Here is a vintage illustration of a Common Land Tortoise.
The following description is from the book, “The very curious reptiles which are known by the general name of TORTOISES are remarkable for affording the first example of a skeleton brought to the exterior of the body – a formation which is frequent enough in the lower orders, the crustaceans and insects being familiar examples thereof. In these reptiles the bones of the chest are developed into a curious kind of box, more or less perfect, which contains within itself all the muscles and the viscera, and in most cases can receive into its cavity the head, neck, and limbs, in one genus so effectually that when the animal has withdrawn its limbs and head, it is contained in a tightly-closed case without any apparent opening.
In the true Tortoises the feet are club-shaped and the claws blunt, and the neck can be wholly withdrawn within the shell.
Perhaps the best known species of these creatures is the COMMON LAND TORTOISE, so frequently exposed for sale in our markets, and so favorite an inhabitant of gardens.
This appears to the only species that inhabits Europe, and even on that continent it is by no means widely spread, being confined to those countries which border the Mediterranean.
It is one of the vegetable feeders, eating various plants, and being very fond of lettuce-leaves, which it crops in a very curious manner, biting them off sharply when fresh and crisp, but dragging them asunder when stringy by putting the fore feet upon them and pulling with the jaws. This Tortoise will drink milk, and does so by opening its mouth, scooping up the milk in its lower jaw as if with a spoon, and then raising its head to let the liquid run down its throat.
One of these animals, which I kept for some time, displayed a remarkable capacity for climbing, and was very fond of mounting upon various articles of furniture, stools being its favorite resort. It revelled in warmth, and could not be kept away from the hearth-rug, especially delighting to climb upon a footstool that generally lay beside the fender.
This Tortoise had a curious kind of voice, not unlike the mewing of a little kitten. The Common Tortoise is known to live to a great age. Another specimen, a very large one, has been in my possession for several years. At the end of autumn it burrows under a heap of leaf-mould, and waits there until the warm days of spring. It feeds mostly on grass, and eats its way in a line, leaving a groove of cut grass to mark its track. With the exception of strawberry-eating, it does no harm in the garden. It has a most inexplicable objection to rain, of which not one drop can penetrate its shell; and whenever a shower comes it makes its way to an earth-bank, forces itself partly into the loose soil, and remains there with retracted head and limbs until the rain has ceased.”
Here is a black and white clip art version.
I scanned the original illustration from Popular Natural History, circa 1876. The book was written by Rev. J. G. Wood.
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New in my Etsy shop is a set of printable collaged tags
Preview image is linked to my shop.
Katie D. says
Thanks for the tortoise illustrations. And thanks for including the commentary. Who knew tortoises had a voice. A favorite quote of mine is from one of the Alice In Wonderland books. (Use a British accent) “We call him a tortoise because he (pause) taught us.”
Julie J says
You’re welcome, Katie. I found the commentary interesting and I learned a few things from it that I didn’t know about tortoises (including they have a voice). Thank you for sharing the quote – it’s great! 😊
Merci pour votre partage et ces informations, bonne journée
Julie J says
You’re very welcome. You have a nice day also. 😊