Rounded carapace to 30 cm, color varies from yellow or tan with black or dark-brown blotching to totally gray or black. Plastron is yellow to greenish yellow, brown, or gray with dark-brown to black spotting. Moderate head, nonprotruding snout, weakly hooked, tricuspid upper jaw. Head color varies from yellow to brown, gray, or black, with or without dark spotting. Each thigh has a very large, conical tubercle. Neck, limbs, and tail are yellowish brown or gray.
Southern Spain eastward across coastal northern Africa to Israel and Syria; also from northern Greece, Romania, and Bulgaria eastward through Turkey to Transcaucasus, Russia, and Iran. Prefers dry, open steppes, barren hillsides, and wastelands where vegetation varies from sea dune grasses to scrub thorn brush. Ranges from sea level to 3000 meters.
Most active in the morning, seek refuge from the midday heat. In northern part of range may hibernate, may estivate during the summer in the southern part of range.
Mating occurs from April to July. Males chase, butt, and bite the females. Nesting occurs from April to July, female digging a flask-shaped hole 10 - 12 cm deep. A typical clutch is 2 to 7 ellipsoidal (30-42.5 X 24.5-35 mm) white eggs with brittle shells. Hatchlings (30 - 35 mm) are yellow with dark-brown or black pigment along the carapace seams.
Eats many plants including grasses, sedges, clover, trefoil. Relishes yellow buttercups and dandelions.
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