Ask a Vet

Do Turtles Have Hair (The Surprising Truth)

Photo of author
Updated on

If you have a turtle as a pet or have ever thought about getting one, you probably have plenty of questions about them bubbling away in your mind.

And if you’ve been thinking of them while running your fingers through your hair, you may have pondered whether turtles have hair.

Turtle raising its head

Well, in this article, we’re going to answer exactly that, and we’ll also be covering all your most frequently asked questions on the subject along the way.

By the end of the article, you will be much more knowledgeable and well-informed and able to impress your family and friends with just how much you know on the subject.

(Please feel free to scroll ahead to any section that jumps out at you.) Here goes!

Do Turtles Have Hair?

As a matter of fact, it turns out that, yes, many turtles do have hair. In fact, some species of turtles are completely covered in hair! It may not be a common thing for people to think of when they hear the word “turtle,” but it is true.

You tend to imagine that a turtle’s skin is smooth to the touch, but the idea of turtles actually having hair really flips this on its head.

Where Do Turtles Have Hair?

Turtles can have hair anywhere from their feet up to their heads. The amount of hair varies by species, but there are some species of turtle that are completely hairless. 

Which Species Of Turtle Are Hairless?

There are three main types of hairless turtles: soft shells, leatherbacks, and sea turtles. Soft shell turtles include box turtles, mud turtles, and snapping turtles.

Leatherback turtles live in tropical waters around the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Africa, South America, and even North America.

Sea turtles live in oceans worldwide, including Australia, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

What Does A Turtle Look Like With No Hair?

A turtle without hair looks somewhat like a lizard but with a hard shell, which protects them from predators and keeps them warm. Their coloration is usually brownish-gray, black, or tan. 

Which Species Of Turtle Have Hair?

Walking turtle

As for the species of turtles that do have hair, these include freshwater turtles, such as painted turtles, musk turtles, and yellow-bellied sliders; arboreal turtles, such as red-eared slider turtles and wood turtles; semi-aquatic turtles, such as American bullfrogs and Chinese soft shell turtles; and marine turtles, such as green sea turtles, hawksbill sea turtles, loggerhead sea turtles, olive Ridley sea turtles, and Kemp’s ridleys.

How Long Do Turtles Grow Their Hair?

Most turtles grow hair throughout their lives. Some species of turtles have hair that grows very quickly so that within a few months, they look almost completely different from they did before.

Other species of turtles don’t grow hair until later in life. 

For example, the green sea turtle doesn’t start growing hair until after they reach sexual maturity, and the loggerhead sea turtle only starts growing hair after they reach adulthood.

What Color Is Turtle Hair?

Turtle hair is generally brownish-gray, although some species have black, white, gray, or cream-colored hair.

Where Does Turtle Hair Come From?

Turtle hair comes from the follicles in the back of the neck. These follicles produce a substance called keratin, which makes up our fingernails and hair.

Are There Different Types Of Turtle Hair?

Yes! There are three types of turtle hair: filamentous, platelet, and granular.

Filamentous hair has long, thin filaments, while platelet hair has round plates. Granular hair looks like tiny grains of sand. That’s how it looks under a microscope, anyway.

Can I Touch Turtle Hair?

Yes! You can touch turtle hair, but you should wash your hands with soap and water afterward. Also,  you may wish to wear gloves because the hair can get stuck in your fingers.

Do Turtles Grow Fur All Over?

Some species of turtles only have a few small spots where they grow fur. For example, the common box turtle grows a patch of fur on its belly, and the Chinese soft shell turtle grows a patch of hair on both sides of its carapace.

Other species, however, have completely smooth shells.

How Thick Can Turtle Hair Grow?

Turtle hair can be quite thick. Some species of turtles have hair over an inch long.

And if you look closely at the hair on a turtle’s head, you’ll notice that it doesn’t just cover the top of the head. Instead, it extends around the edges of the head, too.

Do Turtles Molt?

It turns out that, yes, turtles do molt, but they don’t molt very often. Turtles molt once every other year. It happens when they go through a process called ecdysis.

Ecdysis is the shedding of their outer layers of skin, including their tail and head scales. Their new skin then forms underneath the old skin.

Why Don’t All Turtles Have Hair?

Some species of turtles are born without hair, as we mentioned earlier. This includes the soft shell turtle, the leatherback turtle, and the sea turtle.

Swimming turtle

One potential reason for this is thought to be that even if their ancestors had hair, they lost it over time.

Another theory is that the lack of hair is an adaptation to help keep the turtles cool during hot weather.

Why Would A Baby Turtle Not Have Hair?

Because they haven’t yet developed enough body heat to keep themselves warm, as soon as they develop the ability to regulate their own temperature, however, they will begin to grow hair.

How Long Do Baby Turtles Live Without Hairs?

Baby turtles typically live about a year without any hairs at all. When they first hatch, they’re covered in downy feathers, which helps protect them from the elements.

They also have a thick layer of fat underneath their skin, which provides insulation against the cold. 

After one year, though, they’ll lose their downy feathers and gain more body heat, and they’ll begin to shed their fat. By two years old, they’ll start developing adult characteristics, such as a harder shell.

When Can Baby Turtles Start Growing Hair?

Baby turtles can start growing hair when they’ve reached sexual maturity, which is usually between 2 and 5 years old. The exact age depends on the species. 

If Turtles Are So Cold, Why Aren’t They Always Covered In Fur?

You might think that turtles would always need fur to stay warm. But actually, they don’t. 

While most reptiles are cold-blooded, meaning they rely on external sources of energy to maintain their internal temperatures, turtles are warm-blooded, so they use their own internal heat to keep themselves warm instead. 

This means that they don’t need fur to stay warm since they already have the ability to regulate their internal temperatures.

Final Thoughts

So, to summarize, it turns out that some species of turtle do have hair, and some species don’t. The turtles who don’t have hair fall into the categories of soft shells, leatherbacks, and sea turtles.

The species which do have hair, which crosses multiple categories, can have hair all over or just in certain areas. Their hair can grow very thick and long and can be visible in a range of different colors.

Turtles with hair do molt, but not very often, just once every other year.

Thank you for reading!

Photo of author
About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.