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Golden Greek Tortoises

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adult Golden Greek tortoise

Beautiful adult Golden Greek with peach orange skin.

Golden Greek tortoises

Golden Greeks (Testudo graeca) are one of the newer pet tortoises; these yellow tortoises appeard in the US pet market in the early 2000's. Their beautiful looks and friendly, "outgoing" personalities have made them popular. Captive bred Golden Greek babies and youngsters are available in increasing numbers.

The exact origin and species / subspecies of Golden Greek tortoises has been somewhat of a mystery, but they are probably native to the eastern Mediterranean. However, ANY yellowish colored Greek tortoise can be called a Golden Greek tortoise regardless of its subspecies. There is NO official tortoise species, or subspecies, called the Golden Greek tortoise. In captivity, Golden Greeks from various, unknown origins have been bred with each other further blurring the actual species, or subspecies, of these animals.

Shell color

The shell color of Greek tortoises is highly influenced by their native habitat, for example the altitude and the soil they live on.

Greeks living in higher, colder altitudes can be quite dark. Their dark shells absorb heat much faster. Greeks living in hot areas tend to be lighter in color to blend in and to avoid rapid overheating in the scorching sun.

Yellowish colored Greeks are thought to come from the hot, sandy areas of the eastern Mediterranean, Middle East, and from north Africa. Some Golden Greeks are indeed yellow in color while others are more brown or beige. Skin in the neck may even have an orange or peach tint to it.

Testudo graeca

Love the orange yellow color of this one. :O) She is a few months old in this photo and is one of my 3rd generation (=2nd captive bred generation) Goldens.

In my group of Goldens, the 2nd generation (=1st captive bred generation) tortoises can be much darker and duller in color than their light colored, wild caught parents. However, many of the my 3rd generation (=2nd captive bred generation) babies are light in color again.

dark colored Testudo graeca terrestris

A dark colored "Golden Greek" (Testudo graeca terrestris) laying her eggs. She's one of my 2nd generation (=1st captive bred generation) tortoises showing the dark color I mentioned above. Both of her parents are wild caught, lighter in color, and much more yellow. Her mom has a yellow head while her father has a darker head.

My Goldens are quick egg layers and dig rather shallow nests, but this nest is super shallow even by their standards. :O) These eggs were barely under the soil when she finished.


Golden Greek tortoises are usually listed as Testudo graeca terrestris or Testudo graeca floweri. Per IUCN-TFTSG checklist, both of these subspecies are currently listed under the first one as Testudo graeca terrestris with the official name Mesopotamian tortoise. Mesopotamia was an ancient region in the eastern Mediterranean.

However, Goldens can also be of other Greek tortoise subspecies. For example, Greeks from southern Turkey can be quite yellow in coloring. They have previously been classified as T. g. ibera or T. g. antakyensis, but are now listed as T. g. terrestris.

Official name

Synonyms (IUCN/SCC TFTSG checklist)

Common names

T. g. terrestris vs T. g. floweri

Even though T. [graeca] floweri is now listed as a synonym for T. graeca terrestris per IUCN/SCC TFTSG checklist (1), there are said to be differences between the two.

T. g. floweri is described as being smaller, flatter, and more yellow than T. g. terrestris. It has a yellow head and a dark spot on the tail. The dark markings on the shell are crisp. Care for both is the same. (2)


Color & pattern

Native habitat


Male vs female




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