Star Tortoise Garden @
Star Tortoise Garden @

Golden Greek Profile

What is a golden Greek?

Golden Greeks (Testudo graeca ssp) are one of the newer pet tortoises; these yellow tortoises appeared in the U.S. 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 thought to be 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, yellow colored Greeks from various, unknown origins have been bred with each other further blurring the actual species, or subspecies, of these animals.


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

Golden Greeks were named after their beautiful yellow color, but not all Mesopotamian Greeks are blondes. In fact, many have darker, less vibrant, beige or brown colored shells.

Common names for golden Greeks include Levantine Greek, Jordanian golden Greek, Lebanese golden Greek, Syrian golden Greek, and Middle Eastern Greek tortoise.

Yellow colored Greeks, aka goldens, can also be found in 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.

golden  Mesopotamian Greek tortoise hatchling

Golden yellow Mesopotamian tortoise hatchling. He's only 13 days old. Alert and beautiful. Just perfect!


The shell color of Greek tortoises is highly influenced by their native habitat, for example, by 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. Yellow colored Greeks are typically native to the hot, sandy areas of the eastern Mediterranean, Middle East, and north Africa.

Golden Mesopotamian Greeks can be yellow, straw colored, sandy brown, and even somewhat orange or peach in color. Some goldens have almost no dark markings on their shells, some have only center dots on scutes (domino dots), and others have more traditional looking dark Greek tortoise markings. Skin color can be brown, yellow, or even have an orange or peach tint to it.


My golden Mesopotamian Greek tortoises are not as fancy or pretty looking as my Burmese stars and angulates, but they have captured my heart with their antics. Among the tortoises I keep, my goldens consistently have some of the best personalities. Even as hatchlings, they are already active and spunky. They are delightful characters!

I keep my golden Greeks, both young and adults, in groups based on their ages or sizes and they seem to get along quite well. I have not witnessed too much competitive behavior, not even among the males. However, I have had to reduce the number of males in my groups because they are "lady chasers." Spring is the most unruly time; that's when males get very amorous and pursue females rather persistently.

My golden Greeks are active little tortoises, but their active daily periods are shorter than those of my Burmese stars. Goldens can be super active in morning, but they also like "retire to bed" already in the afternoon. My males are noticeable more active than the females who are more mellow and relaxed. Instead of running around, females like to enjoy a good meal or a nice bask in the sun.

In general, my golden Greeks are not very shy at all, but of course some are more timid than others. When I bring them food outdoors, many of them start running towards me in anticipation of something yummy.

Note: I call all my Mesopotamian Greek tortoises goldens eventhough most of them are more beige than golden in color. It's just easier to write golden than the word Mesopotamian all the time. :0)

golden Mesopotamian Greek tortoise adult with peach skin

Beautiful adult golden Greek / Mesopotamian tortoise with peach orange skin.

Imported vs captive-bred

My imported, probably wild-caught (wc) foundation group Greeks are never in touch with my captive-bred (cb) ones. They have always lived separately in their own enclosures. Avoid housing wc and cb tortoises together because wc animals can be carriers of harmful parasites and pathogens.

By the way, if I would start all over with Greeks, I would only buy young cb babies and then raise them to adults. Greeks grow fast and mature quite young in tortoise terms. I would AVOID any imported, wc animals because they can be sickly and have a difficult time adjusting to captivity.

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