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Happy Birthday, Jonathan!

Jonathan the tortoise just celebrated his 190th birthday!

Four children pose with Jonathan the tortoise on a bed of grass.

© Darrinhenry/

Local kids visit Jonathan near his home on the island of Saint Helena.

He may not be as old as Yoda from Star Wars, but Jonathan the giant tortoise has been around for a long time. In December 2022, Jonathan celebrated his 190th birthday! He’s the oldest-known land animal in the world.

Experts can’t be sure of Jonathan’s exact age. They’re guessing he was born around 1832, but his birth year may be even earlier. That’s because he was fully grown when people found him in the wild in 1882—and giant tortoises don’t stop growing until they are 40 or 50 years old!

Black and white photo showing four men posing behind two tortoises that are facing each other.

Courtesy of Saint Helena Island Info (

Jonathan was brought to Saint Helena in 1882. This photo was taken soon after. Jonathan is the tortoise on the left!

Jonathan was taken from a group of islands called the Seychelles to Saint Helena, an island in the South Atlantic Ocean, and given as a gift to the island’s future governor. Today he lives on Saint Helena with three other giant tortoises. His favorite foods are bananas, cabbage, carrots, and apples. His hobbies include sleeping, eating, and walking…very slowly.

Amazingly, there’s a photo of Jonathan that was taken in 1882, shortly after he arrived on Saint Helena. The picture reveals that Jonathan hasn’t aged a day!

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Fun Fact

Illustration of a tortoise walking in front of eight older people with speech bubble that says out of my way, youngsters.

© lightkitegirl, cottidie—iStock/Getty Images Plus; Composite illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

It’s not unusual for giant tortoises to live for more than 100 years!

When Jonathan Was Born…

A composite showing Andrew Jackson, a map of the U S in 1821, and a tortoise.

Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1942.8.34, © mikroman6—Moment/Getty Images, © Smileus/; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Experts think Jonathan the tortoise was born in 1832. When Jonathan was born…

The United States had been a nation for 56 years. There were only 24 states. Andrew Jackson was the U.S. president.

There were no…



Electric lights


Cameras were brand new at the time, so there were very few photos.

Turtle Time!

A giant tortoise standing on grass and eating something leafy with trees in the background.

© cinoby—E+/Getty Images

Did you know that all tortoises are turtles, but not all turtles are tortoises? Learn more at Britannica School!

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Word of the Day


Part of speech:



: resembling, having the characteristics of, or being a tortoise or turtle

Definitions provided by
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All of these words describe Jonathan the tortoise. Can you find them?


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