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Bubba The Tortoise Dazzles Millions, Simply By Playing With A Ball

Bubba is a tortoise when he wakes up, and he remains one when he goes to sleep. But in between, it seems, he likes nothing better than chasing a ball around, looking for all the world like an excited puppy.

Bubba became an Internet star this month, after Paul Milham posted a video of his daughter Ciara's tortoise online. Tens of millions of people have now watched the video, in which Bubba shows off both his ball-hawk skills and speed that might surprise many viewers.

"Ciara's tortoise cracks me up," Milham said in his Facebook posting of the video earlier this month. "Absolutely nuts!"

Others clearly agree: After the video of the British reptile was posted to Facebook by the Unilad site, it was viewed more than 44 million times. Whether they're simply fascinated or in dire need of a pleasant distraction — or perhaps both — people find it irresistible to watch the perky tortoise scuttle around after a purple ball, chasing a toy that Milham says belongs to the family cat.

Since Milham posted the video on Facebook and elsewhere, Bubba has been featured on outlets from the Daily Mail and Mexico's Posta to Canada's CTV and, most recently, the BBC, which visited Milham and Ciara, 12, at their home in Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire.

Of the video's appeal, Ciara tells the BBC, "It's kind of just the fact that it's a tortoise going so quickly — that's not what people think tortoises are like."

Milham has also tweeted a short list of answers to frequently asked questions about the video:

  • "It's not our lounge or kitchen.
  • "He's a tortoise, not a turtle.
  • "He lives in a heated vivarium.
  • "The underbite is treated.
  • Bubba's popularity led Milham to license the video to at least three media outlets — something he called "utterly nuts" in a recent Facebook post. He also said, "Sometimes things happen in life that you just can't quite comprehend."

    We've sent Milham a message seeking an update, but on Friday he said via Twitter that the appearance on the BBC "draws our media commitments to a close." He added, "That's probably enough tortoise stuff now."

    In addition to video views, the Unilad Facebook post about Bubba has also generated rich comments. Here's a sampling:

    From Angie Ellis: "My tortoise has the run of the house most days, he loves it. Tips the cats biscuit bowl over every day. Chases my cats, sneaks up on them if he gets a chance loves making them jump. Follows me about and comes to you when called."

    From Gil Buttersnaps: "All I can think of is the look on the face of the guy at Home Depot when you tell him that you need flooring options that will stand up to the wear and tear of a small but surprisingly fast turtle."

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    Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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