Russian tortoise

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Russian tortoise
Russian Tortoise.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Family: Testudinidae
Genus: Agrionemys
Species: A. horsfieldii
Binomial name
Agrionemys horsfieldii
(Gray, 1844)

Agrionemys horsfieldii (but see text)
Homopus burnesii
Testudinella horsfieldii

T. h. horsfieldii
  • Testudo horsfieldii Gray, 1844
  • Homopus burnesii Blyth, 1854
  • Testudinella horsfieldii Gray, 1870
  • Testudinella horsfieldi Gray, 1873 (ex errore)
  • Homopus horsfieldii Theobald, 1876
  • Testudo baluchiorum Annandale, 1906
  • Medaestia horsfieldi Wussow, 1916
  • Testudo horsfieldi Wussow, 1916
  • Agrionemys horsfieldi Khozatsky & Młynarski, 1966
  • Agrionemys horsfieldii Młynarski, 1966
  • Testudo horsfieldii horsfieldii Iverson, 1992
  • Agrionemys horsfieldii horsfieldii Welch, 1994
  • Agrionemys horsfildii Rogner, 1996 (ex errore)
  • Testudo horsfieldi horsfieldi Highfield, 1996
  • Agrionemys baluchiorum Vetter, 2002
  • Agrionemys horsfieldii baluchiorum Artner, 2003
T. h. kazachstanica
  • Agrionemys horsfieldi kazachstanica Chkhikvadze, 1988
  • Testudo horsfieldii kazachstanica Iverson, 1992
  • Agrionemys horsfieldii kazachstanica Welch, 1994
  • Testudo horsfieldi kazachtanica Highfield, 1996 (ex errore)
  • Agrionemys horsfieldii kazakhstanica Borkin, 1998 (ex errore)
  • Agrionemys kazachstanica Perälä, 2002
  • Testudo horsfieldi kazachstanica Ferri, 2002
T. h. rustamovi
  • Agrionemys horsfieldi rustamovi Chkhikvadze, 1989 (nomen nudum)
  • Agrionemys horsfieldi rustamovi Chkhikvadze, Amiranashvili & Ataev, 1990
  • Agrionemys horsfieldi rustamowi Chkhikvadze, Amiranashvili & Ataev, 1990 (ex errore)
  • Testudo horsfieldii rustamovi Iverson, 1992
  • Agrionemys horsfieldii rustamovi Welch, 1994
  • Testudo horsfieldii rustomovi Das, 1995 (ex errore)
  • Testudo horsfieldi rustmovi Highfield, 1996 (ex errore)
  • Testudo horsfieldii rustamov Paull, 1997 (ex errore)
  • Agrionemys rustamovi Perälä, 2002
  • Testudo horsfieldi rustamovi Ferri, 2002

The Russian tortoise (Agrionemys horsfieldii ), also commonly known as Horsfield's tortoise or the Central Asian tortoise, is a species of tortoise and a popular pet.


Both the specific name, horsfieldii, and the common name, Horsfield's tortoise, are in honor of the American naturalist Thomas Horsfield.[2]


The Russian tortoise is a small tortoise species, with a size range of 13–25 cm (5–10 in). Females grow slightly larger (15–25 cm [6–10 in]) to accommodate more eggs. Males average 13–20 cm (5–8 in).

They are herbivores and feed on weeds and wild flowers.

Russian tortoises are sexually dimorphic. Males tend to have longer tails generally tucked to the side; females have a short, fat tail. The male has a slit-shaped vent (cloaca) near the tip of its tail; the female has an asterisk-shaped vent (cloaca). Russian tortoises have four toes. Coloration varies, but the shell is usually a ruddy brown or black, fading to yellow between the scutes, and the body is straw-yellow and brown.

The male Russian tortoise courts a female through head bobbing, circling, and biting her forelegs. When she submits, he mounts her from behind, making high-pitched squeaking noises during mating.[3]

Russian Tortoises do not require a cites article 10 certificate.


This species is traditionally placed in Testudo. Due to distinctly different morphological characteristics, the monotypic genus Agrionemys was proposed for it in 1966. Today, Agrionemys horsfieldii is currently being accepted.[4] DNA sequence analysis generally concurs, but not too robustly so.[5] Some sources also list three separate subspecies of Russian tortoise, but they are not widely accepted by taxonomists:[6]

  • A. h. horsfieldii (Gray, 1844) – Afghanistan/Pakistan and southern Central Asia
  • A. h. kazachstanica Chkhikvadze, 1988 – Kazakhstan/Karakalpakhstan
  • A. h. rustamovi Chkhikvadze, Amiranschwili & Atajew, 1990 – southwestern Turkmenistan


  1. ^ Fritz, Uwe; Havaš, Peter (2007). "Checklist of Chelonians of the World". Vertebrate Zoology 57 (2): 301–302. ISSN 18640-5755. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-12-17. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M. 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Agrionemys horsfieldii, p. 126).
  3. ^
  4. ^ Khozatsky & Mlynarski (1966)
  5. ^ e.g. Fritz et al. (2005)
  6. ^


Species Testudo horsfieldii at The Reptile Database
  • da Nóbrega Alves, Rômulo Romeu; da Silva Vieira; Washington Luiz & Gomes Santana, Gindomar (2008): Reptiles used in traditional folk medicine: conservation implications. Biodiversity and Conservation 17(8): 2037–2049. doi:10.1007/s10531-007-9305-0 (HTML abstract, PDF first page)
  • Fritz, Uwe; Kiroký, Pavel; Kami, Hajigholi & Wink, Michael (2005): Environmentally caused dwarfism or a valid species - Is Testudo weissingeri Bour, 1996 a distinct evolutionary lineage? New evidence from mitochondrial and nuclear genomic markers. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 37: 389–401. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2005.03.007
  • Khozatsky, L.I. & Mlynarski, M. (1966): Agrionemys - nouveau genre de tortues terrestres (Testudinidae). Bulletin de l'Académie Polonaise des Sciences II - Série des Sciences Biologiques 2: 123-125.
  • Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group (TFTSG) (1996). Testudo horsfieldii. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Listed as Vulnerable (VU A2d v2.3)
  • Alderton, D.: Turtles and Tortoises of the World. New York, New York: Facts on File, 1988.
  • Ernst, C. H. and Barbour, R. W.: Turtles of the World. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989.
  • Highfield, A. C.: Keeping and Breeding Tortoises in Captivity. Avon, England: R & A Publishing, 1990.
  • Obst, F. J.: Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins. St. Martin's Press, New York, 1988.
  • Pritchard, P. C. H.: Encyclopedia of Turtles. Neptune City, New Jersey: T.F.H. Publications. 1979.
  • Pursall, B.: Mediterranean Tortoises. Neptune City, New Jersey: T.F.H. Publications, 1994.
  • Wahlquist, H.: Horsfield's tortoise, Agrionemys horsfieldii. Tortuga Gazette 27(6): 1-3, June 1991.

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