Turtles

Can Turtles Jump? – Everything You Need To Know

Perhaps you thought you saw a turtle jump once, and now you are wondering if you imagined it, or if it really happened? Can turtles jump? You are about to find out everything you ever wanted to know about turtles and their jumping abilities.

Yes, some Turtles can jump, but they are far from good at it. Small and medium-sized turtles are able to make small jumps forward, while large turtles generally do not jump.

Turtles That Jump

When trying to answer whether turtles jump, everything comes down to what you consider jumping. They certainly do not leap through the air like a cat, dog, rabbit, or horse, and some say their movements should be considered more of a “hop” rather than a jump.

Just looking at a turtle might make it hard to believe that they are able to jump, especially since they are carrying around a large and potentially heavy shell on their backs! Looks can be deceiving though, and turtles are, in fact, better jumpers than you might think. 

If you have ever held a turtle in your hand, then you have probably noticed that they can be quite heavy! Did you know that their shell only makes up approximately 25-30% of their total body weight? The real reason they are so heavy is because of all the muscles throughout their small bodies, and these muscles can be used to jump.

One thing is for a slim animal like a lizard to take a leap, but visualizing a turtle jumping can be significantly harder. This potentially explains why their jumps are far less impressive than those of other animals, but interestingly, the shell does not appear to be as much of an issue as one might think based on the turtle’s physical appearance.

Small Turtles

Before proceeding, it should be highlighted that not all turtles jump. Small turtles seem to be the most likely to jump towards a target, and it can look almost funny due to how they suddenly hop forward in a movement that is almost froglike. Medium-sized turtles are also known to jump.

Large Turtles

Large turtles, however, rarely (if ever) jump. Their weight, including the shell, is most likely a contributing factor, and both turtles living on land and those living in the water are known to keep “their feet on the ground” when larger. 

Snapping Turtles

Did you know that snapping turtles are, in fact, the turtles with the biggest tendency to jump? If you are unlucky, a snapping turtle could jump up and sink its beak-like mouth into your hand, and if you are going to be in close proximity to a snapping turtle – this is something you want to be aware of.

How Do Turtles Jump?

If you have a turtle at home, you can see what it does to jump if you pay close attention. Their legs are short, though, and it can be very difficult to see. Turtles are unable to jump backward or sideways, and they only jump forward.

Right before they take a leap, their front legs will extend and bend slightly as their back legs bend simultaneously. This position indicates that the turtle is about to jump! They don’t usually stay in the position for more than a few seconds and they tend to jump immediately after positioning themselves.

You may have seen other animals arch their backs or crouch when preparing for a jump, but turtles are unable to bend their body due to their shells. This does limit their jumping abilities, but it doesn’t stop them from trying.

How Far Can Turtles Jump?

Now that we have established that turtles can jump – how far do they jump? As you may have already figured out, turtles won’t win a jumping contest anytime soon, and they don’t take long jumps like other similarly sized animals. When they do jump, they bend their four legs all at once and push themselves off the ground.

Small Turtle Jumping Length

Starting with the smallest turtles; while tiny turtles are more prone to jumping and can often be seen jumping more frequently, their jumps are the shortest in length. Expect a small turtle to jump approximately 2 inches per jump. 

Medium-Sized Turtle Jumping Length

A slightly bigger turtle can possibly jump 3-4 inches in distance, so while somewhat further than a small turtle, their jumps still won’t win any contests when compared to other animals. Also, some turtles are simply better at jumping than others, which could explain why you might have never seen your turtle jump.

Reasons Why Turtles Jump?

Unlike, for example, rabbits, turtles don’t jump as part of their natural movements or to transport themselves, and there are a few different explanations as to why you might have seen a turtle taking a leap! Below are a few examples of reasons for turtles jumping.

Avoiding Danger

Getting away from a scary, unpleasant, or dangerous situation is all reasons a turtle might resort to jumping. It can sometimes be a calculated escape and at other times an instinctual reaction to a threat. The fact that turtles only jump forward does limit their ability to escape, but it has the potential to get them to safety.

Jumping Up on a Higher Surface

If you are keeping your turtle in an aquarium with rocks or platforms, you are likely to spot your turtle jumping up at some point! Turtles are not good at climbing, due to their physique, and they use jumping as a way to move around uneven surfaces.

Leaping Into the Water

Some turtle species are known for leaping off rocks and diving into the water (examples are red-eared sliders and map turtles), and all jumping turtles can, and often will, jump off a higher surface and into the water below.

Stress

Stress in any animal can provoke unwanted or unusual behaviors, and many people are unaware of the fact that turtles can get stressed too. If your turtle is living in conditions that don’t meet a turtle’s requirements, if it is moved around a lot, or if it shares a tank with potential predators – the turtle can get stressed and start jumping around.

Protection from a Threat

It is rare for turtles to use jumping as a way to attack prey or hunt for food, as this is mostly done in water. However, species like snapping turtles may jump to attack something (or someone) they consider a threat, but this would likely not be the reason your turtles are jumping around in their tank.

How To Stop A Turtle Jumping?

It is natural for a turtle to jump, but sometimes your turtle might seem to be jumping a little too much, which could potentially put its health at risk. Their jumps are small and short, but the risk of injury is surprisingly big as they could accidentally jump off a surface that is a little too high, and you wouldn’t want your turtle to hurt itself.

That said, there is no way to stop jumping completely, nor should you want to stop your turtle from jumping into the water or up on a rock. However, there are a couple of things you can do to make sure jumping doesn’t become an issue, such as a way to escape or a road to injury.

Controlling the Environment

Stopping a turtle from jumping can be difficult, especially if they are used to jumping, and your best bet is to control their environment to remove the turtle’s need to jump. Remove any tall rocks or high platforms that your turtle may want to jump up on (or down from), and keep most items in the tank on the same level.

A Veterinary Visit

If your turtle suddenly starts jumping for no apparent reason, or if there is a sudden change in the turtle’s behavior that seems atypical or strange – a vet visit is in order. It is always best to have a professional rule out any medical problems before attempting any other methods to reduce your turtle’s jumping.

Turtles Jumping in the Wild

Wild turtles have their own reasons for jumping, and in most cases, it is simply a way for them to get past an obstacle and eventually reach the water. In the wild, turtles may have to travel from one body of water and to the other, and this often requires them to make their way over rocks and across challenging terrain.

They may not be great jumpers, but those small thrusts allow them to get past small obstacles that sit in their way, as they aren’t always able to crawl over them! In this scenario, you could almost call it a survival method, and a way for wild turtles to function and survive on a sometimes unforgiving surface.

In movies and pop culture, turtles are often displayed as helpless creatures that move slowly and end up on their backs more often than not, but in the wild – turtles are surprisingly capable and able to fend for themselves when seeking food and water.

How About Tortoises?

Now that we know that many turtles can jump, how about tortoises? Can tortoises jump? The simple answer is no, tortoises do not tend to jump. Their shells and bodies are heavier than those of turtles, and they are built differently which makes jumping difficult.

While jumping isn’t common among tortoises, they do know how to climb! Tortoises are excellent climbers and perfectly able to climb over rocks and up on higher surfaces, which compensates for their lack of ability to jump.

You may think you’ve seen a tortoise jump, but in most cases, it just leaped (or fell) off a more elevated surface. Jumping and falling are far from the same, and that is why it is crucial to also control a tortoise’s environment to make sure it can’t fall and hurt itself in the tank.

Conclusion

Turtles don’t exactly look like the most agile animal out there, but many are surprised to learn that they can jump! They always jump forward and never backward or to the side, and their jumps are short compared to the jumps of other animals. One reason is that their shell prevents them from twisting their torso and bending their backs.

Snapping turtles are known for jumping quite well, and are most likely the best jumpers out of all turtles. Turtles generally jump to get to a higher surface, to jump into water, or to avoid danger, and it could become a problem if they tend to try and jump out of the tank or off platforms that are dangerously high. 

The best solution is to control a turtle’s environment and to make sure the tank does not contain anything that could hurt the turtle if it was to try and jump up or down from it.

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