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How Fast Can a Snapping Turtle Run?

How fast can a snapping turtle run? This is a question that many people have asked themselves. In this article, we will explore the snapping turtle’s running capabilities and provide some information on how fast snapping turtles can actually go.

For those of you who are not familiar with snapping turtles, they are large swamp-dwelling animals that live in North America and Asia. They have been around for over 200 million years and often grow to be 19.5 inches long or more! 

One unique personality about snapping turtles is their ability to snap at any creature within range when they feel threatened.

Speaking of snapping turtle’s running abilities, for solitary animals such as they, who prefer to burrow and ambush prey over roaming their habitat, you’d argue less that they can’t run. But the truth is, snapping turtles including all other turtle species can run.

Read on to learn more!

This article has been reviewed by Dr. Gospel. Read more about our knowledge control process here.

Can Turtles Run?

Yes, turtles can run. In fact, turtles are good runners most especially when the right moment avails itself such as running for their lives when faced with danger. On average, turtles can run at a speed of 5 – 6.5 km/hr. (3 -4 mph [mile per hour]).

It has been noted that turtles move (run) faster than tortoises, even on land. While turtles have an average running speed of between 5 – 6.5km/hr., tortoises move at a rate of 0.2 – 0.5 km/hr. (0.13 – 0.3 mph). 

The reason for this disparity isn’t far-fetched, turtles such as the snapping turtles are ambush predators. They don’t go about chasing their food but will wait for the prey to dance to a close proximity before they attack. 

Secondly, turtles are slow runners because of their legs and size. For instance, snapping turtles are huge species of aquatic turtles, hence, on land, they move slowly compared to when swimming in the water.

Also, having large shells and plastrons, turtles can easily pull themselves into the shell to protect themselves when faced with threats. This is to say that generally, they don’t have any reason to be fast. However, this doesn’t work for snapping turtles as they lack body armor to protect themselves. 

How Fast Can A Snapping Turtle Run?
Snapping turtles run at an average speed of 2.4 – 4 mph (mile per hour), with the fastest speed recorded at 174 mph, which is equivalent to 280 km/hr.

How Fast Can a Snapping Turtle Run?

Snapping turtles run quite slower on land than in the water. On land, they have an average speed of 2.4 – 4 mph (mile per hour). The fastest a snapping turtle was seen running on land was at a speed of 174 mph, which is equivalent to 280 km/hr. 

This slow speed on land is because of their bulky physique and the fact that their lifestyle and environment don’t require them to be fast. 

Although snapping turtles run or move on land at a considerably slower rate, in the water, they are good swimmers. The average snapping turtle swims at a pace of 10 – 12 mph (4 – 5 m/s). 

Hatchling snapping turtles on average swim at a rate of about 25 miles (40 km) in 30 hr. Female snapping turtles over the years have been observed to swim faster than the males, especially when they have eggs to protect from predators.

Snapping turtle running/walking speed in the wild [source: Jim Wright]

Speed of Snapping Turtles Compares to other Turtles

Turtles aren’t known to be fast animals, they are typically very slow. While this is usually on land, in the water, aquatic turtles are agile and swim faster although not as fast as river otters and orcas. 

That notwithstanding, some sea turtles can boast of a very fast swimming speed in the water. Keep reading to learn more!

Snapping Turtles Vs Sea Turtles 

If it involves money, do not bet your snapping turtle to compete with a sea turtle. You’re likely to lose the bet. Sea turtles such as the leatherback cannot pull themselves back into their shells if threatened, hence, the reason they are the fastest sea turtles on the planet. 

Their body features were designed more to enable them to propel themselves in the water than walk on land. They have paddle-like flippers that help them to swim very fast. The leatherback sea turtle can swim at a speed of 35 km/hr. (22 mph) which is many times faster than snapping turtles. 

However, on land, snapping turtles can walk or run faster than the leatherback sea turtle because the latter is poorly-suited for walking on land while snappers can conveniently walk on land.

the leatherback sea turtle are good swimmers at a speed of 35 km/hr. (22 mph)
The leatherback sea turtle aren’t designed to walk on land.
Their paddle-like flippers are more useful for swimming in water than on land.

Snapping Turtles Vs Cooter Turtles

This is another turtle species that swims faster in water than it moves on land, the cooter turtle. Cooter turtles run (walk) at a speed of 0.47 m/s (meters per second). They have been clocked at the rate of 1.07 mph (1.7 km/hr.). In this case, snapping turtles are faster than they are both on land and in water.

Snapping Turtles Vs Box Turtles

Box turtles thrive on land and they are noted for being among one of the fastest moving turtles. To cover a short distance, they can run at the speed of 0.25 mph (0.4 km/hr). Their average walking speed is 0.17 mph (0.27 km/hr). With this speed, snapping turtles run faster than them.

Snapping Turtles Vs Gopherus Tortoises

The Gopherus tortoises have the slowest run speed of all turtle species. They can only go as fast as 0.21 – 0.48 km/hr. (0.13 – 0.30 mph).

The Speed-Related Survival of Snapping Turtle

Every animal that belongs to a particular environment in the ecosystem has adaptations that help it to survive in that environment. This means that the slow movement of snapping turtles on land and even in water is part of their natural adaptations to survive in the wild. 

Since snapping turtles aren’t designed to be fast, they don’t go about chasing food. Rather, they lay in wait at one place, wiggling the worm-like appendages in their mouth to lure prey close enough for them to attack. 

With this lifestyle, it’s easy for them to spot a predator from afar in time and either escape or burrow to protect themselves. It is on rare occasions that adult snapping turtles will get preyed on. 

This mostly happens if they are attacked by larger and faster swamp animals such as the river otter. On land, snapping turtles are much more exposed to danger and even death than in the water.

Factors That Affect the Moving Speed of Turtles

Generally, snapping turtles are quite bulky animals. They carry a heavy shell and by comparison to other turtle species or tortoises, their skulls are another block of heavy bone. 

These and many other factors such as average weight, physical features, age, and species affect their run speed on land. Let’s discuss these limitative factors in detail.

Physical Features

The snapping turtle shell isn’t just a covering over its body, the shell is fused to its skeleton. More significantly, it’s joined to and contains the pectoral and pelvic girdle, the bones that compose the major limb joints. 

Because of this physical feature, their speed of movement is limited (slow). It’s like running while wearing a barrel with relatively small leg holes.

Besides, turtles breathe with their butts (cloaca) and for obvious reasons, they can’t expand their rib cages to breathe with the diaphragm. This also affects how far they can go on land.

Depending on the Age and Average Size (Weight)

As already discussed, hatchling and juvenile snapping turtles run faster and swim faster than adult snappers. This means that age and weight affect how fast or slow snapping turtles move. 

The older and heavier they are, the slower in speed they become. On the contrary, the younger and lighter they are, the faster.

Depending on the Turtle Species

The species a turtle belongs to plays an important role in its movement speed. This is because each turtle species is designed differently although they all live in the same habitat. 

For instance, the leatherback sea turtle is the fastest turtle species because its legs (flippers) are designed as paddles that help them to propel themselves in water and swim at a very high speed.

In a nutshell, for turtle species that don’t have a fast swim and run speed, the truth is, these animals weren’t designed for speed and they don’t need speed to survive in the wild. 

In the absence of speed, they make up for it with other body features that enable them to stay safe. Features such as strong jawbones, aggressive disposition, and sharp beaks in the case of snapping turtles.

Snapping turtle speed in the wild [source: Rumble Viral]


How Fast Does a Snapping Turtle Move on Land?

Snapping turtles move with an average speed of 2.4 – 4 mph (mile per hour) on land and with the fastest speed record of 174 mph (equivalent to 280 km/hr.).

What Is the Fastest Speed a Turtle Can Run?

Generally, all turtle species have an average speed of 3 mph (that is 5 – 6.5 km/hr.).  However, when they are faced with threats, the softshell turtle and snapping turtles can run at a speed of 15 mph (24 km/hr.) and 174 mph (280 km/hr.) respectively.

What Is the Slowest a Turtle Can Run?

The slowest a turtle can run is 0.13 mph. When speaking of which turtle is the slowest on land, the Gopherus will make a good example. The Gopherus tortoise is the slowest turtle on land. They move at only 0.13 mph in a sloth-like manner.

In Conclusion

As a kid, turtles and tortoises were usually used in bedtime stories to depict how fast and tricky they are. However, growing up and owning a couple of turtle species and realizing how slow these animals truly are, could tell you that those stories were fabricated lies just to send kids to bed early.

Almost all turtle species are good swimmers but only a few can run on land. One of those turtle species that can survive both on land and in water is the snapping turtle. 

Although they aren’t the fastest runners on land nor the fastest swimmers in the water, they are not too slow compared to other turtle species such as Cooter and Gopherus turtles.

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