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Can turtles jump? πŸ’πŸ’¨ Some species say ‘yes’!

Turtles have heavy shells and short legs. Both physical characteristics are not conducive to jumping. So can turtles jump? Interestingly, the answer is yes. Turtles can jump, barely. As mentioned, the turtle’s physique makes it difficult for the creature to jump. They usually leap a few centimeters (an inch or two) off solid ground.

The snapping turtle may leap when moving, allowing it to cover more distance quickly. It may also lunge when attacking a perceived threat. Although it usually leaps just an inch or two when snapping, this sudden movement usually catches its prey or threat unaware. This gives the turtle a defensive or offensive advantage.

The turtle’s jump

Not all turtles can jump. Tortoises cannot jump. They are too heavy and slow. Several freshwater turtles are capable of jumping. The softshell, common snapper (snapping turtle), and alligator snapper are three turtles known for their jumping prowess. The softshell can jump considerably higher than the snapping turtle.  This comes as no surprise as the softshell lacks a hard shell. Softshells are also considerably speedy and are capable of running quite fast. The lack of a hard shell considerably improves their mobility.

Here’s a video of a snapping turtle jumping.

and here’s a video of a jumping softshell turtle.

How far a turtle can jump

Turtles can barely jump. Freshwater turtles are the best jumpers among turtles.  A medium-sized turtle can jump a few inches, usually 3 to 4 inches (7 to 10 cm). Even with this in mind, don’t expect the turtle to leap more than 2 inches.

A running start can allow the turtle to jump higher than usual. Additionally, each turtle is an individual. Similar to humans, some individual turtles are more athletic than others. Even within the same species, some turtles are better jumpers than others. Regardless of this, do not expect a turtle to jump more than a couple of inches.

How a turtle jumps

The heavy shell of the turtle makes it hard to jump. Their short legs don’t help either. The fact that they can jump at all is surprising.

Turtles tend not to jump and will only do so when they feel it’s necessary. Turtle need all their four legs to jump. They typically bend their back legs and extend their front legs. Some individuals may bend both their front and back legs although they bend their back legs further as they generate most of the jumping power from the back legs.

The turtle then thrusts up using all four legs.  Snapping turtles will also thrust their head forward giving the impression that they jump further than they do. Thrusting their head forward suddenly also increases their reach.

Turtles generally lunge forward when jumping. They are incapable of jumping backward or sidewards.

Although turtles don’t jump high, they usually jump suddenly and often catch the observant by surprise. The jump often offers the boost needed to reach their prey or any other animal bothering them.

Turtles Jumping Out Of Water 

Freshwater turtles are quick, agile, and mobile in water. In water, they can move swiftly and with more flexibility. Despite this, they do not leap out of the water as some fish (such as salmon) do. Freshwater turtles still need to come out of water to bask. Most turtles including snapping turtles bask. How do turtles get out of the water without jumping? In the wild, turtles swim onto the bank of the freshwater habitat to bask. They may also climb onto rocks, logs, and other objects in the water to bask.

Pet turtles need a basking platform. This can be a floating log or a specifically made basking dock they can easily climb onto.

Tortoise’s Jump

A lot of people claim their tortoises can jump. But can tortoises jump? Unlike turtles, tortoises cannot jump. If that is the case then why are many convinced that their tortoises can jump? While tortoises cannot jump they can leap down from high places. Tortoises are good climbers and they usually climb up rocks, logs, and other objects. They can then leap off these objects onto the ground. This gives the impression that the tortoise can jump.

Reason Tortoises Cannot Jump

Tortoises are heavy creatures. They have a massive shell and cannot move quickly. While turtles can move relatively fast in water and even on land, tortoises are unable to do this. Tortoises simply lack the fast twitch muscles that make it possible to jump.

The tortoise makes up for its lack of mobility by having a strong shell. The shell protects them while they are slowly on the move.

Preventing Your Tortoise From Jumping (Falling From High Places)

Both tortoises and turtles enjoy climbing. It’s great exercise. However, you may be worried that your tortoise can fall from a high place and injure themselves. Well, this is a valid concern. You should work to prevent this. Here are some tips to consider.

Provide Stimuli

Create an enclosure that the tortoise enjoys living in and is safe. You can include shrubs and trees in the enclosure. In addition to this, you can also provide tufts of grass. Even toys such as large balls are a welcomed addition. Just ensure that objects placed in the enclosure aren’t things the tortoise can swallow.

House The Tortoise In A Large Enclosure

A large enclosure allows the tortoise to explore. The minimum size of the enclosure depends on the size of the tortoise. Large adult tortoises require large spaces while small tortoises can make do with a limited amount of space. Regardless, a large pen is best. If you do not have a large yard, it isn’t a good idea to have a pet tortoise. They need their space.

Add Features That Facilitate Safe Climbing

Have objects that the tortoise can easily climb and decline. Objects shouldn’t have a sharp drop even if one side has a gradual slope. Examples of such objects include logs and sturdy rocks.

Why Turtles Jump

On land, lunging forward is one of the ranges of motions available to turtles. They may lunge simply to move faster. They may also lunge forward when attempting to get away from danger. They may leap several times away from a perceived predator or threat.

Snapping turtles may jump when snapping. Jumping increases their attack range. This can easily catch you off guard. This is one of the more reasons why you shouldn’t approach a snapping turtle. It may appear lethargic and slow but can suddenly lunge towards you.

There are videos online showing snapping and softshell turtles jumping at humans who are harassing them. These turtles may jump directly at the people harassing them or at the objects used to harass them. With powerful bite forces, snappers are best left alone. 

Other Turtle Movements

As already mentioned, freshwater turtles are strong swimmers. They need to be since they are aquatic and semiaquatic reptiles.

On land, turtles tend to move slowly but there are a few species that are quite fast on land. Several small and medium-sized softshell turtles can be quite fast on land. Below is a video of a speedy softshell.

Turtles are also good climbers. While most tortoises aren’t great at climbing vertically, most freshwater turtles are. They may not be as capable as lizards, salamanders, and other herps, but they are decent climbers. They can climb fences, logs, fallen trees, walls, and rocks. They have strong claws and a long tail that helps them to climb.

When buying an enclosure for a turtle you need to consider their climbing ability. Ensure that the walls of the enclosure are at least a foot high and smooth. Freshwater turtles cannot easily grip onto small walls making them tough to climb.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can turtles jump out of their tank?

Although turtles cannot literally jump out of their tanks, they can climb out of it. They can even move the lids on the tank as they proceed to climb out of the tank. Ensure that the tank is properly closed.

Do snapping turtles jump?

Yes, snapping turtles jump. They can usually jump a few inches off the ground. They usually lunge forward when attacking. Lunging increases their attack range and usually gives them the reach needed to bite their target.

They are also known to lunge forward when moving on land. As with other freshwater turtles, snappers spend most of their time in water. When out of water, they usually hurry back.

Do turtles feel pain?

Turtles feel pain just like other reptiles. Even their shell has nerve endings which suggests they can feel pain through their shells. They can also feel it when you touch their shell. Some turtles will reach back and attempt to bite you when you touch their shell.

The turtle’s shell is composed of bone plates covered in skin and scutes. The shell can bleed when damaged.

Can turtles shoot water?

Turtles can spit water out of their nose. They can smell underwater by pulling water into their jaw and then expelling it through their nose. They can also pull water into their nose and expel it through their nose. They can expel this water with enough force for it to shoot out.

Can turtles climb out of their tank?

Turtles are generally more athletic than most people think. They are also strong climbers. Turtles have been known to climb fences and even tall walls. They can climb several feet up. Some such as the softshell are quite agile on land.

If the water level in the tank is close to the top of the tank. The turtle can climb out of the tank. Although turtles are strong climbers, they struggle with smooth surfaces. For the turtle to climb out of the tank, the water level in the tank is close to the top of the tank.

Why does my turtle jump out of the tank?

The turtle may jump out of the tank because it is bored. The water quality of the tank may be poor. Ensure that the water in the tank is clean. While some individuals are more tolerant, others cannot stand unclean tanks.

To keep the water in the tank clean, install a powerful filter. Additionally, change about one-third of the water in the tank weekly. Also, ensure that the chemical balance is at a suitable level. I recommend chloride, ammonia, & chloramine levels of 0, a pH level of 6 to 8, a nitrate level of 0 to 40 ppm, and a nitrite level of 0 to 0.5 ppm.

The turtle may be jumping out of the tank for no particular reason. To prevent the turtle from jumping out of the tank, cover the tank. If the tank is too small, upgrade to a larger one. This ensures that the turtle has the required amount of water but the water level isn’t close to the top of the tank.

What to do if my turtle fell?

Falling from a great height can severely injure the turtle. The turtle can fall when it climbs out of its tank. Land turtles such as box turtles can also get hurt when they fall from a high place within their enclosure.

When your turtle falls from a great height, best course of action is to clean superficial wounds with lukewarm water and treat cuts with a topical antiseptic such as iodine wash, betadine, or chlorhexidine. I recommend you also visit a herp veterinarian as well.


Can turtles jump? Well, they can, even if it’s barely. Most turtles can jump a few inches above the ground at best. Not all turtles can jump. Tortoises and sea turtles cannot jump. Even with turtles such as snappers, softshells, and terrapins that can jump, these are more of hops and lunges. Some softshell turtles do possess impressive jumping abilities.

Turtles are great climbers and can climb trees, logs, rocky terrains, and even walls. They can jump from high places they reach by climbing. They are unable to climb up smooth surfaces. If you house your turtles outside, fence the enclosure with a smooth wall so the turtle doesn’t climb out. Turtles are also strong swimmers and are known to jump out of their tanks.

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