Leopard Tortoise

If you’re looking to bring home a tasty reptile with a luxurious fresh shell, the leopard tortoise might catch your eye. Before you get too excited, we should mention that these turtles get big, so they may not work in every life situation.

However, if you have the time and space, you can make pretty interesting arrangements for your friends. These charming creatures will form long-lasting bonds with their owners—and sometimes outlive them, too. Let’s find out more about them!

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Fast Facts about Leopard Tortoise

Species Name:Stigmochelys pardalis
Treatment Level:Experienced
Temperature:75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit
Temperament:Submissive, social
Color Shape:Yellow, black, brown
Lifetime:80 to 100 years
Size:Up to 30 pounds
Minimum Tank Size:6′ x 4′ x 1.5′
Tank Setting:Living outdoors
Suitability:Experienced owner

Leopard Tortoise Overview

The amazing leopard tortoise is a giant reptile that inhabits Central and South Africa. You can find them in abundance in the wild, but they are also widespread in the pet trade industry.

These tortoises get very large, so having an outdoor enclosure is the best thing for them. Some people won’t have the proper room to house these creatures, so it’s important to find out before deciding to buy one.

leopard tortoise walking on the street

How Much Do Leopard Tortoises Cost?

Leopard tortoises can cost several thousand dollars, but they are still not cheap, even at the end of the scale.

Leopard tortoises can cost anywhere from $350 to $5,000 or more. This will largely depend on the breeder, age, and quality of the turtle.

  • Read Related: How to Take Care of a Pet Turtle (Care Sheet & Guide 2021)

Typical Behavior & Temperament

Many owners will agree that your leopard tortoise will surprise you with its incredibly unique personality. They can be very friendly and social, while others are quieter and more reserved. It just depends on the individual.

When put together, they tend to get along well. However, some males may show aggression during the breeding season. It is less typical of domesticated leopard tortoises.

Turtles do not have ears but use vibrations to navigate their environment. What they lack in hearing, they make up for with an excellent sense of smell. They benefit from grazing, so if you have enough space, they will happily munch on the grass.

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leopard tortoise on the grass

Appearance & Variety

Leopard tortoises have thick shells that vary from yellow to black. As the name suggests, the markings on the outside resemble that of a wild leopard cat. Each unique design varies from tortoise to tortoise.

Unlike many other animals, female leopard tortoises are larger than their male counterparts. Females reach 30 pounds or more while males are about half that size.

Although only one leopard tortoise is recognized, it comes in two subspecies—stigmochelys pardalis babcocki and stigmochelys pardalis pardalis.

Adults are difficult to tell apart, but hatchlings have a number of dark spots on their scales to help distinguish them.


How to Take Care of a Leopard Tortoise

Creating the right space for your turtle to roam is the key to their happiness. When you raise unique creatures like leopard tortoises, you want to make sure their environment is completely safe and efficient.

Here are some of the care requirements you will need when you own one of these beautiful reptiles.

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Settings


Whenever possible, it is always best to keep leopard tortoises outdoors. Due to their large size, having an indoor cage is nearly impossible for most owners. They just get too big, which is hard to accommodate.

But don’t worry—securing the area for them won’t be as difficult as you might think. You just need a warm, dry place, away from excessive humidity and bad weather.

For one leopard tortoise, the enclosure must be at least 6′ x 4′ x 1.5′. Your tortoise is big and strong, so you have to build a tortoise barrier. There was nowhere to pass.

leopard tortoise in the tank


You have several options for the substrate. Many owners prefer a mixture of topsoil and sand. You can also use grass, straw, or spruce bark. They each work efficiently in their habitat.

If you allow your turtles time to roam outside, they will love the natural terrain. Make sure the conditions are not too wet or uneven as they are sensitive to excess moisture.

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Your leopard tortoise will need two temperatures in its enclosure—warm and cold sides. The warm side of the cage should be a basking area, providing temperatures up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The cold side of the cage should be between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you live in an area with cold winters, you will need to make room for the tortoise to stay warm during these months. Since these creatures are very susceptible to respiratory infections, make sure there is no draft.


For 12 hours per day, your tortoise should be exposed to light that mimics sunlight. At night, you can turn it off to set the day/night cycle.

If your tortoise is outdoors, regular hours of day and night should suffice.

Can Leopard Tortoises Be Friends with Other Pets?

Leopard turtles are docile creatures who get along and even form relationships with other pets. But there are two sides to this. While these reptiles love to have a partner in crime, be it a dog, cat, or some other creature, is it safe?

In most cases, it’s okay if your tortoise is around other pets. They are strong with a protected shell and a fairly large body. But even though they don’t hurt easily, they may become stressed, scared, or injured if other animals are too hyper or invasive. Be sure to keep an eye on this interaction.


What Feeds Your Leopard Tortoise?

Leopard tortoises love their greens! These herbivores can’t get enough of the delicious green leafy vegetables, hay, and weeds. They need a lot of fiber in their daily diet, so give generous portions.

Some of the favorites are:

  • green vegetable

  • succulent

  • Clover

  • Honeysuckle

  • Parsley

  • peppers

  • Carrot

  • cabbage

  • Dandelion

These animals also need additional supplements to stay healthy, such as calcium. Always check with your veterinarian before allowing additives in their diet.

leopard tortoise on the ground

Keeping Your Leopard Tortoise Healthy

Your leopard tortoise needs proper care, including examination. It’s important to find an exotic vet near you. These big guys need yearly vet care along with any problems that may arise.

While these turtles are generally healthy, they can experience some health problems. Some of them are:

  • respiratory disease

  • Constipation

  • Pneumonia

  • Parasite

  • Impact

If you notice any behavioral or physical changes in your leopard tortoise, take it to the vet immediately. Many problems can be solved with proper treatment.


If you are planning on breeding, you may want to know how easy it is. While it does take time, resources, and patience—it’s possible.

Turtles reach sexual maturity between the ages of 6-8 years. So if you’re thinking about breeding and your tortoise is still relatively young—you may still have time. Turtles must be sexually active for a full year until fertilization is possible.

If you have a male and female together, the process can occur naturally, but you will have to incubate the fertilized egg. You will need to incubate the eggs at 84 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 days.

On average, a female leopard tortoise produces one to seven clutches per year.


Is the Leopard Tortoise Right For You?

Due to their large size and maintenance requirements, the leopard tortoise will not work for everyone. But if you can make the space, it can be a very useful backyard companion.

Remember that your tortoise needs work—plenty of space, decent living conditions, and adequate food. If you give them the right conditions, they may outlive you.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay