The gopher tortoise is found in the southeastern part of the United States - southwestern South Carolina, south almost to the tip of the Florida peninsula; west through southern Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, to Louisiana and the edge of southeastern Texas and Arkansas.
The upper shell (carapace) is brown or tan, with growth rings evident on younger individuals, but these are worn away on adults. The under shell (plastron) is unhinged, dull yellowish in color, with the soft parts grayish brown. The upper shell averages 9 inches to 11 inches in length with the maximum measured at 15 inches. The feet are stumpy and without webs. Their heads are large and blunt. The exposed skin of the head, neck, and legs is grayish black.