How Fast Can A Snapping Turtle Run?

how fast can a snapping turtle run

Yes, a snapping turtle can run. A common snapping turtle can run at an average speed of up to 2.4 miles per hour, up to 1.5 meters per second, or 3.86 kilometers per hour on land. Although, compared to other animals, this speed is slow, a snapping turtle’s high-speed walk is considered running when compared to other turtles. 

Are you eager to learn more about a turtle’s running behavior?

The Physical Characteristics Of a Snapping Turtle

Snapping turtles are commonly known for their huge physique. Based on their age, they can be anywhere between 8 inches to 18 inches or more. 

Snapping turtles also tend to have long necks and larger heads. Their carapaces are heavy and quite large. Usually, the carapaces are brownish or black with greenish-yellow stripes. 

Another interesting anatomical fact about snapping turtles is that they have four webbed feet and powerful limbs. 

What Makes Snapping Turtles Run Fast?

Despite their massive body features and heavyweight, snapping turtles can be faster than other turtles. This is because of the snapping turtle’s unique and peculiar anatomical features.

  1. Strong Limbs

Snapping turtles have strong legs that can propel forward at a higher speed. 

The structure of their feet also contributes to the speed. 

A snapping turtle has sharp and long claws. These pointed claws, along with strong and short limbs, help them dig deeper into a land surface, giving them the necessary push in the forward direction.

Your pet snapping turtle also has additional toes at the back of its feet. This helps them move more quickly.  

  1. Huge and Heavy Carapace Structure

Snapping turtles have large and rather heavy outer shells or carapaces. The additional weight and design of the carapace help them keep a steady posture while running. 

Moreover, a snapping turtle’s outer shell is joined to the pectoral and pelvic bones, which comprise the limbs. Since the outer shell is directly attached to the limbs, snapping turtles achieve greater stability and strength and thus run faster.

  1. Powerful Tail Muscles

A common snapping turtle’s tail is nearly longer than its outer shell. The tail has sharp keels on their tail. A snapping turtle’s tail is perhaps the longest that is found in all turtles.

The muscles in the tail of a snapping turtle are powerful. This powerful tail helps it to balance itself while moving at a higher speed. It prevents the snapping turtle from toppling over. 

The powerful tail is also known to help them move faster in aquatic environments.

Check out a snapping turtle running fast in this video.  

Top 3 Factors Influencing a Snapping Turtle’s Speed 

Following are some of the common factors that influence a snapping turtle’s speed:

  1. Environment

Various environmental factors like humidity and the overall cleanliness of the pet enclosure can directly influence the speed of your snapping turtle. 

Too much humidity will impact the oxygen level in the pet enclosure, whereas too little humidity can dehydrate your snapping turtle.  

For a snapping turtle to have a decent speed, the right balance of humidity levels is required. 

The terrain also matters a lot when it comes to speed. A snapping turtle will likely gain higher speed on flat and dry terrain than on a wet, muddy, or marshy area.

A flat surface offers very little resistance compared to rocky or marshy surfaces. A good firm surface offers very. 

  1. Weight and Age 

As a general rule of thumb when it comes to snapping turtles, the more the weight of the snapping turtle, the slower its overall speed. 

You may observe that a younger snapping turtle is faster than an older one. 

Age weakens a snapping turtle’s muscles and impacts its speed.

Size is another important factor impacting speed. A smaller snapping turtle will have the advantage of being lighter and thus move with greater speed as compared to a bulkier snapping turtle. 

For a snapping turtle to be fit and agile, it must be younger and lighter. 

  1. Temperature

Since snapping turtles belong to the reptilia class of the animal kingdom, they are cold-blooded. This means that lower temperatures can make them sluggish. This can heavily impact their speed. 

On the other hand, too much heat can lead to dehydrating your snapping turtle, impacting its speed. 

Are Snapping Turtles Faster on Land or in Water?

Snapping turtles tend to be faster in water, with an average speed between 8 and 12 miles per hour. Snapping turtles can even breathe underwater, they do this by a process called cloacal respiration.

On land, however, their speed is limited to a range of 0.5 to 4 miles per hour, depending on age, weight, and environmental conditions. 

Comparison of Speed With Other Turtle Species

When it comes to other turtles, snapping turtles are relatively faster than most turtles. However, they are not the fastest turtles on land. 

  • Leatherback sea turtle:

Snapping turtles are slower than the leatherback sea turtle, the fastest species of turtles. The Leatherback sea turtles can reach an average speed of 22 mph in case of escaping a threat. 

  • Red-eared slider turtles:

Snapping turtles are also slower as compared to red-eared slider turtles. The red-eared slider turtles can reach an average speed of 4 miles per hour to escape a predator or a threat.  

  • Box turtles and painted turtles:

On the other hand, snapping turtles are faster than box turtles, whose average speed is only 1 mile per hour. Snapping turtles are also relatively much faster as compared to slow-moving painted turtles, whose average speed is around 1.8 miles per hour. 

  • Desert tortoise:

Snapping turtles are also faster than desert tortoises which are the slowest turtles, with a maximum speed of only 0.4 miles per hour.  

  • Green sea turtles:

Green sea turtles are also slower than snapping turtles, with an average of 0.4 miles per hour. However, they can reach speeds up to 7 miles per hour in short bursts to escape a threat or a dangerous situation.  

Advantages of Speed For a Snapping Turtle

The main advantage of having a high speed for a snapping turtle is avoiding predators on both land and water. 

Since snapping turtles are omnivores, the fast speed also helps them catch their prey quickly in water and on land. Snapping turtles thus can easily catch small frogs, fishes, and even small turtles owing to their speed. 

The speed of a snapping turtle on land is also ideal as it reduces the risk of toppling over and damaging its shell by a sudden fall. 


While snapping turtles typically do not run in the conventional sense, they are considered to be running, given their high speeds compared to other turtle species. 

Many factors like environmental conditions, age, weight, and overall health impact the speed of a snapping turtle. Their unique biological structure also helps them to obtain a certain speed. Snapping turtles also tend to move faster in water than on land.  


  1. On an Average, How Far Can a Snapping Turtle Travel Per Day?

The average distance that a snapping turtle can cover in a day is around 5 miles. Snapping turtles rely on short bursts of speed as opposed to longer running or moving sessions. They demonstrate great agility while moving on land. They also tend to move quickly underwater. Thus they can cover more considerable distances on average per day.  

  1. Should You Pick Up A Snapping Turtle By Its Tail?

No, you should not pick up a snapping turtle by its tail. You may end up damaging the tail and the vertebrae. The tail is a very important part of a snapping turtle’s overall well-being. There is also a danger that the snapping turtle can bite you while you hold it. It is advisable not to hold them directly. Instead, you can grab hold of their rear feet and carapace if you have to pick them up. 

  1. What is the Average Life of a Snapping Turtle?

A snapping turtle can live on an average between 25 – 40 years, depending on their environment. If tended to properly, they may also end up living longer. 

  1. What is the Average Weight of a Snapping Turtle?

A common snapping turtle weighs between 4.5 kg to 16 kg (10 – 35 pounds).

  1. Can Snapping Turtles Go into Their Shells to Protect Themselves?

Snapping turtles do not retract in their shells as a defense mechanism. Their shells are small, and they have long tails. Instead, they tend to snap or bite using their very powerful jaws. This has fetched them the name snapping turtles.

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