How to identify turtle breed

Written by janel flynn
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How to identify turtle breed
It's important to identify a turtle's breed before taking it in as a pet. (turtle image by Mariusz Blach from

You've found a turtle and are considering keeping it as a pet. Before taking it home and naming it, you want to identify the breed. It is important to identify a turtle's breed to be sure it is safe to keep as a pet and know how to care for it properly.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Camera

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  1. 1

    Take caution when picking the turtle up. If the turtle meets the following description, it is probably a snapping turtle: claws on the front feet and webbed back feet; a bottom shell that is smaller than the turtle's body; a dark upper shell; and hooked jaws.

  2. 2

    Inspect the turtle's toes. If the toes are webbed, the turtle is a swimmer and lives in water either part or all of the time. If the turtle has claws rather than webbed toes, it is a land turtle.

  3. 3

    Inspect the turtle's shell. If the turtle shell is soft, it's considered a soft-shell turtle. If the top shell is high and shaped like a dome, it is probably a box turtle. If the top shell is flat with black, yellow, red or orange markings, it's probably a painted turtle of the turtle breed Chreysems.

  4. 4

    Make notes of physical characteristics of the turtle and include notes about scales on the tail, head and leg stripes, and the hinge on the bottom shell.

  5. 5

    Consult a field guide on turtle breeds (see Resources).

  6. 6

    Take a picture of the turtle and post it in a turtle breed forum (see Resources). Many animal experts visit these forums and may be able to identify the turtle breed.

  7. 7

    Schedule an appointment with your local vet, who can identify the turtle's breed and tell you how to feed and care for it.

Tips and warnings

  • Do not attempt to pick up a snapping turtle.
  • If the turtle has clawed feet, do not put it in water.

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