This Cheetah Simply Can’t Figure Out a Tortoise in Their Shell

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Published: November 3, 2022
© Katoosha/
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There’s no denying that it takes skill to survive in the wild. All animals have developed techniques to hide and avoid predators. Some, like the tortoise, can use their own body to camouflage into the surrounding landscape. 

The capacity of tortoises to withdraw their heads and legs into their shells is one of their fascinating characteristics. You might ask why something forced a turtle to retreat into its shield. 

Typically, tortoises stay hidden inside their shells to guard against animals and poor weather, such as extremely hot or cold temperatures. Additionally, tortoises’ heads may withdraw if they are unwell or are placed in an unknown or new area.

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Think You Can?

A video shows a giant tortoise shell near the side of a dirt road in the savannah. A cheetah approaches and is instantly intrigued by this peculiar and unfamiliar thing. These big cats have an excellent sense of smell and it’s safe to assume they can likely smell what’s hiding inside the shell. 

The world’s fastest mamma smells the shell and even hisses a few times. As the tortoise stands its ground by continuing to hide, the cat steps back in curiosity. At one point in the video, another cheetah comes into the picture and has the same reaction as the first cat. 

Our question is – who on earth is getting this close to big cats in the wild to film such an interaction?

The Giant Tortoise Eating
Typically, tortoises stay hidden inside their shells to guard against animals and poor weather.


Hiding in Plain Sight

The footage, now with over four million views, was uploaded to Youtube in 2019. It’s a great example of how sophisticated wild animals are in how they stay safe from potential predators. 

Vocalizations including groans, growls, snarls, and spitting are typically made during antagonistic or hostile situations. A cheetah will squat and start to whimper as a threat increases, frequently followed by snarling and hissing. There’s no denying these two cats were interested in this turtle. 

Predators of tortoises include roadrunners, snakes, kit foxes, and coyotes, to name a few. The common raven, however, is another predator that is significantly affecting the survival of the desert tortoise.

While a cheetah isn’t a notable hazard for these shelled creatures, these cats will eat just about anything. It would be nearly impossible for the feline to get to the tortoise inside the shell. Ironically, one of the slowest animals on earth can outwit the fastest! 

Something notable about a tortoise hiding in its shell is the ability to blend into many landscapes. The shell can look like a giant rock or boulder to unsuspecting wildlife. Though they’re known for being slow, tortoises can quickly slip inside for safety! 

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The Featured Image

Indian Asiatic Cheetah
The Asiatic cheetah is genetically related, but distinct, from the African cheetah. Historically, these cheetahs were used by Indian royal families to hunt gazelles and antelope.
© Katoosha/

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About the Author

When she's not busy playing with her several guinea pigs or her cat Finlay Kirstin is writing articles to help other pet owners. She's also a REALTOR® in the Twin Cities and is passionate about social justice. There's nothing that beats a rainy day with a warm cup of tea and Frank Sinatra on vinyl for this millennial.

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