What Are The Best Tortoise Breeds For The UK

What Are The Best Tortoise Breeds For The UK

Tortoises make excellent pets; they are full of character. However, looking after a tortoise is a little more challenging than some other pets. There are some things you need to consider before jumping in and making a purchase. Getting your tortoise’s new home setup from the start will make looking after him/her much more straightforward. The UK offers some extra challenges than warmer countries, and I hope to help choose a tortoise breed much easier.

There are many tortoise breeds kept in the UK, but for most people, the best two breeds of tortoises would be Herman’s tortoise and the Horsefield tortoise. These two breeds are hardy types and stand up well to the UK weather conditions.

Right, that’s the simple answer, but if you want to put a little more thought into your new shelly friend. You need to consider some critical things if you are thinking of keeping a tortoise in the UK.

UK weather condition

The UK is a big place, and someone in the northern part of Scotland, like the Outer Hebrides, will have dramatically different weather than someone in Cornwall, England.

Putting your tortoise in the garden, you will need some warm weather conditions for them to thrive. Tortoises can stand a little rain and cold, but some tortoises are more hardened to the weather than other tortoises.

If you live in more northern parts of the UK, you will likely be facing cooler and rainier weather conditions, where someone in the south of England will have a much warmer weather condition more suited to tortoises.

Now, this doesn’t mean if you live in more northern regions you cant own a tortoise. It just means you will want a tortoise that can withstand the conditions better. Also, you may have to house your tortoise inside a lot more than someone in southern England.

Hermann tortoises and Horsefield are both tough, which makes them great first-time tortoises. Hermann’s handle and enjoy more humid conditions for more northern regions. The UK weather is also more matched to the natural habitat of the Hermann tortoises.

Keeping tortoise inside

When it comes to keeping a tortoise in the UK, there is nothing different than any other country when keeping your tortoise inside. You are going to need the extract same tortoise setup as someone in the USA.

Being in the UK, you will have to keep your tortoise indoors a lot more than someone who lives in a much hotter part of the world.

There is no best type of tortoise in this category as you can be any tortoise indoors as you control their environment. A tortoise loves to be outside, so I would avoid anything that required lots of warmth.

Keeping tortoise outside

Unless the UK has a hot stage, I never leave my tortoise outside for any extended period. However, this is just me, and people happily have their tortoise outside all summer with no problems.

Tortoises don’t need as much heat overnight, so most of the time, your tortoise can be left outside overnight in the UK. Just keep an eye on the weather for no cold snaps, and if you have one, bring your tortoise inside.

If the tortoise gets too cold, it can fall into hibernation, and despite it not being desaturase for a healthy tortoise, you don’t want this to happen in the middle of summer.

Tortoises on colder summer nights are likely to fall into a semi hibernating state. However, this will cause him/her no problem for a healthy tortoise and is perfectly natural.

Keeping tortoise warm outside in the UK

The biggest challenge you are going to face is keeping your tortoise warm during the daytime.

Your tortoise will need some sort of outside housing to help him/her to keep warm. When choosing a spot for your tortoise outside housing, place it in a part of the garden that gets the most sunlight. If the UK may just be daylight, it will give the ground a greater chance to warm up.

One excellent tip I found was to place your housing on paving slabs or tarmac or something similar. These substances will better retain the sun’s heat than on the grass, which will lose the heat quickly.

Tortoises are excellent at absorbing heat through their upper shell. In the UK, we need to help our tortoise as much as possible. Giving them somewhere to take on heat from underneath will only be beneficial to your tortoise.

Keeping Your Tortoise Dry Outside in the UK

The next challenge you will face in the UK is keeping your tortoise dry. As you know, it rains and rains a lot in some parts of the UK.

Now the rain is not all that bad as some tortoise love humid conditions. When it rains and becomes humid, It helps keep their skin and shell in excellent condition.

A little rain causing a humid atmosphere is ok, but constant downpours is a whole different story. Too much moisture can be devastating to a tortoise and is likely to cause their shell to rot and other problems.

You must place your tortoise housing somewhere that will not get waterlogged and easily accessible to your tortoise for them to escape the rain when needed. You will also want your outside tortoise housing covered adequately that non of your tortoise bedding gets wet.

Hermann’s are the most likely species of tortoise to stand up better to the UK rain. Their natural habitat is a damp, humid forest floor. However, you should still follow the advice on keeping them as dry as much as possible.

Best tortoise breeds for the UK

You can keep any type of tortoise breed in the UK, but some species will bring more challenges than others. Our recommended two best breeds for the UK are Herman’s tortoise and the Horsefield tortoise. Both types are hardy to the UK weather and will be much easier to look after than other tortoises species.

Difficult Tortoise breeds to keep in the UK

No tortoise is too challenging to keep in the UK. However, some species are more challenging to maintain than others.

There are many tortoise breeds that you can now get here in the UK. Before making your purchase check what overnight temperature the tortoise you have in mind needs. The overnight temperature is something that is going to be much harder to regulate.

With some preparation and working on your tortoise new home before the purchase, you should be able to offer any tortoise a happy home.

Hibernation and Over Wintering in the UK

If you can successfully leave your tortoise outside over the whole summer months but don’t feel your tortoise will survive a UK winter.

First, you are most likely correct, and you will need to bring your tortoise inside; this is what you call overwintering. Or you have an option to place your tortoise in a controlled environment and hibernate him/her over the winter months. You would typically do this in a colder part of your home that stays at a stable temperature.

It is recommended that you take the overwintering option for the first 3-4 years of a tortoise’s life. You will need your tortoise to have the correct weight and be healthy to place them into hibernation. If for any reason you don’t feel their health or weight is right. The safest option would be to take the overwintering route to be on the safe side.

Hibernation or overwintering your tortoise in the UK is no more challenging than people face in other parts of the world. You will need to prepare your tortoise well for the process to take place just like anyone else in the world.

Is it illegal to own a tortoise in the UK?

No tortoise is native to the UK, but they have been a regular pet in many UK homes. It is perfectly legal to buy captive-bred tortoises in the UK. Some species will need to be microchipped, and certain species will require a certificate. Reputable suppliers will be able to supply you with all the required documents.


We discovered that the best tortoises are Herman’s tortoise and the Horsefield tortoise, but you can keep any type. If you are stepping outside these two species, your tortoise will need a little more help to thrive.

The UK weather causes tortoise owners in the UK a few added problems that others may not face in warmer parts of the world. But with this said, they are not obstacles that are not insurmountable for you to easily overcome.

Whatever type of tortoise you finally decide to get as your new pet, take a little time to research its needs. Planning your tortoise home inside and out before he/she joins you will help you give your tortoise a very happy life. Tough little guys are the tortoise, and any small problem can be quickly corrected.