Can Turtles Run?

can turtles run

It is most likely for you to see your turtle swimming in their tank or sitting calmly under a heating lamp. Out of curiosity, turtle owners always ask if it is possible for turtles to run or not? Being a turtle owner myself, I also often came across this question. In this article, we will try to understand what makes turtles slow? And if they can run on land or not?

Turtles spend most of their lives underwater, making them adopt underwater life better than on land life. Turtles share a close resemblance to tortoises, there are many differences too, but we are not bothered about them, at least for this article. Tortoises are so slow that we can not even count them as a good run. But does that mean turtles could also not run?

Stop biting your nails and continue reading the article to find the answers to all these questions.

Related Article: Can Turtles Climb?

Can turtles run?

Yes, turtles can run but only in certain situations. Turtles are sensitive animals, and they hide in their shell when they feel unsafe. This is why you won’t see turtles running even in most critical situations. 

Turtles are not meant to run on land, and thus you hardly will see them running. However, you may see turtles running at the banks of water bodies. Turtles are omnivores, and so they can survive underwater by eating plants or any other animal. This behavior reduces their chance of coming out of the water, so you may not see turtles running.

How fast can a turtle run?

Turtles can run at a speed of 3-4 miles per hour. The speed of a turtle depends on its physique. Certain species like softshell turtles are better at running on land than other turtle species. Their shells are less heavier, which helps them run faster. 

The speed of turtles on land depends on various factors. One of the most important ones is the physique of the turtle. Turtles have a hard shell which makes them bulky and less flexible. Imagine yourself running with a bag full of stone at the back. It isn’t easy. Right?

Depending on the species they belong to, Turtles show different abilities to run. These creatures are evolved to survive underwater. Running on land is a very rare event for them, so you can’t expect much from them. 

All turtles can run depending on the situation and mood. Unlike other animals, they can hide in their shell at times of danger. They have a very different defense mechanism, and this is why you probably won’t see them running much. 

How fast can a snapping turtle run?

Snapping turtles are among the bulkiest species of turtle. These giant turtles are not very good at running on land. Their maximum running speed can not exceed 2-3mph (miles per hour). 

It should be noted that any turtle’s speed can vary depending on the situation. Snapping turtles are extremely speedy when it comes to biting; however, they can not run very well on land due to their bulky physique. 

Snapping turtles have webbed feet and long claws, making it difficult for them to run on land but ease them while underwater. These animals usually don’t chase their food. Instead, they wait for their prey to come near them. Snapping turtles spend most of their lives underwater, so they have not evolved with a very good running ability. 

Another reason for them to be slow runners is their physique and body weight. These turtles have an average body weight of 10kg, making it nearly impossible to run fast on land. 

How fast can a cooter turtle run?

Cooter turtles are among some of the slowest turtle species on land. Like any other turtles, these are also not meant to live on land. This is why they have evolved to swim in water rather than run on land. 

If we talk about the running ability, cooter turtles can run at a maximum speed of 1-2 mph. They are great swimmers but are very bad on land. 

Cooter turtles are not the only ones with such a terrible speed. The box turtles are the winner in the slowest turtle species on the land competition. So, let us now see what is the best speed at which a box turtle can run on land. 

How fast can a box turtle run?

Box turtles are one of a kind in the turtle family. These turtles spend most of their time on land but need water for hydrating themselves. We can somehow relate them with land tortoises. 

Box turtles can run at a maximum speed of 0.17 mph to 0.25 mph. They are the slowest turtles among all. Box turtles are even slower than cooter turtles. Their physique is bulkier and less flexible; that’s why they can not run fast.

Box turtles behave more or less like tortoises. They don’t run away from predators. Instead, they hide in their shell. These little creatures don’t walk around, so their evolution is self-explanatory. 

Why are turtles slow?

Turtles are slow on land but have exceptional swimming ability underwater. It is interesting to understand why turtles are slow on land. If I have to answer in short, their physique makes them slow on land.

If you analyze a turtle’s body, you will find their legs are not very stretchable. The turtle’s shell is an integral part of its body which constitutes almost all of its body. Turtle’s shell is structured so that it is attached to their legs in an inseparable manner which restricts leg movement.

Turtle’s have webbed feet and long claws, which are meant for swimming underwater. Under the weight of their shell, it is difficult for them to run on land. However, their shell is to protect them from predators and not to run on land.

Below are some reasons why turtles are slow:

1. Turtles do not hunt

Turtles are omnivores, and they don’t hunt their food. They live mostly by consuming plants, fish, insects, and other vegetation in their natural habitat. They don’t even chase their food normally; instead, they wait for them to come into their vicinity. As they don’t need to go outside of water, they have not developed skills to run on land. 

2. Turtles have their shell to protect them

Unlike any other animal, turtles don’t run away from predators. In times of danger, they just hide in their shell. As their shell provides them protection against all kinds of danger, they have not developed the skill to run. 

3. Turtles are cold-blooded

Turtles are cold-blooded animals. They have a very slow metabolism, so they don’t need much food to live. Turtles in the wild go into a state of hibernation which can last months depending on the environmental conditions. Due to their physique, they can survive with less food. A slow metabolism makes them burn fewer calories, which impacts their speed. 

Are all turtles slow?

Yes, almost all turtles are slow on land. This is because all turtles have the same physique. However, different species could be better on land than others, but none are fast. 

If we talk about the fastest turtle on land, it would be the softshell turtle. Due to their soft shell, these turtles are more flexible and lighter than others, which enables them to move fast on land. On the other hand, box turtles are the slowest turtles on land. 


Turtles can run depending on the circumstance. These little animals have evolved to live underwater. It is very rare when turtles need to come on land, which is another reason you don’t see turtles running. Certain species of turtles are better on land than others, but none of them are fast enough to call them running.