require CITES certificates. Most u.k retailers have no knowledge of the correct requirements of these tortoises and many sadly die in captivity as a result. Whilst this care sheet is very basic, we have further detailed information if you require.
Temperature range: Tortoises are reptiles, and rely almost exclusively upon the environment that they are kept in to meet their physiological and metabolic needs.

  • These species require a minimum hot “basking” spot 34 - 38 degrees centigrade

  • A cooler area at 18 - 22 degrees centigrade.

  • An optimal gradient ( difference) of 10-15degrees

  • 10-14 hours light daily (winter/summer photoperiod)

This can be provided by using an UV-heat lamp suspended 12-18inches above the basking area and providing a large enough area around this to provide the gradient.
Diet: Horsfield tortoises are almost exclusively herbivorous.

  • Green leaf vegetation and flowers - as wide a variety as possible, see attached feed sheet. Watch as Horsfield tortoises are very prone to obesity in captivity.

  • Daily Calcium Carbonate/Vitamin D3/Trace Elements (Nutrobal/Arkvits/Vionate)

  • Fresh water available at all times.





Indoor housing:

We recommend that where possible when tortoises are kept indoors, open topped tortoise tables are used. This enables a much better control over temperature gradient, ventilation and space. Tortoises need space to exercise. These should have a 50/50 topsoil/play sand substrate at least 4 inch deep. Make sure open tables have mesh or wire covers if you have dogs. No dog is ever 100% trust worthy with tortoises.

DO NOT use glass “fish tank” style, or reptile vivariums for horsfields- these do not provide adequate environments at all. UV/heat lamps should be used indoors.

Outdoor Housing

Indoor accommodation alone is not really ideal long term, outdoor facilities should be used wherever possible in the warmer months. This should provide:

  • A safe, secure enclosure with adequate space for normal behaviour and exercise.

Care - Horsfields are superb diggers and climbers and excellent escape artists!


Horsfield tortoises can be hibernated , though they can also be overwintered in indoor tortoise tables. We recommend a through veterinary health check prior to hibernation, and to discuss the different and safest ways to hibernate.

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