Different Species of Tortoises in Texas

The Texas tortoise is the only tortoise native to Texas.
The Texas tortoise is the only tortoise native to Texas. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Tortoises are large, land-dwelling members of the turtle family. Only two tortoise species are native to the United States and only four species of tortoise are found in North America. Only one type of tortoise is found in Texas, but it can go by several different names and this can cause confusion.

Texas Tortoise

The Texas tortoise is the only type of tortoise found in Texas.It is a medium-sized tortoise, growing to only about nine inches in length. It is tan to dark, brownish-black in color with a sharp beak and spiky, bulky legs.

Other Names

The Texas tortoise has several different names. It is sometimes called the Berlandier's tortoise, after the naturalist who worked on some of the first biology surveys in the state of Texas. The Texas tortoise belongs to the genus Gopherus, and is sometimes called the gopher tortoise along with other tortoises that belong to the Gopherus genus.


The Texas tortoise is found only in the southernmost tip of Texas, which includes San Antonio. They primarily inhabit scrub forest that is slightly tropical and has well-drained soil, near desert regions but not in them. They are very active tortoises and normally find their shelters rather than dig their own like most tortoise species.


Roads are the biggest threats to the Texas tortoise species. Many tortoises are hit by cars and killed trying to cross the road. Wildfires can be another threat to Texas tortoises, as they can spread quickly through their habitat.

In the state of Texas, the Texas tortoise is a threatened species and it is against the law to keep them as pets or catch them from the wild.

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