Come crown my brows with leaves of myrtle;
I know the tortoise is a turtle.
Come carve my name in stone immortal;
I know the turtoise is a tortle;
I know to my profound despair;
I bet on one to beat a hare.
I also know I’m now a pauper
Because of its tortley turtley torpor.
by Ogden Nash
Every once in a while we get an interesting question from a human. We’d like to share a recent one:
The most recent addition to our family is an adorable kitten. They told us she is a tortoise shell. However, when I looked up tortoise shell on the computer, it showed me a picture of a top of a turtle. It didn’t look at all like sweet, little Penelope. I’m confused.
Dear Tortie Mom:
Congratulations on your new addition! You are actually more confused than you think you are.
Your new kitty is a tortoiseshell, not a tortoise shell. It refers to the beautiful colors in her fur. Humans think these colors look similar to a piece of polished shell from a dead tortoise. Humans have truly grotesque imaginations sometimes.
Since you looked up tortoise shell, you saw the top of a tortoise. A living tortoise.
A tortoise is a turtle. But only a type of turtle. We’ll turn to our resident reptile Rex, a member of the painted turtle family, for more clarification.
You’ve brought up a very interesting topic, Tortie Mom. It’s not very often that we get a question about the difference between turtles and tortoises. Or anything about turtles. Turtles are fascinating creatures. Of course, I’m partial to the painted family of turtles. However, our tortoise cousins offer some interesting traits.
Those of us who spend a large part of our time in or near the water rarely see a tortoise. You see, they don’t like water. Strange, huh? Explains those short, stubby legs and feet. And knobby knees. Nothing at all like the webbed beauties we other turtles have. Probably have dry, scaly skin too.
Frankly, I’m a little surprised that you confused the big, bulky tortoise shell with the sleek turtle shell. Seriously, it looks like you could go camping in one of those domes. But I supposed that if all you do is go lumbering around on land, it really isn’t too much of a problem. My shell is built for speed in the water. They should have let me race that rabbit.
Tortoises are rather picky eaters. Most of them are vegetarians. I guess that makes sense since they’re so big and slow. You don’t have to move very fast to catch grass. The rest of us are much more flexible in our dining habits. Fresh juicy bugs are the perfect companion to a nice bunch of berries.
You may have heard some rot about tortoises being better mothers. True, they protect their hatchlings for up to 80 days while ours are set loose at birth. But why do they require protection? Because they’re being pampered to live a softer life than our offspring. That’s why they live longer too.
Who cares? Our turtles are tougher!
(Ed. Note – We have no idea who Rex is. We received a message telling us to pay $500 to have the original post ending restored. Rex’s was better, so we left it in.)