This tortoise is found in south and east Europe, as well as in North Africa. On the Iberian Peninsula it only lives in the Guadalquivir marshes and in the semi-arid south-east part of the country. The 3 Spanish regions where it can be found are: Mallorca, Doñana National Park, and Murcia/Almería.

It is considered to be at risk of extinction, the main threats to its survival are the destruction and the fragmentation of its habitat, and poaching to sell them as pets.

It is important to know that:

– For years, it has been a crime to sell these animals.

– Since 2015, it has also been a crime to keep a spur-thighed tortoise as a pet.


T. graeca





Peligro de Extinción

Amenazada (en peligro)


It has a domed carapace, the colour of which can vary between yellow and olive green. The scutes that make up the carapace have black edges and black marks in the centre. Its plastron (part below the carapace) is yellow with black marks, which are more distinct in younger tortoises.

The males can be distinguished from the females according to their physical features (sexual dimorphism). The males are smaller (they grow up to 15 cm in length) and they have a longer and stronger tail, while the females can grow up to 18 cm and their tails are shorter. Furthermore, the female plastron is flat while that of the males is concave, which makes it easier for them to fit on top of a female during mating.

The mating season starts after brumation, which is when the males chase after the female until she accepts copulation. A few days before laying the eggs, the female will display dominant behaviour, and she will choose a place to bury the eggs. After 2-3 months of incubation under the earth, the eggs will crack and the hatchlings will come out. The gender of the tortoise will be determined by the temperature during incubation.

Costumbres, alimentación y hábitat:

It lives in dry, very sunny environments, with open vegetation (shrubs and bushes), which is why it is considered to be a thermophilous species that prefers semi-arid habitats.

It can live is areas located up to 800 m above sea level, with temperatures of between 1.5ºC and 33.2ºC, and an annual rainfall of between 233 mm and 640 mm. However areas of low rainfall limit their sources of food, and high temperatures interfere with their thermoregulation needs.

They are mainly herbivores but they do complement their diet with insects and carrion.


As indicated by the paleontological and genetic samples to date, the Spanish Spur-thighed tortoise populations probably originated in North Africa. There is evidence that proves that no fossils of the era have ever been found in Spanish archaeological sites, and what is more, genetic testing has revealed that the tortoise populations from the north region of Morocco are identical to the peninsula populations.

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