Timothy (tortoise)

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Species Spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca)
Sex female
Born c. 1844
Died 3 April 2004 (aged 160)[2]
Powderham Castle
Timothy in 1993. The tag attached to her says "My name is Timothy. I am very old – please do not pick me up".

Timothy (c. 1844 – 3 April 2004) was a 5kg (11 pound) Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise who was thought to be approximately 160 years old at the time of her death. This made her the UK's oldest known resident.[3] In spite of her name, Timothy was female; it was not properly known how to sex tortoises in the 19th century. Timothy was named after a tortoise owned by Gilbert White.[4]

Timothy was believed to have been born in the Mediterranean shores of Turkey[1] and was found aboard a Portuguese privateer in 1854, aged around 10 by Captain John Guy Courtenay-Everard, of the Royal Navy. The tortoise served as a mascot on a series of navy vessels until 1892. She was ship's mascot of HMS Queen during the first bombardment of Sevastopol in the Crimean War (she was the last survivor of this war),[2] then moved to HMS Princess Charlotte followed by HMS Nankin.[3] After her naval service she retired to live out her life on dry land, taken in by the Earl of Devon at his home, Powderham Castle. From 1935 she lived in the castle's rose garden and was owned by Camilla Gabrielle Courtenay (1913-2010), the daughter of the 16th Earl of Devon.[2] On her underside was etched "Where have I fallen? What have I done?", English translation of the Courtenay family motto ubi lapsus, quid feci.[5]

In 1926, Timothy's owners decided that he should mate and it was then discovered that "he" was female.[3][6] Despite this useful information, mating attempts were unsuccessful.

Timothy is buried near the place of her demise at Powderham Castle.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bruce (2004), p. 2
  2. ^ a b c d 'Timmy the tortoise dies aged 160' BBC News 7 April 2004
  3. ^ a b c 'War Hero Tortoise Dies, Aged 160' Sky News 7 April 2004
  4. ^ Bruce (2004), pp. 17-24
  5. ^ Bruce (2004), pp. 3-4
  6. ^ Powderham Castle Facts & Figures

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