Other popular tortoises
Florida Box turtles & Ornate Box turtles are American "star turtles". They have beautiful, yellow starburst shell markings.
Profile, books, links
This photo totally captures the charming, curious expression Box turtles
so often have (Ornate). Photo by bobby (cc).
American Box turtles
Box turtles are NOT tortoises, i.e., members of the family Testudinidae, but they are often included with tortoises because their care is quite similar.
American Box turtles belong to the genus Terrapene. All species of Terrapene are found in North America and Mexico.
There are four species in the genus Terrapene (T.), several subspecies for Terrapene carolina (T.c.), two subspecies for Terrapene ornata (T.o.), and two subspecies for Terrapene nelsoni (T.n.).
- T. carolina - Common or Eastern Box turtle
- T.c. bauri - Florida Box turtle (Taylor 1894)
- T.c. carolina - Eastern Box turtle (Linnaeus 1758)
- T.c. major - Gulf Coast Box turtle (Agassiz 1857)
- T.c. triunguis - Three-Toed Box turtle (Agassiz 1857)
- T.c. mexicana - Mexican Box turtle (Gray 1849)
- T.c. yucatana - Yucatan Box turtle (Boulenger 1895)
- T. ornata - Ornate or Western Box turtle
- T.o. ornata - Ornate Box turtle (Agassiz 1857)
- T.o. luteola - Desert Box turtle (Smith & Ramsey 1952)
- T. nelsoni - Spotted Box turtle (Stejneger 1925)
- T.n. nelsoni - Southern Spotted Box turtle (Stejneger 1925)
- T.n. klauberi - Northern Spotted Box turtle (Bogert, 1943)
- T. coahuila - Coahuilan or Aquatic Box turtle (Schmidt & Owens 1944)
Box turtle quick facts (North American)
- 4"-7" in length
- have hinged plastrons, can encase themselves completely inside their shells
- personable, charming little turtles
- smart with distinct personalities
- hardy and long-lived if well cared for
- omnivorous, eat both plant and animal foods
- like live foods, e.g. mealworms, earthworms, and crickets
- like to dig, climb, and escape :O)
- can easily dig under fences and climb over low walls
- like to soak, need constant access to a large water dish
- thrive outdoors
- most hibernate
Asian Box turtles
Asian Box turtles belong mostly to the genera Cuora and Cistoclemmys, and they may have different housing requirements. The genus Cuora contains many species and they are restricted to tropical Asia. Most Asian Box turtles are more aquatic than the North American ones.
Adoption & laws
Never take Box turtles from the wild! Always acquire a captive-bred one. Better yet, adopt one or more of the many Box turtles needing new homes. See the Petfinder site [offsite] or my turtle and tortoise rescue & adoption page.
Also, check your state's laws regarding owning, breeding, and selling Box turtles (see links below *).
Box turtle books
Box turtle links
- Box Turtle - Care and conservation, by Tess Cook
- Captive Born Box Turtles - hatchling care info
- CTTC - California Turtle & Tortoise Club, Box turtle care
- GCTTS - Gulf Coast Turtle and Tortoise Society, native Box turtles and TX law *
- Herp Care Collection - Box Turtles, by Melissa Caplan
- Indiana Turtle Care - subspecies with photos
- Indiana Turtle Care - Box turtles are great climbers, scroll to the bottom of page for pics
- McBiology - Box Turtle Observation Project
- North American Box Turtles - by Joe Heinen
- North American Box Turtles - links to state laws *
- SDTTS - San Diego Turtle & Tortoise Society, Box turtle care
- Tortoise Trust - Avoiding problems with Box turtles, by A.C. Highfield
- Turtle Puddle - Asian Box turtles
- Turtle Rescue of Long Island - What to do if you find a Box turtle
- Turtle Town - care and housing
- Turtle Trails - outdoor pens
- Turtle Trails - tons of Box turtle photos
- Washington Post - Folks stick their necks out for box turtles, but ICC may be the end of the road, by Katherine Shaver, May 2010
Box turtle forums