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Natural History

In the wild, the Russian tortoise can be found from the Caspian Sea east into Kazakhstan and western Xinjiang, China and south to Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The habitat is generally quite harsh, usually made up of dry, sandy soil and few grasses or shrubs. The Russian tortoise makes its home in rock crevices, or by digging burrows or taking over rodent burrows. When the weather is either very hot or very cold, the tortoise will burrow down into the earth to escape severe climatic conditions. They are most active when the temperature is between 68 and 90°F.

Russian tortoises are as long as they are wide and have a relatively flat profile. They are usually a straw-yellow color with black markings in the middle of each scute, but some Russian tortoises have dark green or black scute markings, or even no markings at all. They reach a maximum size of 10 inches in length; males are generally smaller than females.

Opportunistic feeders, Russian tortoises feed on a wide variety of plants. They usually do not graze on grass but instead prefer broad, leafy plants. They will also eat flowers, fruits, berries, insects, and animal feces. Russian tortoises can go long periods of time without water, but when water is available they consume large amounts.

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