#WorldTurtleDay – History’s 5 Most Significant Turtles

by Professor Anthony Henry Bull

From the surfer bros in Finding Nemo to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, turtles have always been legendary in fiction. What is known little of, however, is the turtle’s role as an agent in human history. Dr. Hando Halfshell has studied world history very closely, paying attention to the animals on the periphery and discovered something most curious. Turtles always seem to have been there. Here is a rundown of the five most historically significant turtles based upon their involvement in human affairs.


5 – Tabitha the Turtle (90BC – 190AD) Midwife at the Birth of Jesus Christ

Many believe the Christian lord and saviour was born without assistance in a barn in Bethlehem, surrounded by farm animals and strange Eastern sages. What is little reported is the presence of Tabitha the turtle. Tabitha was trained in midwifery amongst the wealthy families of Jerusalem and found herself involved in Christ’s birth by coincidence after she went for a wander and found some tasty hay in a manger.

Were it not for Tabitha’s professional intervention, the Mother of the Son of God may have experienced significant difficulty during childbirth and the Son of God may not have had a successful start in life. But thanks to the hot water, towels and expertise of Tabitha, Christianity was free to run rampant with its greed, power lust and gross acts of abuse.


4 – Stabby Billy (1840-1990) Instigator of the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Few events in world history have the dishonourable tag as catalyst for a global conflict, but the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is the straw that broke early 20th century imperialism’s back and began what was later to be known as the Great War, or even the War to End All Wars.

Stabby Billy was the pet turtle of the Black Hand, the secret Serbian military society believed to have been behind the assassination. What is often unreported, however, is Stabby Billy’s ability to incite the group. Often spouting propaganda statements, and falsifying data to suit the agenda, Billy would discuss European politics with his fellow Serbian rebels and encourage their various acts of aggression. Very few of these incitements, however, had the significance of one speech.

On a visit to fellow rebel group Bosnia Youth, Stabby Billy suggested the only path to freedom and independence was the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The rest, as they say, is history and how this one turtle was responsible for the deaths of millions.

3 – Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus aka. Caligula (AD12-AD41)

Yes, the most curious and amazing fact pulled out by this historical turtle research was that the Roman Emperor Caligula, most famous for his madness, perversion and making a horse Consul, was actually a turtle.

Prior emperor, Tiberius, was also well known for his madness. Seeing danger everywhere he looked within the Julio-Claudian family he opted to create an heir out of his beloved companion and muncher of much lettuce, Caligula.

The actual Caligula, son of renowned general Germanicus, was imprisoned in the dungeon of Tiberius’ palace on Capri and would later go on to be a successful baker in Britania. Meanwhile his turtle namesake was busy throwing extravagant games, challenging Neptune to a scrap, eating foetuses and proclaiming himself a God. This is the only turtle known to have been ruler of an entire civilisation.

2 – Bonjour Boris (1793-1910) – Distracted Bonaparte’s French forces at Waterloo

Read most accounts of the Battle of Waterloo and you will find the usual three armies of Wellington, Blücher and Bonaparte. Much will be made of the military genius of Wellington and Napoleon. What will go underreported is that the French army may have had an exceptional chance of winning were they not distracted just before the battle by a sweet Belgian turtle called Bonjour Boris, who brought them funny jokes and pastries.

Bonjour Boris’ actions led to a rout of the armies of Napoleon, and his eventual capture by the British and exile to St. Helena. The only turtle in history to accidentally take down a modern military empire.

1 – Dirty Dave (1267-1455) Spreader of plague, leading to the Black Death

When it comes to the Black Death, the pandemic of disease spread by the Yersinia pestis bacteria, it is often rats and their fleas that take the blame. What is barely spoken of is Dirty Dave, the Asian turtle whose rat farms were the breeding ground of the pests that would bring so much death and destruction.

Dirty Dave was an enterprising turtle who understood better than others how to play the markets. Sensing that rats were about to be the big global export he set about building a supply of the persistent rodents. Unfortunately, Dave was a tight-fisted spendthrift and hygiene at his farm was minimal. His rats were a petri dish of parasites and disease and the spreading of Dirty Dave’s rats on commercial ships decimated the populations of the entire Eurasian continent.

It now seems likely that had Dave had slightly stricter hygiene on his farm, the lives of approximately 45-50% of the Eurasian population may have been spared. Official figures are hard to come by due to lack of information and record from the time, but estimates between 50 and 200 million people are often cited. This turtle, Dirty Dave, this one seemingly innocent turtle, is guilty of assisting the spread of the disease that killed them all. He is truly history’s most significant turtle.


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