Land Tortoises

Land tortoises
had once been common in southern Eriador and western Gondor, particularly in the Gwathló basin. Unfortunately, they were extremely tasty and nutritious, so they were favored by Eriadoran hunters and became nearly extinct. Their beautiful green and grey shells were now exceptionally rare. Prized for their value as armor (the shell made excellent reinforcement) and (when ground) as a source of medicine to combat blood diseases and ailments, a land tortoise shell could bring up to two hundred gold pieces on the open market.

Very slow and inoffensive, the land tortoise's primary defense was its size. The average specimen was five feet long and three high, weighing about three hundred pounds. A few older tortoises, those with ages over three hundred years, had reached six feet in length and weigh over a quarter ton.

In the case of an attack, land tortoises would retreat until cornered. If confronted by an overwhelming number of foes, they would then ground themselves and pull into their shells. If it appeared that they contested the attack, though, they might lash out with their necks, biting the attackers with their hard, sharp beaks.

Land tortoises fed on nearly every type of vegetation and often roamed into the highlands in search of richer grass or shrubs. They mated at any time, since the males were twice as large as the females. Female tortoises then dug holes along river banks or on the seashore, laying their (11-20) eggs and covering them with moist soil that hardened in the sun and incubated the young. These caches were abandoned, so the hatchlings were forced to dig their way out and survive on their own.

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