How Intelligent Are Turtles (How Smart Are They And Do They Have Big Brains)?

While there are some animals that we naturally know a lot about, there are some that we really do not know that much about. These are often even household animals, for example, the turtle.

Lots of people have turtles as pets, yet the general population knows very little about these animals in comparison to their knowledge about cats or dogs. We know that cats are very smart, and we know that dogs can be trained. But what about turtles?

Unless you are a reptile lover or the owner of a turtle, then you probably don’t know much about these wonderful creatures. That is why we’ve put together this quick guide. In this guide, we’ll be taking a look at just how intelligent turtles are, as well as looking at their brains. So, if you want to find out more, keep on reading. 

How Intelligent are Turtles?

If you are the owner of a turtle, then you will know that these creatures are by no means ‘dull’ or ‘stupid’. It can be easy to dismiss sea creatures as being unintelligent simply because us humans do not have much interaction with them. But this doesn’t mean that they are actually unintelligent. 

All animals that live in the wild have to have a certain level of intelligence in order to survive. Now, this isn’t saying much for some animals. But some creatures, like turtles, are more intelligent than others.

Research has suggested that turtles actually are fairly intelligent. This is because they possess intellectual intelligence, which is the intelligence that ensures that they are able to survive out in the wild. This intelligence allows them to scavenge for food, and also keep an eye on their surroundings for predators. 

But, this isn’t the only intelligence that research has proven turtles have. Additionally, research has shown that turtles have the capacity to remember things.

They have a memory, and this allows them to remember experiences that have happened to them in the past and learn from them. So, as you can see, turtles are actually pretty smart. 

Do Turtles have Brains?

So, turtles are fairly intelligent. But why is this? Well, one of the main reasons why turtles are so smart is because they have brains. Most animals have brains, but turtles have brains that are large enough to do more than just the basic things with them. 

However, this hasn’t always been the case. Historical studies suggest that the oldest turtle with a shell had a very basic brain structure.

So much so, that most of the senses were underdeveloped, and the actions that the turtle would have been able to do would be very minimal. But, the great thing about nature is that it is continually evolving and changing, and because of this, the brains of turtles are now much bigger and more advanced. 

The difference between the brains of the oldest turtles and the turtles of today means that these creatures are now a lot more advanced.

Their senses are much more heightened, and they now have the ability to do things that they couldn’t before. So, yes, turtles do have brains, and they are now much better than they used to be. 

Do Turtles have Big Brains?

When it comes to brains, size is really relative to the size of the species that the brain is living within. If you compared the size of a mouse’s brain to the size of a human’s brain, then the brain would be very small.

But, when you compare it to the size of a mouse’s body, you will realize that it isn’t really that small. However, this doesn’t really apply to turtles. 

Turtles have brains, and their brains are a lot more advanced and bigger than the brains that their ancestors had. But, in comparison to the size of a turtle, their brains actually aren’t that big.

This is especially true of some larger species of turtles, as their brains are incredibly small compared to their body. But, a small brain doesn’t necessarily mean that turtles are unintelligent. 

A turtle’s brain might be small, but it is also very complex. So much so, that turtles are actually able to learn from experiences and make changes to ensure different outcomes.

Additionally, they are able to problem-solve to help them survive out in the wild. With this, plus the fact that they can retain information, it is clear that turtles are not stupid animals. Even if their brains aren’t that big. 

Can you Train Turtles?

One of the main reasons why people want to know about the intelligence of animals is to get an idea of whether, or not, you can train them. Of course, a big part of training comes down to an animal’s temperament.

For example, cats have the brain capacity to be trained but have a temperament that allows them to refuse. But, brain capacity also plays a huge part in this. So, do turtles have the brain capacity to be trained?

By all intents and purposes, yes, you should be able to train turtles. Although their brains are very different from a dog’s brain, from a training perspective you should do so in a very similar way. That is to say, that the best way to train a turtle is to use an incentive, such as a treat. 

Turtles have much smaller brains than dogs, and because of this, it will take a lot longer for them to learn any tricks that you are attempting to teach them. But, they are more than capable of learning things. Of course, the tricks that you will teach a turtle are very different, but they are still very able to learn them. 


In short, it is difficult to put an exact measurement on just how intelligent turtles are. But, it is clear to see that they are fairly smart. Turtles have the ability to retain information, problem-solve, remember faces, and even learn tricks. So, they are very smart, especially when you consider how little their brains are.