The Wonder Of Tortoises

There have been interesting developments for my children’s novel ‘Tortoise Soup’ in the last few days with two publishers expressing an interest in it. Hopefully, I should have more news for you all soon.

People may ask why I have chosen a tortoise, Byron, as the hero of the story rather than a more conventional creature such as a dog or a cat? Well, I have my own beautiful little tortoise called Ovid and my time spent with him has taught me how amazing these beautiful creatures really are. August 1st 2012 will mark the second ever ‘Tortival’ – the International Tortoise Carnival that celebrates our shelled friends. In celebration of this event, today’s Tortoise Soup blog will reveal some incredible but true facts about tortoises.


Tortoises are one of the most ancient species in the world. The first tortoises roamed our planet 225 million years ago, that is millions of years earlier than the first dinosaurs. So if you have a pet tortoise then you really have your own little dinosaur stomping around your house!

Because they are so ancient the tortoise also provides the answer to the age old question: ‘Which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ Birds evolved from reptiles such as tortoises and as tortoises hatch from eggs then the answer is simple – eggs were around millions of years before chickens.

Charles Darwin was a tortoise jockey! On his groundbreaking journey to the Galapagos Islands the father of evolution noted of the islands’ giant tortoises: “I frequently got on their backs, and then, upon giving a few raps on the hinder part of the shell, they would rise up and walk away; but I found it very difficult to maintain my balance.”

Speaking of the Galapagos Island, the most famous Galapagos native, the late lamented Lonesome George, was held hostage by terrorists on two occasions. For more on this wonderful tortoise see my earlier blog:

Tortoises are much more agile than people think. Some species are excellent diggers and climbers, and they can move at a fair old lick when they want to. No wonder the hare was no match for his shelled rival, take a look at this daredevil tortoise in action:


Tortoises are incredibly resilient. Whatever killed the dinosaurs could not wipe out tortoises, they also survived two prolonged ice ages unscathed. All tortoises are long living, if cared for correctly, and some species can live for more than two hundred years.

Tortoises are not slow in foot, and neither are they slow in mind. Several scientific studies are showing tortoises to be much smarter than previously thought. A professor at Bradford University was part of a group testing the cognitive abilities of rats within a maze. He brought his own pet tortoises to try it and they easily outperformed the rats, completing the maze much quicker and remembering the fastest route for future attempts.

So now you see how wonderful these magnificent reptiles can be, no wonder tortoises are one of the most popular pets in the United Kingdom today. Indeed, reptiles as a whole (including tortoises and turtles) overtook dogs in an official survey last year to become the countries second most common pet (after cats).

If you would like to read about an incredible tortoise adventure, or have children who like to read about animals that overcome the toughest obstacles then do keep an eye out for my novel ‘Tortoise Soup’. It should be hitting bookshelves in the near future. Even by the fantastic standards that tortoises set, the escapades of Byron Tinker and his beloved friend Ruby have to be read to be believed!

Animals of all shapes and sizes bring joy and love into our lives. If you want to share your tortoise love, then please comment below!


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ariella
    Jul 18, 2012 @ 21:21:54

    Tortoises are such fascinating creatures. I marvel at their history and watch my four tortoises with great awe at times.
    I’m glad to have found a fellow tortoise lover’s blog, Nick. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your book.


  2. aliteebimbo
    Aug 06, 2012 @ 21:06:35

    Look forward to your book, I adore torts, very special creatures


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