Do Russian tortoises make good pets? (Boring or fun?)

TheBeeThatISee

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For those who don’t know, I was interested in having a baby sulcata tortoise. However after a bit more research I found out that Russian tortoises will better suit me carewise. But I remember reading through Reddit and finding some people whose Russian tortoises just ate, slept and were overall boring. In the flip side I also find people who had very very active Russian tortoises. I also read that sulcata tortoises have a fun personality that no other tortoise can compete with.

Overall, do Russian tortoises make good pets? Do they have a fun personality (one better or just as fun as a sulcata tortoise)? Or are they boring? Or does that just depend on how they are cared?
 

Sarah2020

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As a Russian owner I enjoy looking after speedy however continuous eat, sleep is very true for most if the time especially winter. Tortoise are not like puppies your caring for a reptile who by nature are slow and always alert for preditors. As a tortoise owner you put in 100% of care diet, hydratoon, heat, light , enclose, substrate, diet and they reward you with smooth shell growth, health and humorous moments etc... I would suggest a tortoise is not correct for you and you look at alternative dog or cat etc...
 

wellington

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My Russian at times will keep you guessing on where is he going to try and get out next time. Other times, like winter, he sleeps, eats some and doesn't do much.
Each has their own personality. Same with any tortoise species. You might get a sully that is very happy just roaming around. Then you might get on like one of our members has, that gets into everything.
If you want something with lots of personality, will follow you around, then I'm not sure a tortoise is what you should get.
 

Tom

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For those who don’t know, I was interested in having a baby sulcata tortoise. However after a bit more research I found out that Russian tortoises will better suit me carewise. But I remember reading through Reddit and finding some people whose Russian tortoises just ate, slept and were overall boring. In the flip side I also find people who had very very active Russian tortoises. I also read that sulcata tortoises have a fun personality that no other tortoise can compete with.

Overall, do Russian tortoises make good pets? Do they have a fun personality (one better or just as fun as a sulcata tortoise)? Or are they boring? Or does that just depend on how they are cared?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder... and so is "fun" or "boring".

Reddit, FB, and YT are TERRIBLE places to learn about tortoises. Almost all of that is bad wrong info.

A captive bred and raised Russian tortoise will usually have a bold, out-going personality as an adult. A store bought wild caught one can go either way. All tortoises of all species are scaredy cats when they are babies. Most of them settle down and realize you aren't going to eat them around year 3 or 4. This does depend on how much time you spend interacting with them and had feeding them, and in most cases, males tend to be more out-going than females, with notable exceptions from time to time.

The best species for you, in your climate, with your space constraints is probably a little male eastern hermanni. The beachy weather will suit them just fine with a heated shelter, they are gorgeous, they have wonderful friendly personalities, and they don't get enormous. They are small enough to take with you whenever you move too.

Russian or any of the greeks would also be a good choice, and if you want one that doesn't brumate, a Burmese star tortoise can work there too. I would not get a leopard, sulcata, Indian star, or red foot there.
 

SinLA

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Someone literally JUST posted about wanting to place a Russian in a good home in the LA area.


By getting an adult from a home that was a pet you can ask about its personality. Mine was clearly wild caught and was sold in a pet store. He is not into people, but others have really great and friendly ones. With one coming from a pet home, you can ask about their personality...

BUT I do agree, if you are looking for something "fun" like what you see on IG, not sure a tortoise is the best solution...
 

jsheffield

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I live with 5 Russian Tortoises, and I can honestly say that each of them has a different personality.

I find all of them interesting, and think they're a great blend of fascinating micro-dinosaur you can cohabitate with and pet rock that can get along without you for relatively long periods of time (once you have light and heat and humidity dialed in for their enclosures).

Jamie
 

SinLA

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BTW, there are also different ways to enjoy or "have fun" with them, even if not interacting. I literally post videos from his daily life to my friends who get a kick out of his antics, even though I'm not "with" him at the time

The prehistoric beast awakens, to wreak havoc on the world!...


or, maybe yawn, scratch an itch, and take a nap:

 

LJL1982

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For those who don’t know, I was interested in having a baby sulcata tortoise. However after a bit more research I found out that Russian tortoises will better suit me carewise. But I remember reading through Reddit and finding some people whose Russian tortoises just ate, slept and were overall boring. In the flip side I also find people who had very very active Russian tortoises. I also read that sulcata tortoises have a fun personality that no other tortoise can compete with.

Overall, do Russian tortoises make good pets? Do they have a fun personality (one better or just as fun as a sulcata tortoise)? Or are they boring? Or does that just depend on how they are cared?
When they said they have an active tortoise it's all relative. Active for a tortoise might only mean sleeping 21hrs a day, or walking more than 6 times across its enclosure.

They ate very inactive as pets go. They are also entirely underestimated and therefore wild and do not have the same emotions as some sentient pets.

They do not recognise owners further than recognising someone coming towards them may mean food. They do not feel love or affection and their only motivations are safety, shelter, food, and sex. As a result they feel fear as an emotion, or effectively the opposite, limited fear.

They offer very little in terms of interaction.
 

Tom

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When they said they have an active tortoise it's all relative. Active for a tortoise might only mean sleeping 21hrs a day, or walking more than 6 times across its enclosure.

They ate very inactive as pets go. They are also entirely underestimated and therefore wild and do not have the same emotions as some sentient pets.

They do not recognise owners further than recognising someone coming towards them may mean food. They do not feel love or affection and their only motivations are safety, shelter, food, and sex. As a result they feel fear as an emotion, or effectively the opposite, limited fear.

They offer very little in terms of interaction.
I agree with most of this right up until the last sentence. They absolutely recognize different people and behave differently toward them, and most of my tortoises offer some sort of interaction.

I don't go for all the emotional mumbo jumbo, so most of your post is spot on, but many of my tortoises initiate interaction with me outside of food. I had two large adult male SA leopards that would come a charging any time they saw me. They would immediately bit, ram and try to intimidate me out of their enclosure. They would, much to my annoyance, bulldoze right over/through their newly and neatly deposited food tray, completely ignoring the food, on their way to drive out the intruder. Upon seeing anyone else in their enclosure, they would immediately run over, seemingly to attack like they do with me, but then stop and observe the new person with no aggression. They would follow the new person around, eyeballing them up and down curiously, but no ramming or biting. I tried this experiment over and over, anytime someone new would come to visit. I, and only I, was the subject of their anger. Apparently, I was the only intruder, and everyone else was a visitor to engage with and study.

Likewise, I have a little male radiata that immediately comes to me on sight, also ignoring the food. He doesn't seem aggressive, but instead curious, and he stands for petting and conversation, though I will openly admit the conversation is mostly one sided. :)

I have yet to see an adult sulcata that doesn't curiously follow me around its pen while I go about my business, with no food involved at all, to the point that I have tripped on them many times.

Ever gone into a Galapagos tortoise pen? I know a place on earth where there are quite a few of them in large, multi-acre outdoor pens. One notable Galapagos tortoise keeper who can only be described as a Galapagos tortoise celebrity, much like our own @zovick with the radiata, upon her visit described these "jungle" living Galapagos as "feral". I could sit down in the middle of one of these giant pens, and within a few minutes there would be a semi-circle of giant behemoths sitting in front of me as if I were holding court. They would seemingly appear from no where and all parked in front of me as space would allow, and not behind me. No food involved. They would materialize out of the brush, walk over to me, and plop down 2-3 feet in front of me while curiously observing me as I curiously observed them. If I were a little girl, I would have made it a tea party with them. It was humbling and exhilarating at the same time. It can only be described as magical, surreal, unbelievable... I "held court" for a good ten minutes and finally got up because my legs were falling asleep from sitting in that position for so long not wanting to break my perceived "spell". My mind was not on my phone at that time, so I took no picture of this magical event, but here are a couple other pics. The first pic could be described as food motivated, though I had no food of any kind at the moment of this picture, but not the second one. This tortoise would approach of its own volition and essentially "beg" for attention from people. I was happy to oblige.

In short, I do believe tortoises offer interaction outside of food motivated behavior, and lots of it, though I would not define it as receiving "affection" from them.

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LJL1982

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I agree with most of this right up until the last sentence. They absolutely recognize different people and behave differently toward them, and most of my tortoises offer some sort of interaction.

I don't go for all the emotional mumbo jumbo, so most of your post is spot on, but many of my tortoises initiate interaction with me outside of food. I had two large adult male SA leopards that would come a charging any time they saw me. They would immediately bit, ram and try to intimidate me out of their enclosure. They would, much to my annoyance, bulldoze right over/through their newly and neatly deposited food tray, completely ignoring the food, on their way to drive out the intruder. Upon seeing anyone else in their enclosure, they would immediately run over, seemingly to attack like they do with me, but then stop and observe the new person with no aggression. They would follow the new person around, eyeballing them up and down curiously, but no ramming or biting. I tried this experiment over and over, anytime someone new would come to visit. I, and only I, was the subject of their anger. Apparently, I was the only intruder, and everyone else was a visitor to engage with and study.

Likewise, I have a little male radiata that immediately comes to me on sight, also ignoring the food. He doesn't seem aggressive, but instead curious, and he stands for petting and conversation, though I will openly admit the conversation is mostly one sided. :)

I have yet to see an adult sulcata that doesn't curiously follow me around its pen while I go about my business, with no food involved at all, to the point that I have tripped on them many times.

Ever gone into a Galapagos tortoise pen? I know a place on earth where there are quite a few of them in large, multi-acre outdoor pens. One notable Galapagos tortoise keeper who can only be described as a Galapagos tortoise celebrity, much like our own @zovick with the radiata, upon her visit described these "jungle" living Galapagos as "feral". I could sit down in the middle of one of these giant pens, and within a few minutes there would be a semi-circle of giant behemoths sitting in front of me as if I were holding court. They would seemingly appear from no where and all parked in front of me as space would allow, and not behind me. No food involved. They would materialize out of the brush, walk over to me, and plop down 2-3 feet in front of me while curiously observing me as I curiously observed them. If I were a little girl, I would have made it a tea party with them. It was humbling and exhilarating at the same time. It can only be described as magical, surreal, unbelievable... I "held court" for a good ten minutes and finally got up because my legs were falling asleep from sitting in that position for so long not wanting to break my perceived "spell". My mind was not on my phone at that time, so I took no picture of this magical event, but here are a couple other pics. The first pic could be described as food motivated, though I had no food of any kind at the moment of this picture, but not the second one. This tortoise would approach of its own volition and essentially "beg" for attention from people. I was happy to oblige.

In short, I do believe tortoises offer interaction outside of food motivated behavior, and lots of it, though I would not define it as receiving "affection" from them.

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I'd agree with everything there Tom. Yes no interaction is not accurate.

I'm afraid accustomed in the UK to seeing hundreds of new posts a day stating "he does nothing" or "my five year old is bored of him"...I welcome OP reaching out to understand tortoise ownership ahead of making the decision. They are very interesting animals to learn about and watch.

I wish I could get a reaction from a radiated! Mine is now referred to as misery 😆 I very much think it depends on the individual tortoise as to how much interest they show.

Are these photos of you and yours Tom? Great enclosures!
 

Tom

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I'd agree with everything there Tom. Yes no interaction is not accurate.

I'm afraid accustomed in the UK to seeing hundreds of new posts a day stating "he does nothing" or "my five year old is bored of him"...I welcome OP reaching out to understand tortoise ownership ahead of making the decision. They are very interesting animals to learn about and watch.

I wish I could get a reaction from a radiated! Mine is now referred to as misery 😆 I very much think it depends on the individual tortoise as to how much interest they show.

Are these photos of you and yours Tom? Great enclosures!
My female radiata largely ignore me, food or no food. They aren't scared or fearful in any way, but wholly nonplussed. Only the little male comes over to see what I am up to.

The photos are from a friend/mentors place in another land far far away... Those are not my animals. I was just privileged to be able to spend some time with them.

I too have seen people not understand the fascination with our shelled wonders. "What do they do?" Well, they eat, poop, walk around, and sometimes make babies. "Can you even pet them?" Yes. As much as you want. "Why do you like them?" I don't know how to explain that. I just do. Always have.
 

LJL1982

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My female radiata largely ignore me, food or no food. They aren't scared or fearful in any way, but wholly nonplussed. Only the little male comes over to see what I am up to.

The photos are from a friend/mentors place in another land far far away... Those are not my animals. I was just privileged to be able to spend some time with them.

I too have seen people not understand the fascination with our shelled wonders. "What do they do?" Well, they eat, poop, walk around, and sometimes make babies. "Can you even pet them?" Yes. As much as you want. "Why do you like them?" I don't know how to explain that. I just do. Always have.
There is something endearing about removing a male ibera from smashing himself into a plant pot to find he's trying to assert dominance over a table leg 🤣
 
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