how fast can a turtle run

How Fast Can a Turtle Run | Fantastic Information on Turtle Racing

For about the last 2,500 years, everyone around the world is familiar with Aesop’s one of the most famous and intriguing story, “The Hare and The Tortoise.” In the story, we see how a slow-moving turtle defeated the ever-proud hare in a race.

The story focuses on how the turtle beat the pride of the hare. But the story also established a myth- turtles are a slow runner. But is this myth true? Does a turtle ever run?

Today we will try to discover the real answer to the question of how fast can a turtle run. We will also look for the running speed of different species of turtles as well as try to expose some of the fastest running turtles recorded in the Guinness World Record and other record books.

So, let’s start the race.

Turtle’s Speed According to Species

Yes, turtles are indeed slow mover. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t run. Some of the turtle species come with such good running speed that even most humans won’t believe. And this is no hoax.

Don’t trust us? Then read through the following section.

Sea Turtles

Although not familiar as a popular pet, sea turtles are some of the largest turtles found ever. Similarly, these are also the fastest turtles that you will ever come across. Yes, we admit that these turtles can’t walk fast.

But as we are searching for the fastest running or swimming (you need to consider it since most turtles live their majority of life in water and swim for a living) turtle, we can’t leave this species. According to research, sea turtles can swim with speed up to 20 MPH in the seawater. This speed is by far the fastest compared to any other turtle species.

Box Turtles

Unlike sea turtles, box turtles are one of the most popular pet turtles among homeowners. So, it will be helpful for you to know its speed. It will help you to understand how and to the extent you can let it roam around in your garden.

Once, a turtle owner experimented with his box turtle. He saw that his pet in a small distance clocked nearly about 0.25 MPH, which is roughly about 100 yards. Nonetheless, box turtles’ average speed is about 0.17 MPH.

However, in reasonable condition, a box turtle will rarely cover 100 yards. It is because these species prefer staying in a place hiding their head into the shell instead of running away even from the predators.

Cooter Turtles

Cooter turtles are mostly found in North America and are a familiar pet in most homes. People prize the Cooter turtle because of its gentle personality and immunity against diseases.

Different observations in the tame and natural state have found that a Cooter turtle will reach up to 1.07 walking speed. So, this is faster than the box turtles. But still pretty slow for most people’s likings.

So, what about the other species?

Soft Shelled Turtles

According to Guinness World Record, in a ‘YouTube Video’ that featured the fastest running turtles in the world, a soft-shelled turtle was recorded. In the following video, Bertie, the record holder, roughly covered 15 ft distance in 3 seconds.

This converts the speed in 3MPH. To know how fast or slow it is, note that an adult human with average walking speed can cover 3 miles comfortably in one hour.

Why Turtles Run or Move so Slowly?

Geez! You know how slow runner is a turtle or a tortoise. But why are they so lazy? Did you ever try to find the answer to these questions?

The answer might seem unusual for you. So, here we go.

  1. Throughout the evolution, turtles have found that instead of achieving fast speed, covering themselves with a hard shell and scales provide them better protection against predators. So, through the natural evolutionary process, they lost momentum for a better-protected shell.
  2. Turtles are mostly vegetarian. So, they don’t need to run after their prey. Instead, plant leaves wait for them. They slowly come close and eat them. And even if for the meat-loving turtles, snails, their favorite prey, is much slower than the turtle itself.
  3. Another reason for the turtle’s slow speed is its slow metabolism. Due to such slow metabolism, their body can’t produce enough energy for moving fast.
  4. The shell also sometimes slows down the turtle’s pace. Since the shell covers almost the entire body of the turtle, it limits the limb movement that results in the slow speed.

How Slow Is the Turtle?

We now know that turtles are slow. But how slow they are compared to other animals? The following comparison may give you an idea-

American woodcock (Bird)- 5 mph

Giant Galapagos Tortoise (Reptiles)-1 mph

Seahorse (Fish)-0.01 mph

Banana Slug (Invertebrates)- 0.000023 m/s

These are undoubted, some of the slowest animals in the world. If you still don’t understand how slow these animals and the turtles are, then know that Peregrine falcon reaches an overwhelming 322 KPH speed when diving from a height.

Turtle Velocity Leaderboard

In this section, we have carefully listed some of the fastest turtles and tortoises. Thanks to modern-day transportation, these animals have reached an incredible speed. Remember, here, we have counted the Russian Tortoise that flew in a spacecraft to achieve the highest speed ever by any animals (Of course, by dint of its locomotive).

Let’s take a look at the speed chart then.

Turtle Name (Means of transportation or locomotive)Speed (mph)
Bernie (Ambling) 0.63
Soft-shelled turtle (walking)3
Leatherback sea turtle (Swimming)22
Turtle (Low orbit spacecraft)17,000
Russian Tortoise (Interplanetary spacecraft) 23,000

Note: This informative table has been taken from an article, ‘What is the Fastest Turtle?’ published in Nature Museum and Chicago Academy of Sciences.


Turtles have a wide range of varieties. And depending on their species, their speed varies a lot. Some of the turtle species, for example, are the fast running reptiles on the planet.

Now that you know how fast can a turtle run, so let’s find the answer to one last question. Can turtle outrun a human being? No, even in the worst scenario, a turtle won’t be able to beat an adult human being.  

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