IS a distinct genus of animals, of the class of amphibious, and of the reptile order. It is a quadruped, but with these two essential distinctions, that it is covered with a kind of strong arched crust or shell, and that it is oviparous. They are found of all sizes and dimensions, from one to five feet in length. It has a small head, four feet, and a tail, which the animal gathers within the shell in such a way, that the top part and the under one meet together, and so closely that the greatest strength cannot separate them. The eye is destitute of an upper lid, the under one serving to defend that organ. The upper shell, made up of eighteen compartments, is convex, and so strongly combined that a loaded cart can pass over it without injuring the creature inside; in winter they retire to some cavern under ground, which they line with moss, grass, and leaves, and where they pass in safe and solitary retirement the whole of the brumal season. The Tortoise is very tenacious of life, and one has been known to live, or however to shew signs of life, for the space of four and twenty days after the head had been severed from the body. It is no less remarkable for its longevity, as it is ascertained that one lived upwards of one hundred and twenty years in the garden of Lambeth Palace.
The Tortoise shell which is produced by this animal, as well as by the hawk’s-bill turtle, is made use of in several articles of useful and ornamental utensils, and when of a good colour sells to a considerable price. It is often alluded to in poetry, as it is reported that Mercury, the inventor of the lyre, made it at first out of the shell of a Tortoise, as we see it carved in ancient bas reliefs, or on cameos.